Author's Note: There will be long, long breaks between chapters on this, as I don't have this one mostly completed like I do Runaway Bride, but I just felt like posting it tonight. In fact, I've barely begun. It's different and it's full of angst, and as much as it pains me to admit…it's a big part of me and why I haven't been able to post much for the past two years. I'm going to turn my struggle and pain into something else, though. I'm going to give myself a story that will make me smile, and maybe someday I'll have it for real. This hasn't been betaed, mostly because I didn't give my beta a chance to work on it. For some strange reason I feel compelled to post it tonight…and so I shall. Hope you enjoy and please be gentle…this is more than just a random character and needless to say, I'm still pretty raw.
I keep going back to your profile and reading it over and over. It's hard to describe what I feel when I read your words. It's like my soul warms up and radiates throughout my body and I just know I'll regret it forever if I don't contact you. If you'd like to get to know me better, please reply to the address below, as this account is my friend's which I borrowed. I really hope to hear from you soon.
Ten years ago, those words were the first contact I'd ever had with Edward Cullen when he replied to my profile on match dot com . At the time, I was seeing someone, so I responded. I said that he seemed really nice, but I was already involved with someone. I went on to say I would be happy to be his friend. The relationship was already falling apart and he was my go-to guy for male advice in regard to said boyfriend. He was really great.
I broke up with the guy the day before Valentine's Day and had confided in Edward that I was sad to, once again, be alone on Valentine's Day just like I always was. I never dreamed that when I got home from work that night there would be three dozen carnations and box filled with adorable, thoughtful gifts waiting for me. It was obvious he'd already planned on sending them before I'd even broken up with the guy, knowing that it was just pity that had kept me holding on in the end. I didn't feel guilty at all when that night he asked me to meet up with him for the first time and I agreed. We didn't meet for three more days, but from that point on I always considered Valentine's Day our anniversary, as it was the day I finally realized that I truly did have feelings for Edward Cullen.
Our first date went from meeting for lunch to a 14 hour marathon date with lunch, movie, dinner, bowling, pool, and talking in our cars until the wee hours of the morning. I drove home that night, looked myself in the mirror, and said, "OH my God, Bella! You just met the man you're going to marry!"
Valentine's Day that following year, Edward proposed and the following July I was walking down the aisle to become his wife. I didn't have the slightest worry or twinge of fear. I just KNEW it was right. I'd known from the moment I first set eyes on him that he was the one.
It makes for such a wonderful, romantic story, and I thought on that day that we would be together forever. I had no idea of what pain was ahead for me. It didn't take long before he started ignoring me. We were married less than a year before I found myself going to bed alone every night while he stayed up till the wee hours of the morning playing video games. I kept thinking that if I gave him space, things would improve, but they didn't. I tried nagging. I tried seducing. I tried ignoring. I tried everything and nothing seemed to make a difference. He would engage for short periods of time before he was back in game land.
Then one day something amazing happened. My period was late and when it did finally come a few days later, we were both disappointed. I'd wanted a baby all of my life. I adored children and knew my life wouldn't be complete without them. Edward also wanted kids. Originally, we had a plan to wait a few years before we started having children, but that little event sparked a conversation and we decided we wanted to try.
For quite a few very long months, we had a common goal. He was my partner again. I kept track of my temperature and my cycles and he'd take time to look after me and take advantage of our peak times. Afterward he'd help me prop my feet up, or when that didn't seem to work, help me reposition myself over the side of the bed so I could more or less stand on my head and let gravity assist our hopeful swimmers. Every month we were both so hopeful…and every month the cramps predicted the impending disappointment.
We'd finally decided to give up on all of the tracking and attempts to manipulate nature's course in time for our anniversary. We had already made plans months ago to go to Seattle to see family. Three weeks later, I realized something felt different. I couldn't wait. I took a test and screamed bloody murder when two telltale little lines showed up instead of the standard single line that had taunted me for months. I called him at work and screamed into the phone, "TWO PINK LINES! Oh my God, Edward, it's TWO pink lines! We're having a baby!" He laughed and cried with me over the phone.
My pregnancy with EJ was relatively easy. The delivery, however, was a living nightmare. He was breech and something deep within told me that trying to rotate him and induce was asking for trouble. Instead, we scheduled a C-section. It went downhill fast. One thing led to another, and at one point, I thought neither of us was going to make it. Thankfully, God is good and we survived together.
Edward was so great in the hospital and for those first months with EJ. My mom took several weeks off of work to come stay and help out. Edward was very hands on in those first few weeks too. He helped take care of EJ while I recovered and helped me maneuver and get in and out of the restroom for the first few days as the 30 some odd staples holding my T shaped incision together made moving quite difficult. I was in a lot of pain, yet I was so happy that EJ was safe.
On the second day after we were home, we were laying in bed for an afternoon nap and started talking about all of the things that had happened, and I started talking about what I hoped would go differently with the next one. I'll never forget how he looked at me with awe in his eyes.
"You really want another one after all of this?"
I shrugged. "Of course. I always thought we would have at least 2 kids, if not more."
He just shook his head, his eyes wide with some kind of wonderment. "You amaze me. I was afraid after all of that you'd say never again. It hasn't even been a week and you're already talking about doing it all over again?"
I just smiled. "He's worth it and the next one will be, too."
The problem was that the longer time passed, the more Edward seemed to drift away. It wasn't long before he was up gaming all night again and sleeping in every morning with me harassing him awake to go to work.
When EJ was only about 18 months old, we decided to start trying for another baby, believing that two to three years apart would be ideal. The only problem was that Edward's heart just didn't seem to be in it. It took almost a year and a half to finally get pregnant, during which time I was diagnosed as having Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Hypothyroidism. When I did get pregnant, he seemed so excited at first, talking to my stomach, and being so sweet. Unfortunately, I made some comment about how great it was and the sweetness abruptly stopped. My pregnancy was a particularly difficult one…far more difficult than my pregnancy with EJ had been. The more I struggled, the more I saw Edward pulling further and further away, as if he were disgusted with my weakness. I also struggled with horrible sleep issues. I believed it was severe sleep apnea combined with insomnia. I slept in a recliner in the livingroom when I could sleep and sobbed all night the times I couldn't. I was exhausted, physically and mentally, and added to the stress of taking care of a three year old, I felt so defeated.
By the time Ellie was born, Edward had grown quite cold. I started having blood pressure issues and combined with my exhaustion, the doctors decided to take her a week earlier than we had scheduled. My mom had a new job by then and couldn't reorganize her schedule, which meant it was just me and Edward for that first week of my recovery. It was like night and day from the experience when EJ was born. Where he had been attentive and sweet after EJ, he ignored me and played video games most of the time. He took care of EJ's basic needs, food, toileting, etc, and helped some with Ellie, but basically left me to fend for myself and Ellie most of the time. I never felt more alone. His mom came over and helped as much as he could, but all I really wanted was for Edward to wake the hell up and do something!
No matter what I did, nothing snapped my husband out of his state of apathy. My fairytale happily ever after had turned quite miserable and I didn't know what to do. Eventually, I fell into my own state of passive aggressiveness. I stopped doing some things hoping he'd get off his butt and do them because it might drive him crazy enough to do something…anything. I started pushing all of my free time and energy into a new hobby I had found of writing. It was my therapy and when the kids went down at night, I either read or wrote to the point it was a massive part of my life…a part I preferred over the reality. I guess in some ways, I ultimately gave him a taste of his own medicine and I think he hated that more than anything else. Unfortunately, it didn't change anything. It only made things even worse. Eventually we really had become little more than roommates.
That didn't stop the conviction deep inside of me though. I was raised to believe that marriage is for good and you don't give up. I had two conditions that I made clear from the beginning…if a guy ever beat me or if he ever cheated on me, I would be gone. No negotiation, no capitulation. Although, life isn't always as clear cut while in the moment as it seems from the outside looking in.
He was thirty-four. She was nineteen. They met at church camp of all places. He'd gone his whole life and when he got old enough, he started going as a counselor and then a director. I'd helped out the first few years we were together before our children came along. She was an eleven-year-old camper my first year assisting. Our daughter wasn't even two, our son was five when we hugged him and sent him off to camp the year it all hit the fan. She was a counselor that year. He came back with her phone number and texted her constantly. He claimed she was depressed because her dad died the Christmas before and she was confiding in him, but it all felt really off to me. I didn't want to be one of those bitchy wives though, so I sat back and watched warily.
Then he started with the wanting to help her family out. His heart went out to the mom who made him think of his mom and what she would do if anything happened to his Dad. I didn't like it, but again, I was the evil one if I kept him from helping out people in need. He stayed gone one and a half days longer than originally planned and even missed a day of work. When he came back, he had a carload of their shit in the back of his car which he claimed there was no room to store safely until they put stuff away and made room. I called bullshit and we had a huge fight. Our anniversary was the following weekend and the whole night I was haunted by the artifacts taking up the back of his SUV as he drove me to dinner.
A few weekends later, I texted to say my mom and I were taking the kids to a movie. When I got out there was a voicemail from him saying he was heading back to their place to take their stuff and help out with a Gospel music festival thing they were supposed to volunteer in the following morning. We fought on the phone again and I felt sick. It was all so obvious, but I had no proof. The next afternoon I started trying to call him and he didn't answer and didn't answer, so I looked up the festival to see when it was supposed to be over. Surprise, surprise, it didn't even start until six that evening. He still wasn't answering his phone, so I decided to see if I could find a number for her and her family. I didn't know any other way to find it besides seeing if it was linked to her Facebook. He was friends with her…I wasn't.
I logged into his facebook account where I found his emails to her sister lamenting that this nineteen-year-old said they would never be more than friends, and she didn't see him that way. When the sister apologized and said "Yeah, but aren't you married anyway?" He went on to talk about how it was a bad marriage and outline all the ways I sucked and how fat I was and refused to do anything about it. Nevermind that he had also gained a good 50 lbs since we'd married and had a sizeable paunch himself. And apparently he had also forgotten that I was a plus size girl when we met and married, and was only two sizes larger than I had been then, and that was after having those two very invasive C-sections to deliver his children.
I was so hurt, mad, and heartbroken. Yeah things were bad, but how dare he when he checked out of our marriage years before? What was I supposed to do? Worship him and throw love at a brick wall forever just to be rejected and ignored? Hell yeah I gave up after a while. Anyone would! Instead, I invested everything in our kids. And I was determined that he could go to hell for all I cared because I was going to be fine without him.
First, I called and screamed at him in the phone calling him out on his cheating, sorry ass, and how much I hated him. Then I called him back an hour later when he still hadn't responded. By then I had hit my scary, calm, crisis management mode. My voice was cold and hard when I told him to get his ass home now so we could figure out if I was moving out with the kids or if he was leaving us in the house.
It still took him five hours to get home. He claimed it was because he had to pull over because he was crying so hard, knowing he had ruined everything, and that he was going to be the first person in his entire extended family to get a divorce. When he got home, he swore he'd never had sex with her, though I knew it was probably more to do with her lack of interest than anything. He said he had been suffering from a deep depression for a long time and it was nice to feel appreciated and desired. I responded with what was, basically, welcome to my last eight years. It would be nice to feel that again.
We talked for hours and eventually decided that we owed it to our kids and ourselves to try to work things out. We went to counseling, but he went in with a negative attitude and it did us no good. Things were better for a little while, but slowly we found ourselves back where we'd started.
The following year he went back to camp knowing I was upset about it, but not really caring. She was there but, supposedly, things were different. She had held him at arm's length for some time and his mother was there with them, so I tried to be understanding…aka a doormat as usual, but I just didn't know what else to do. He came back and was more distant than ever. He barely touched me or acknowledged me anymore. I was so miserable I couldn't see straight, but I wasn't going to be the one to leave. It's not my style to quit when things get hard. I did, however, whisper to the closed door of our bedroom one night after he walked in and stared at me with dead eyes before leaving again, "If you're that miserable, then just leave and let me get on with my life." I don't know if he heard me, but I've always wondered.
The summer passed as did our daughter's third birthday party, the first day of first grade for our son, and then the first day of preschool for our daughter. Things were so strained between us I could barely breathe the air. My heart ached and my whole body hurt from the constant tension. We took her in for her first day of class, taking pictures, and giving hugs and walked back out to the car in silence. I was driving and he was in the passenger seat. We were halfway back to the house when I just blurted it out in the car.
"You're miserable again, aren't you?"
He started to sob. "I haven't known how to tell you this, but I'm moving out."
"It's been arranged for over a month now, but it was never the right time. I didn't want to ruin Ellie's birthday and then EJ's first day of school, and then Ellie's first day of preschool. I just…I'm miserable, Bella and I just can't live here anymore."
I could barely through my tears to drive. I somehow made it home and pulled in the driveway when he started talking again. It was hard to understand him through his sobs.
"It's so bad, I almost committed suicide."
"Oh my God!" I screamed. "When?"
"This summer. Remember that day you took the kids to swimming lessons and I was still here when you got back?"
"Oh God!" I sobbed.
"I put the gun in my mouth. The only thing that stopped me was knowing that the kids would see my car was here and run in to see me and find me. I…I couldn't do that to them!"
I sat there stunned for a minute before I reared back and punched him in the arm so hard he swayed in his seat. I hit him three more times.
"What the fuck, Edward? Holy Shit!"
I shook my head and cried trying to wrap my head around it and couldn't. All I could do was rear back and punch him again.
"Christ! Would you stop?"
"NO, you fucking, selfish, asshole! God! Even if they didn't walk in on you, do you know how bad that would fuck them both up for life!"
"I know! That's why I haven't done it since. I told my boss at work later that morning and he referred me to a counselor at work. I've been seeing her for over a month."
I left him in the car and walked inside the house without feeling my body. My heart pounded and my vision blurred. I had never in my life felt so horrible and sad and scared. I knew he was miserable, but dear God!
It took a few days for the pieces to start coming together. We talked and talked about everything. I tried to talk him into staying, afraid he might do something stupid if he didn't have the deterrent of the kids. Two days later he moved everything out after the kids were asleep and then came back the next morning. Together we took them over to the place he was going to be staying and explained to them that Daddy was moving out. It was so sad and horrible as they both cried and cried.
When we went to leave, Ellie was crying so hard. "I want Daddy! I miss Daddy!"
I tried my best to soothe her through my own tears. "It's okay, sweetheart. Daddy's going to come get you this weekend and bring you to spend the night at his place. Did you see that pool out back? I bet he'll take you swimming. Won't that be fun?"
"No!" She screamed. "I want my Daddy!"
EJ had been crying too up to that point and then he stopped and turned to his sister, reaching out to take her hand. "It's okay, Sissy. Didn't you hear Mommy? Daddy's coming to get us in two days. It's not that long. It will be okay."
I fought so hard not to bawl uncontrollably watching my sweet boy grow up and try to take care of his sister. He was only six, but in that moment, he was being more of a man than his thirty-five year old father.
We went straight to my Mom's house from there, all of us desperately needing some comfort. It broke my heart. EJ went to find her. She was in the basement bringing up laundry and he crouched at the top of the stairs and yelled down.
"It's bad news, Grandma! We're really sad!"
I walked around in a fog for days, cuddling on the kids every chance I got and putting every ounce of effort into trying to make them feel secure as possible. It was a hard road as we adjusted to the new way of life.
In some ways, things were easier. Life in our house didn't change all that much aside from one less person to feed, clean up after, do laundry for, etc. We were able to have supper when we got hungry instead of trying to wait for always late Edward and bedtime was a little easier not having to drag him away from the computer for prayer time. Instead, we called him at bedtime every night. For the first few months he always picked up until eventually he didn't. It was hurting the kids so much I eventually stopped calling him and he never called us to talk to the kids. Eventually his only interaction with them was the night a week he came to visit them and have supper with us and the every other weekend that he took them home with him. Somehow it worked.
I worked really hard to make things as easy as possible for the kids. A side effect was it was a hell of a lot easier for Edward than it might have been otherwise, but that wasn't my focus. My main goal in everything was that the kids felt safe, loved, secure, and happy. If that meant I plastered on a fake smile and tried to talk up going with Dad when it was time, then I did it.
Eventually, Edward and I found we got along a lot better when he wasn't living in the house. Sometimes we almost got along like we did before the weight of marriage bogged him down. It's the little things that really seem to make the most difference. More than once, when I've been sick, he's made the added effort to bring me my favorite soup from the little family diner in town. We go out to eat and still share food off each other's plates. At his extended family get-togethers, that his mother won't let me say no to, we end up sitting at the table laughing as we tell the same stories about early marriage and parenthood. We talk about things we did and people we knew like we're old friends. And I guess, in a way, that's what we really are. We started out as friends and maybe that's where we were always destined to end, but it seems like it shouldn't have hurt so much along the way. I twisted and bent myself so much trying to make everything work and accommodate him that I became someone I didn't even recognize. Maybe that's why we are able to communicate back on that wave length now. Maybe being away from him and the spiral we had somehow fallen into allowed me to return to some semblance of the person he fell in love with. I get totally frustrated with him still, yet I can see glimmers of the man I married, the caring guy who goes out of his way to stop and get you a quart of soup when your jaw doesn't want to open after dental work or your stomach hasn't accepted real food in days.
It's all very difficult and confusing. Sometimes, when we are like that, I think maybe, just maybe we could work things out…then I remember what life was like circling that drain in our self-made hell and I realize that it would never work out if we tried to go back. It's so hard to let go though. I always thought of myself as a strong, independent woman, and yet I have found myself making the weak decision over and over. It always comes back to the same two things…fear and desire to put others first. And by others, I mostly mean my kids.
All of my friends say we have the strangest divorce in history, even though two years of separation later we still aren't divorced. Neither of us are pushing for it and I don't have insurance through my job, so it benefits me as well. I know the time is coming fast when we won't be able to stay in this limbo, but I'm NEVER getting involved with a guy again and Edward doesn't seem to be in a rush to drop the legal knife, so we're in limbo. It's a strange place to be and I know it's probably stupid of me and rather unhealthy for us all, but I have to walk the tightrope as best I can for what's best for the kids and me. I think, in my heart, we're actually divorced. We're just waiting for the paperwork to catch up.
Our anniversary was two months ago. He sent me a text before the day was over. Happy 10th Anniversary, Bella. I know it isn't as great as it was supposed to be. I'm sorry.
That was it. It took me several hours to reply.
Same to you. I'm sorry I couldn't be the wife you wanted/needed me to be. I don't know where we will be when this is all over, but please know you will always be special to me.
I couldn't write I Love You. I'd accidentally said it a few nights before and it felt wrong. I cringed and I think he saw it. He said an awkward "you too" and left. As I closed the door, I cursed myself.
"Why the hell did you just say that, Bella? You don't love him." My heart constricted because I knew that finally, after all he'd put me through, it was true. At least not the way we really needed to love each other to make a marriage work.
It's time for me to move forward and move on. I just really don't know how…and I think for now, remaining married feels safe. I can't in good conscience date or get involved with anyone while I'm still legally bound to Edward. It's not in me. Some people could, but not me. So for now, staying like this, my heart is safe. I won't be tempted. I won't be broken. For as much as these past ten years have injured and banged me up, I'm still here. I'm still surviving. If I were to open myself up again…I'm not so sure this skin of mine could endure another pounding.