My back hurts. My head hurts. My heart hurts.
Images and words flash through my mind from the dinner at the Cullen's; Dr. C. and Mrs. E., Seth's face covered with tears, Edward's face full of concern and love, Emmett fainting.
I felt my lips turn up in a smile as I remembered Emmett's reaction when he saw me for the first time. Turned out Ali and Tanya were both right. He did faint, so Alice won the bet. But, after dinner and before everyone left, he did find a camcorder and camera and took pictures as proof he knows me. I thought it was hilarious, Edward…not so much.
Groaning, I rolled over in bed and for a minute I didn't realize where I was. The bed was different, the air smelled different and most glaringly, Edward was 200 miles away. I could actually feel my heart clench in pain at the thought of being so far away from him.
I knew, and had been reminded repeatedly by my three annoyingly correct best friends that it was time to talk to Edward and tell him…everything. It's not that I didn't trust him and it's not that I felt that what I would tell him would change his feelings about me. Neither one of those could be further from the truth. It was just excruciating to admit to the fact that I had a mother that wished I had never been born.
It was hard yesterday, so very hard, telling him goodbye. In the morning it wasn't so bad, because he was just dropping me off at home. I told him to bring Maddie and Masen by after he was done at the office and we would take the kids out for pizza so I could say good bye. I knew they would be upset, especially since I was taking Rufus with me this time instead of leaving him, but it couldn't be helped. I'd hoped that telling them they were coming to stay the weekend the next week would soften the blow some.
Yeah, not so much.
After dinner was over, Edward, the twins and I went back to the loft to make ice cream sundaes and watch a movie. I kept fidgeting during the movie, knowing that as soon as it was over the three of them needed to leave and I would be alone. I was tired of being alone and knew in my heart I didn't need to be any longer. I was going to use the next ten days to do some soul searching and finally face the painful things in my past and then leave them there.
I watched as the time moved on the clock until it was finally time for them to go home. I knew Edward was concerned about me, but he really didn't need to be. I wasn't about to go up to Lake George and hide away. I wasn't running from him, I was leaving so I could give all of myself to him. It was only fair. The man wanted to spend his forever with me, and I with him, and there was no way that could happen with the things from my past hidden in the shadows.
The ride down in the elevator was gut wrenching, with Maddie and Masen clinging tightly to each of my hands, afraid to let go of me. They didn't really understand what was going on or why I was going; they just knew I was leaving again already.
As we walked towards the BMW, Masen tightened his grip on my hand and dug his heels in and pulled me to a stop.
I looked at him and noticed that there were tears leaking from both of his eyes as he sadly asked me, "Jelly Bean, don't you love us anymore?"
Trying not to completely lose it in front of him, I looked up at the ceiling of the parking garage to gather my thoughts before turning my gaze to him and said, "Skittles, of course I still love you…all three of you very much. Why do you think I don't?"
I couldn't believe he would honestly think that. I looked at Edward and he just looked from Masen to Maddie to me and tried to tell me with his eyes that everything would be ok.
Masen tried to talk through the sobs and managed to get out, "Cause you're leaving us. I thought you was going to stay with us forever."
I knelt down, trying to not notice the pain in my back as I pulled him and Maddie in for a fierce hug. "I love you Masen and you Maddie so, so much. Please believe that. I'm not leaving cause I don't love you guys, I promise. I just got a little sad yesterday at Papa and Nana's and Seth and I are going to take a trip together. But guess what?" I asked, hoping that I could keep myself from falling completely apart until after they had left.
"What?" they each asked through their tears.
"You two and Daddy and Nana and Papa and the rest of your family are going to come stay with me at my big house next weekend. You'll be there for three whole days and you'll get to meet my friends Jasper and Rose. Plus, there are four wheelers up there and a boat and all kinds of other fun stuff to play on. We'll even have another camp out in the living room, ok?" I said as I forced a happy smile on my face.
No need to let anyone know my heart was breaking on the inside.
"Really?" Maddie asked me, a small glimmer of excitement shining through.
"Really," I answered both of them "You'll see, the next week will fly by and it will be time for you to come see me before you know it. Besides, I know the end of school is coming up and you have lots of fun things to do. I'll still call every night and you two will be so busy you won't even have time to miss me."
"We always miss you, Bella," Maddie answered and Masen nodded his head in agreement.
They were killing me, slowly, but they were trying.
I took a deep breath and swallowed my own tears and hugged each of them before telling them, "I miss you guys, too. Always. And I love you both very much. I just need to go for a little bit. I know you don't understand, but I promise it's only for a few days. It's not forever."
With one more hug and a kiss, I helped Edward get them buckled into the car before turning to him…again; to say good bye…again.
He was more than I deserved and I knew it. I also knew I loved him with every fiber of my being and would for all time. There would never be anyone else for me, it wasn't possible.
Edward pulled me to him, being careful of the stitches in my back and my forehead and just stood there with his arms wrapped around me, running his fingers through my hair. I stayed there and tried to absorb as much of him as I could. The trip to California was hard, but this would be even worse.
Things had changed so much since that trip. Feelings were acknowledged, futures were planned, our bodies had been brought to heights of pleasure neither one of us had expected. Every thing was different..better…more permanent.
"Angel, I am going to miss you so damn much," Edward finally breathed out. His voice sounded hoarse and full of pain.
It was killing me to say good bye to him again.
I pressed myself closer to him, too afraid to look at his face. "I'll miss you too Edward, more than I can tell you," I whispered. "Tell me not to go and I won't. I'll stay here with you and the kids," I told him, not sure if I could do it, but a part of me wanted him to beg me to stay.
He kissed my forehead and then the tip of my nose before he placed a finger under my chin and lifted my face up to look into his deep green eyes. All I saw was love. There was no reproach, no lingering resentment for me leaving, nothing except his love for me.
"Bella, I can't do that baby. You need to go, I understand. I really do. There are things I don't understand yet, but that doesn't mean I am unable to comprehend some of what happened to you. Seeing Carlisle and Esme after all this time and then getting the letter from your father, it had to bring up painful memories for you."
I tried to say something back to him, but he stopped me with a kiss on the lips before he continued, "Baby, I have told you before and you wear it around your neck as proof, you have my heart now; now and for always. My future, our future," he said as he motioned to the twins in the car, "includes you. We are your family Bella. I love you more than words can even come close to describing, but I want you whole. I want you happy. I want you to be Bella…my Bella. In order to do that, you need to come to terms with what ever happened to you and move past it. I'll be with you every step of the way, you have to know that. I may not be with you physically, but I will always be with you."
I couldn't stop the tears then and I didn't even bother to try. I clung to him desperately, wanting to soak up all the strength from him I could.
I cried to him, "I'm so sorry Edward. I have been so unfair to you, and now I running away, when I should be here with you, with Maddie and Masen. Please don't give up on me. Please!"
"Bella, hush now. Stop it," Edward hissed out at me. He grabbed my face in his hands and held it, wiping the tears off my face with his fingers. He bent down and kissed me gently, but I felt every ounce of love he had for me pouring off him.
"Beautiful, damn it. You are not running, I know this. I wouldn't let you anyway, and you know how fucking stubborn I can be," he said playfully as he raised his eyebrow at me.
I snorted at him and rolled my eyes before I nodded. Stubborn doesn't even begin to come close to how Edward is when he wants his way.
"Don't be scared Bella. I'm not going anywhere, I promise you with all that I am. I will see you in seven days. It's not forever; it's only a handful of days out of a lifetime. You'll have some time to yourself, to think and reflect. Then I will come to you and together we can move forward to the future that is waiting for us," he finished with tears in his eyes.
"Forever, I sure like the sound of that," I breathed out to him, knowing in my soul that forever was truly what I wanted with him, Maddie and Masen.
With one last kiss that I wanted to last for an eternity, I told him goodbye, knowing that very soon I would never have to tell him good bye again.
I gingerly got out of bed and looked out the window, sighing deeply.
I loved Lake George and I loved my house here even more. It was huge, way bigger than I needed but the house was beautiful. It was a sprawling house, sitting right on the lake, with more windows than walls it felt like. The kitchen was to die for and the game room that was set up here was Seth and Jasper's favorite place to spend time. It had six bedrooms so when they were all here visiting, they each had their own room. The grounds also included a guest house that had 2 more bedrooms in it.
There was no way I needed this much space or that many bedrooms, but this house was the only thing that the money from my modeling provided for me that I couldn't live without.
Lake George was a gorgeous area. It was quiet here, tranquil. I have had dreams of moving here permanently once my contract is through, but I don't know. The town is small, but has everything I would need. The only thing missing would be someone to share it with, but now that was different. Now I had Edward, Maddie and Masen. His practice is in the city though, as well as school for Maddie and Masen. Plus Carlisle and Esme and Alice and Emmett. I don't know, it is something to talk to Edward about eventually.
Too many things to think about on an empty stomach though so I made my way downstairs to make breakfast for Seth and I and figure out what to do with my day.
I grabbed my phone and sent Edward a quick text message as I entered the kitchen, Rufus nipping playfully at my heels.
Morning baby, I hope you are having a good morning. I miss you…and love you so much! B XOXOXO
I picked up Rufus, gave him a quick kiss and rubbed his head before putting him down and moved to get his food and refill his water bowl. He's getting so big. I can't even remember what it was like before Seth gave him to me, as I remembered what happened that day.
My whole life changed, all because of a puppy!
Felling the phone vibrate in the pocket of my jeans, I pulled it out with a smile on my face, which only grew once I realized it was from Edward.
Hi sweet girl. Morning is just fine, except for you're there and I'm here. I miss you, too…and love you even more! I'll call you later…E XOXOXO
I loved that man, with an intensity that I didn't believe was possible and couldn't wait until next week when I would have him all to myself for a few days before his family got here.
Esme was shocked to say the least when I found her in the kitchen on Monday morning and invited them all up here for the holiday weekend.
I had walked into the kitchen, having woken up before Edward after lying in bed for hours thinking about Charlie. I had decided during the morning hours that going away for a few days might not be a bad idea. I knew my appearances for Volturi would have to be rescheduled due to the bandage on my head and I was planning on being gone next weekend anyway when Jasper and Rose got here.
Esme was surprised to see me, but looked pleased as well. I loved Esme Cullen; she was the embodiment of a perfect mother. Attentive to everyone's needs, loving, and accepting of her children - faults and all. The complete opposite of Renee Swan that's for sure.
"Bella, dear, how are you this morning? Are you in much pain?" She had asked me.
I smiled at her, anticipating that very question from her and shook my head while I answered, "I'm fine Esme, really. My head has a dull ache and the stitches are pulling and sore, but I'm ok."
"I never got a chance to tell you how I sorry I was yesterday, for shocking you the way Carlisle and I did. We should have told Edward we knew you already instead of keeping him in the dark. It's our fault you reacted the way you did and I feel horrible," Esme told me, her voice full of anguish.
I had grabbed her hand from across the table where we were sitting and told her with as much feeling as I could muster, "Esme, please don't blame yourself or Dr. C. If I had talked to Edward beforehand, there wouldn't have been a surprise to begin with. It's my fault Mrs. E. not anyone else's."
She squeezed my hand and then gripped my hand into both of hers, "Bella, dear. I don't know everything that happened five years ago but I do know how much you loved your father and how much Charlie completely adored you. I think I know more about you than anyone else except for Seth, Jasper and Rose."
I chuckled at that knowing that my dad liked to talk about me…a lot and if Esme spent time with him while he was in hospital, she got an earful.
Tears started then, as I thought about Charlie and the battle he fought so valiantly… the one I couldn't help him fight.
Esme and I spoke for a bit about my dad and then I invited her and the rest of the Cullen family to Lake George the following weekend. She was ecstatic about the possibility of seeing Jasper and Rose again and knew Carlisle would feel the same way. She readily agreed and then took a deep breath before she continued.
"Bella, sweetheart, I can't begin to tell you how happy I am that you and Edward found each other. He loves you so much and you have made him happier than I ever imagined he could be. And the children, my God do they ever adore you," she had finished with a wistful sounding sigh.
"I love him so much Esme. I never knew that loving someone like this was even possible, especially for someone like me. And Maddie and Masen, they have completely captured my heart. I'm just so afraid of making a mistake and then losing the three of them. I couldn't bear it if that happened Esme, I just couldn't," I sobbed to her.
She stood up then and moved beside me, and had wrapped me in her loving embrace. "Bella, things will be fine, you'll see. I know the letter from Charlie was a shock and I'm sure you have feelings to work through, but you and Edward will be fine. You'll be fine Bella, just let Edward love you and help you. We are all here for you dear."
"Thank you so much Esme, you have no idea how much that means to me," I told her, meaning it with my whole heart.
Seth interrupted my reflecting with his yawn as he entered the kitchen from the guest house. Seth liked to stay there, I have no idea why.
"Morning Shortcake, did you sleep ok?" he asked me as he went to the fridge to get out the pitcher of orange juice and then poured himself a glass.
I laughed as I watched him chug the full glass of juice before he poured another one. "It was fine, brother. How about you?"
"You know me Bell, I sleep like a fucking rock every night. What are your plans for today?" he asked.
I hadn't really thought about it. I needed to get some things done around the house before all the company got here next weekend, but I wasn't sure I was up for it today.
Seth was completely oblivious as I slid a plate of pancakes in front of him and refilled his juice for the third time as I told him, "I don't know Seth. What are you going to do today?"
He picked up the fork and began to eat, looking at me in surprise as he cut into his pancakes, grinning stupidly at me, "I need to check out the security system and make a few adjustments. Emmett is going to help me make some improvements next weekend when he gets here."
"Seth, damn it. I invited them here next weekend for fun, not for work. You shouldn't have asked him to do that!" I huffed at him, angry at him for imposing on Emmett that way.
He put his fork down and finished chewing before he answered me, "Bell, I didn't ask him, he offered. I've heard of his company and the man is damn good at what he does and I am grateful for the offer to be honest. Especially after what we found out yesterday in the meeting with Jane and Aro."
I turned back towards the sink and braced my hands on the edge of the counter before I took a deep breath. Yes, the lovely meeting with Jane and Aro.
When I arrived at the office, and after Aro spent an unnecessary amount of time looking at the injury on my head to ensure there would be no visible scarring, he and Jane brought Seth, Angela and I into their office.
What they told me I had not been expecting in the least. After the pictures of Edward and me from the benefit were out on the Internet and in the paper on Sunday, the office was flooded with requests for appearances, from both of us. I was floored, not understanding the interest. Aro and Jane were beside themselves, excitedly telling me that they couldn't wait for me to return from my trip so I could begin showing up at all the places that had requested us.
They also let it slip that the amount of fan mail was starting to increase…which also meant the amount of hate mail had increased as well. Seth sucked in a sharp breath at that and I could feel myself as I broke out into a cold sweat. This is exactly what I had feared would happen and now there was Edward…and Maddie and Masen to consider. There was no way I was putting them in any danger whatsoever.
I told both of them, in no uncertain terms, that Edward was not going to be used by them…at all. There would be no formal appearances where he and I would be there together. I knew there was the possibility of Edward attending one or two with me, but I forbid Aro and Jane from formally announcing that he would be attending anything with me. And no pictures of the children either…ever!
Neither Aro nor Jane was pleased with my reaction, but I don't know how they expected it to be any different. I was biding my time until my contract was up and they both knew it. I would fulfill my duties as I had to, but no more and no less than that. The fashion show in September was going to be my final commitment and after that I hoped to fade off into the sunset, hopefully with my new family beside me.
"Shortcake," Seth said quietly as I turned to look at him, "you know you're going to need to tell Edward about what Jane and Aro told you yesterday."
I shook my head at him and then closed my eyes. When I opened them Seth was looking at me with the same determined look he has been for 24 almost twenty-five years now. "If you don't tell him Bella, I will. This is no joke and he needs to know."
Letting out a frustrated breath I dropped my shoulders in defeat, knowing it was pointless to argue with him. He would tell Edward, I had no doubts about that at all.
"I'll tell him Seth, next week. I promise. We do have other things to talk about first you know," I snapped at him.
I immediately felt bad as I watched his face contort in pain.
I'm such a bitch.
"Seth, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean that the way it sounded. I will talk to him, you know I will. I'm just nervous about telling Edward everything," I contritely told him.
He wrapped a strong, comforting arm around me and kissed the side of my head, barely missing the stitches, and said, "Its okay Bell. I understand this isn't easy for you, but Edward is nuts about you. Everything will be just fine. I'll always be here for you, so will J and Lele, and we'll all get through this together."
I squeezed him back before I told him softly, "I know brother, I know. You guys loved Charlie as much as I did and seeing Esme and Carlisle brought back everything for you, too."
"Have you read the letter yet?" Seth guardedly asked me.
I could only shake my head at him. The letter was still packed in my suitcase. I wasn't ready yet, not even close, to open that letter. I wasn't sure I ever would be, but I knew I didn't have a choice.
"I'll be here when you need me Bella, just like always. I'm headed out. I'm going to be on the four wheeler for a while and then I'm going into town. Will you be okay until dinner?" he asked me, effectively changing the subject.
The letter from Charlie was difficult for Seth to deal with, too. Charlie had been there for every important milestone in Seth's life and took on the role of father when Harry passed away. Seth's love for Charlie rivaled my own in many ways.
"Nah, I'll be fine. I'm going to play for awhile then go for a run around the property. I'll see you at dinner," I told him as I placed a kiss on his cheek.
"Play, huh? I can't wait to see Edward's face the first time he watches you on the drums. He might put Emmett's fainting spell to shame!" He chuckled as I flipped him off.
I didn't tell him I thought he might be right, though. No way in hell I was admitting to that.
Walking to the garage out back, I pulled my phone out to send Edward another text message.
I love you baby…you're my everything! B XOXOXO
I smiled as I reached the garage doors, entering the code to go in and felt my phone vibrate.
Love you more…I'll give you the world if you'd let me. You deserve it sweet girl and so much more!
The man is so cheesy, but I wouldn't have him any other way!
I walked into the garage, smiling hugely as I stood and took in my surroundings. The black 1968 Chevy Camaro that Rose had restored for me sat in its proper place of prominence in the open space. I walked over towards it, running my hands across the hood and roof, careful not to leave a spot. The garage would be the first place Lele would come to when she arrived next Friday and she would kill me if there was even a speck on the vehicle. She loved the car almost as much as I did.
My dad talked about wishing to own a 1968 Camaro so often while we were growing up, I am sure I could have described the car in detail to anyone who asked by the time I was ten years old. When he died, Rose found the exact car he had always wanted and completely restored it before giving it to me for my 21st birthday. To say I was stunned would be a hell of an understatement, flabbergasted beyond belief would be more like it. Charlie would have loved the car, and we only take it out when we can all be together. It is our way of remembering a man that meant the world to each of us.
I made my way over to where my drum set was placed. Hooking up my iPod to the speakers and then plugging in the headphones, I sat on the stool and picked up my favorite pair of drumsticks. I looked out the window to the lake in front of me, letting the music surround and fill me before I began to play. Song after song I played, losing myself in the beats, completely emptying my mind. I played until my arms got sore and I felt the stitches in my back pulling. It felt great to play, but I knew I would pay for it later on.
My stomach rumbled and I looked at the clock on my phone and gasped when I realized it was after 1:00. I completely lost track of time and went into the kitchen to make a sandwich and grab a bottle of water. I took some more pain medicine and hung out with Rufus for awhile. Once my food had digested properly, I changed into my running clothes and sent Seth a text letting him know where I would be.
The sun was bright and the air was crisp and cool as I began my run. I didn't even bring my iPod, I just wanted to run and enjoy the silence of being by myself. I loved Edward and the twins with all my heart, but I had been so used to being alone most of the time that the constant company was sometimes hard to get used to. The thought of living with Edward, Maddie, and Masen filled me with happiness but there was no point in denying it would be an adjustment for me.
Dinner with Seth was fun as always. He tried to feed Rufus from the table which got him a smack upside the head. Rufus thought that was funny…Seth didn't. After dinner, he went to the guest house to play on the Internet, getting on Facebook I'm sure, and I got out my journal and went to sit outside on the patio. I had a few hours before I needed to call and talk to Maddie and Masen before they went to bed, so I sat down to write.
I wrote about the feelings I had seeing Carlisle and Esme for the first time in five years. I wrote about what I felt when Seth handed me the letter from Charlie. I wrote about how scared I was to open the letter and that I was afraid of what it said…and what it didn't say. I wrote about the agonizing months Charlie spent in the hospital and the feeling of utter failure I experienced when I found out he died because of me.
Once my fingers hurt so bad I couldn't write anymore I closed the journal, feeling better at having released some of my pent up feelings, even if it was only on paper and only for me to read. It was cathartic anyway, and something I should have done a long time ago.
I pulled my laptop out once I was back in the living room, and sat down to write Edward an email before I talked to the kids before they went to bed.
From: Bella Swan
To: Edward Cullen
Subject: Being quiet~~
Hello My Edward…
OOhh, is it bad if I really, REALLY like the way that sounds baby? Because you are mine, you know.
I hope you had a good day today, how was Maddie and Masen's day? I'll ask him myself, but how was his game tonight? I know Seth was upset he was going to miss it. Tell Mase we'll make it up to him somehow. And Maddie…she had a spelling test today, did she do okay? I know she was worried about it, but I told her she would do just fine.
I miss you Edward, so much. I had a pretty good day today, it was quiet. I ran for awhile after lunch. Maybe when you come next week we can go together? I can't wait for you to get here. I think you will like Lake George as much as I do.
I wrote in my journal for a few hours after dinner…it helped I think. At least I got my feelings on paper, now I just have to put them into words for you my love. But, I will Edward. I promise you I will.
Thank you for giving me this time to be by myself. You know it's not because I didn't want you here but because I need to do this alone first, don't you? I always want you with me.
I'll be talking to you soon sweetheart, I just wanted to be quiet and write to you.
You are my everything Edward, I hope you know that.
~~~Your Bella (I like the way that sounds too, baby!)
I hit send knowing he would be waiting for the email. He told me that when I was in California and we emailed one another every day that he had never looked forward to anything more and he carried his phone with him everywhere so he didn't miss one.
I called Maddie and Masen when I was done sending the email and listened to them each tell me about their day. Masen's game went fine and he managed to get two hits this time. He told me I owed him since I missed it and I didn't disagree. When it was Maddie's turn to talk, she could barely get out that she made a 95 on her spelling test, only missing one word. I owe her, too apparently. I told them each good night after we were done talking and told Edward I would talk to him once the kids were asleep.
Knowing I had some time before that, I walked to the bathroom to take a shower. I couldn't help but let my mind wander to the sex in the shower Edward and I had Sunday morning before we went to his parent's house. For a 32 year old, the man is in amazing shape and has stamina to die for. I hope I can keep up with him…not the other way around!
He is gentle but demanding when we make love, coaxing my body to respond to him in ways I couldn't even imagine. The demanding Edward…I really enjoy him. I am pretty sure he likes feisty Bella just as much. The sex is incredible and more fulfilling than I ever thought was possible.
As I walked out of the bathroom, I noticed my email notice flashing so I knew that Edward had written me back. I hurried and got dressed in some boxers and an old t-shirt of Jasper's before I grabbed my laptop and sat back on the bed.
From: Edward Cullen
To: Bella Swan
Subject: You owe me, too baby!
I'm kind of digging this belonging to one another thing. Maybe I should walk around with a 'Property of Bella Swan' shirt every day? I wouldn't mind, you know. I want everyone to know I belong to you as much as you do to me. And not in that creepy ass stalker kind of way either, but in the I only love you and you only love me so everyone else back the fuck off kind of way. Did that sound any better? I'm not sure…
I heard you on the phone with the kids so you know all about the baseball game and spelling test. I also heard them each say you owe them for missing the game and the test, does that mean you owe me too? I can think of a couple of ways you can pay me back if you really want to know. I'm thinking most of them involve us each being naked and in a bed…but I could be wrong.
How long have you kept a journal angel? I think that is a great way for you to start dealing with things. Bella, baby, don't rush yourself ok? You don't have to deal with everything today or even tomorrow or even by the end of next week really. This time was for you to say good bye to your father, because I'm pretty sure you weren't ever able to do that.
I'm not going anywhere sweet girl, you know this. I'll always be here for you.
Running…hmmm. Will you promise to wear a really short pair of running shorts and maybe a really tight white t-shirt…oohh, and your hair in a ponytail? If so, I would love to run with you. Your ass would look fucking delicious in a pair of shorts like that beautiful!
Ok, it's almost time to actually hear your voice, so I'm sending this now. I like that you have quiet up there Bella, enjoy every moment of it sweetheart. Once you come home, you're stuck with the three of us forever! (Did that make you smile and your heart beat a little faster like mine did?)
Always and Forever,
Damn straight it did!
The next few days went much the same way. I played the drums a lot. I ran a lot. I wrote in my journal so much that I needed to have Seth get me more when he went into town.
Seth asked me everyday about the letter from Charlie and every day I shook my head at him.
On Friday afternoon, I had gotten done writing over a particularly painful memory and needed to talk to someone. Seth had gone into the city to spend the day and night with Tanya and I was all by myself. I almost called and begged Edward to come to me, but knew it was his day to work at the shelter and I couldn't ask him to leave.
I picked up the phone, dialing Jasper's number and by the time he answered, I was crying so hard I couldn't even talk coherently.
"Bell, honey, what is that matter? Are you okay? Where the hell is Seth?" Jasper frantically asked me.
I took a few deep breaths before I was able to answer him, "Sorry, J. I shouldn't have called you. Seth is in the city, he went to spend the day and night with Tanya."
"Call him Shortcake, he'll come back if you need him," Jasper answered, still sounding shaken up.
After a few more deep breaths I told him softly, "No Jas, it's ok. I'm ok now. I just needed someone and I couldn't call Edward and Seth wasn't here so I called you."
He chuckled before he answered trying to sound hurt, "So, I'm the third choice? Fucking hell Bell. Well, at least I'm ahead of Rose…that's gotta mean something, right?"
I giggled at my best friend, "You know you're behind Rose, J. You always have been!"
"Ouch Shortcake, I'm so getting you back for that next week. Now spill, what the hell brought on the hysterics?" Jasper asked, cutting quickly to the chase.
"Fucking Renee. I was writing in my journal, trying to get some things down on paper before I talked to Edward next week and remembered the day I got the phone call from the US National Team head coach and what Renee said to me after," I said between my tears.
Jasper's sharp intake of breath at that very unpleasant memory and the low rumble I heard in his voice when he spoke reminded me of the day I had waited my whole life for that Renee ruined in the blink of an eye.
It was the summer between my junior and senior year of high school and I had just returned from a three week soccer camp in Chicago. The camp was to showcase the girls they would be choosing from for the new US National Team. The 2006 Woman's World Cup was in two years and the team needed to be put together so there was time to qualify and play practice matches before the tournament started in the summer.
I had worked my ass off for the entire summer before I left, getting myself as ready as I could get so I could perform and get chosen for the team. It was all I had ever wanted at that point. Jasper had been relentless with me, waking up with me every morning at 5:00 a.m. to go running. We ran sprints, long distance, bleachers…anything he could think of, we did. We lifted weights, I worked on balance training, I shot goals until my legs felt like they would fall off.
When it was about a week before I was supposed to go, Renee made a comment one night when we were at Sue's all having dinner. She had decided to grace us with her presence instead of being God knows where and dinner was awkward with her there. When Sue asked what day I was leaving and if I had everything I needed to go, Renee turned on me.
'Bella, I don't know why you're even bothering to go. It is a waste of your father's hard earned money and incredibly selfish. You'll never be good enough to make the team; it's just a pipe dream for you Bella. No one would ever want you. I didn't want you either, you know."
No one at the table knew what to say to her, everyone was completely speechless. It wasn't as if she had never hinted around at her feelings before that day, because she certainly did. It just wasn't ever as blatant as that. Charlie looked like he wanted to throw up, Sue looked like she wanted to kill her and my friends, well they were a combination of the two. Jasper especially. Renee's words and actions towards me always seemed to affect him the most.
The rest of the dinner was spent in an awkward silence, no one having any idea what to say to Renee or to me. Renee continued to try to make small talk with Charlie and Sue, seemingly completely oblivious to the tension rolling off everyone else. I sat utterly quiet, barely moving. I knew if I looked in the faces of Seth, Jasper or Rose…or even Charlie or Sue, I would lose it and I had refused to give Renee that satisfaction.
Once dinner was over and Renee left to go home, I took off outside, climbing the tree to go up into our tree house. I knew as soon as I heard a movement from behind me that Jasper had followed me…he always did.
"Bell, you can't let Renee take your dream away from you," he told me as he wrapped his arm around me.
I was still trying to fight the tears that wanted to come out, not wanting to give in to Renee, again. "J, why does she hate me so much?" I asked him. "I haven't ever done anything to her to make her hate me the way she does," I finished, finally letting the tears come.
"I don't know Bell, but she's been this way for ten years now. It sucks and doesn't make any sense but you can't let it run your life. It's almost graduation, and then the four of us are out of here. You're about to be rewarded for all your hard work Bella, something you accomplished without her. Embrace it darlin', Renee is the one on the losing end. Besides, I haven't spent my summer dragging my ass out of bed at the fucking crack of dawn for nothing!"
I went to camp a few days later and played better than I ever had before. By the time I got home, I knew deep down that the call would come letting me know that I had been selected. I was right. The call came right before our senior year of high school started. As luck would have it, Renee was the one that got the news first.
I had come home one afternoon after training with Jasper to get dinner started for Charlie. My mother was sitting at the table in the kitchen, holding a glass of water in her hands, waiting for me to arrive. I should have known by the look on her face that she had been anticipating this moment for who knows how long.
I began pulling out the ingredients for dinner, ignoring Renee as best I could until she cleared her throat to get my attention. 'A phone call came for you today' is what she said. She had stopped calling me by name a few years before if she could manage it. "Really?" I asked, hoping it was the one I was waiting for.
"Yes, really; would you like to know who it was from?" Renee had sneered to me. I just stood there and raised my eyebrows at her, implying that she knew I wanted to know and to get on with it. "Well, I believe he said his name was Coach Jacobs, isn't that the man you have been waiting to hear from?" she sarcastically asked me. She knew exactly who he was.
"You know it is Renee, now what did he want?" I asked, tired of playing her sick game.
"Well, it seems that by some stroke of unfair luck, you made the team. He needs you to report to practice next month and you'll get your schedule then."
I wanted to jump up and down for joy and call Jasper, Seth and Rose right away but the next words out of her mouth shattered my heart in an instant. "You don't deserve to be happy Bella. You've taken everything I ever wanted away from me and I hate you. You took Charlie from me and you took away the one thing that would have made the difference in my life. I hope you fail, and you will."
I never told anyone except for Jasper what she said that day. I stayed at Sue's with Seth, Jasper and Rose most of the time after that. My dad never questioned why, I'm assuming he just figured I'd had enough of Renee and he let me stay.
When Sue told me about Renee's pregnancy before I left for college, that discussion came back to me and I understood what she meant. It didn't make it any easier, but at least I knew what she had meant.
"Bell," Jasper said, bringing me back to the present. "Renee can't hurt you anymore. Not if you don't let her. Leave her in the past where she belongs and move forward with Edward and the twins. You are so close to getting everything you never knew you wanted. Embrace it, enjoy it. Fuck Renee. Don't let her win after all this time honey," he finished sternly.
"I know J, believe me I do." I answered him, as I looked out the window and wished, more than anything that Edward was here with me.
He took a deep breath before guardedly asking me, "Have you read Charlie's letter yet honey?"
I shook my head and then realized he couldn't see it, "No, but I will in the next day or so. It's so hard Jasper. I never even got to say good bye to him, and he was all alone when he died. I can't forget that or that he died because of me."
"Jesus Bella, you know that is not true. You have to let that go Shortcake, you know you do," he softly told me.
"I can't Jasper, I just…can't," I replied just as softly.
"I gotta go; I'm going to go for a run and then call Edward later. I'll see you in a week, J. Give my love to Lele!"
"Bell…" He hollered at me as I ended the call.
I couldn't listen to Jasper try to convince me it wasn't my fault that Charlie died, it wouldn't work and I was too tired of listening to him try.
Running helped and I ran until my legs ached and the stitches on my head began to throb. I pushed the thoughts of Renee and Charlie to the back of my mind and thought about seeing Edward in just four days. Time by ourselves, it sounded heavenly and I couldn't wait for him to get here. I wanted to share my special place with him because I knew he would love it as much as I did.
Edward and I talked for hours that night and I needed it desperately. I needed to feel close to him again and let his voice soothe the ache in my heart left by Charlie's death and Renee's complete indifference to me. By the time we said good night and he told me over and over again how much he loved me and wanted me and needed me, I felt better. I felt ready to read Charlie's letter and move on.
Saturday Seth spent the day close by. I could tell he knew I was gathering my resolve to open the letter and read it and he wanted to be near in case I needed him. I knew I would, but I also knew it wouldn't be easy for him either. My phone call to Edward that night was subdued and short. He was worried but vowed that everything would be okay and I did believe him.
Sunday morning came and it was so fitting of my mood. There was a light mist and the sky was gray. It was cool outside and the air was heavy, suffocating. I retrieved the letter from my nightstand where it has been for the last five days and pulled on a sweatshirt of Edward's; his scent calming me almost as if he were here with me. The words he spoke Monday night clear in my mind…'I'll be with you every step of the way…I may not be with you physically, but I will always be with you'. I took a throw off the bed and went to make my way outside to sit on the covered patio.
Seth was here somewhere; I could feel him close by, anxious for me. Neither one of us, or Jasper or Rose either for that matter, were able to find the closure with Charlie's death that we needed. By the time we were able to make it to Fork's once Sue had called with the news, Renee had the funeral already arranged. I'm not a hundred percent positive that if Sue wouldn't have called if Renee ever would have. I never asked so I'll never know for sure. The four of us barely made it to Forks in time for the funeral as it was. Since he had been sick for so long, I guess Renee had everything already planned and she wasted no time. My dad was transported from Seattle to the funeral home in Port Angeles almost immediately and Renee had him cremated.
I never even got to see him again after I left to go back to school the preceding weekend. I know deep down that Charlie never would have wanted the funeral Renee planned for him, but I had no choice but to follow. She went for a big production with lots of music and pictures and speeches. My dad would have hated it. He was quiet and reserved and would have never wanted the spectacle Renee put on. She cried and was hysterical, soaked up every bit of attention that was lavished on her.
Everyone loved Charlie Swan so his funeral was well attended and that was heartwarming to witness. He made a difference in so many people's lives and everyone in the surrounding communities paid their respects. All his friends from the Reservation attended as well and it was great to see Billy Black there that day. He and Charlie always had the best relationship and I knew Billy would really miss my dad.
The funeral was so hard on Seth, Jasper and Rose. It brought up so many painful memories for each of them on top of the way they felt about Charlie. When my dad died, the sense of loss we all felt was almost crushing in its intensity. Sue was our only parent left and we each clung to her and basked in her strength, taking as much as we needed from her.
As I held Charlie's letter in my hand, I hoped it would give me the closure I needed to be able to say good bye. I slid a shaking finger under the flap of the envelope and carefully pulled the letter out. My tears started immediately as I saw my father's sloppy handwriting covering the page of plain white stationery. I began to read:
I hope Doctor Cullen was able to get this letter delivered to you. He was the only one I could think of to ask this favor of, I knew I wouldn't be able to trust your mother...well, Renee to give it to you.
Isabella, you have been the love of my life since the moment you were born, even before. I loved you completely the instant I found out Renee was pregnant with you. When we found out that she was having twins, I of course was ecstatic, but was really only able to be that way because I knew you were coming. Oh, having a son would have been a wonderful addition, and I am sorrier than I can express about the fact that your brother died during the delivery. But I have never, not for one single, solitary second wished that you, my sweet Bells, were anything else but the daughter I hoped and prayed for.
I hope that one day you can forgive me for allowing Renee to treat you the way she has for all these years. I've been a weak fool and you, my precious, beautiful daughter have paid the price for my blind devotion to that woman. Your heart can not help who it falls in love with Bells, and I was a fool in love with Renee, since the first moment I laid eyes on her.
By the time you were born, my eyes had been opened to her and the way she acted after that was inexcusable…even though I tried to make excuse after excuse for her. She was jealous of you my daughter, jealous of your goodness. She was jealous of your selflessness and the way you brightened the day of everyone around you just with a smile.
I have been so proud of you Bella, proud of the woman you have become. I know what you tried to do for me and I can not even find the words to express to you how much that meant to me. But, it's time for you to let me go now, Bells. I've had my time on this earth and as much as it pains me to leave you, and Sue and Seth, Jasper and Rose, I must. I'm tired of fighting, of trying to win a battle that can't be won. I know Renee has tried blaming you for my being sick, please don't listen to her Bells. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was just my fate, nothing more, nothing less.
Take care of Seth, Jasper and Rose. They are your family my daughter, and three of the best people in the world. How could they be anything else with you for a best friend and me for an influence? I love them all very much and am so grateful that I was able to share a part in their lives, please tell them thank you for being there for you and I and for loving us they way they do. Check in on Sue, too, please? Let her know I've always loved her and I wish it could have been her. It should have been…
I love you Isabella Marie and I will always be watching over you with Harry, Peter and Charlotte and your brother. We'll be watching all of you, keep making me proud.
I barely recognized it when Seth picked me up and carried me into the house. I was a sobbing, hysterical mess and I couldn't even speak. He laid me down in my bed and crawled in beside me and covered us up with a blanket and he just held me, stroked my hair and rubbed my back.
I tried to talk, to tell him what the letter said, but I couldn't get any words out. After a bit, he took the letter from me, uncurling my fingers from around it and read it himself. Then it was my turn to hang on to him as we grieved for the man that both of us loved and lost.
We stayed that way for the entire day, alternating between crying and telling every story of Charlie that we could remember. By the time afternoon came, we called Jasper and Rose and read the letter to them over the speaker phone. We cried with them, too, and tried to offer as much comfort as we could to the other half of our family that was 2000 miles away. We told more stories with them until none of us could talk anymore. Seth and I told Jasper and Rose goodbye knowing that our reunion at the end of the week couldn't get here soon enough, we needed them and they needed us.
I heard Seth on the phone when it was close to dinner time and knew it was Edward immediately. When he looked at me and held the phone out, I could only shake my head. I wanted to talk to Edward, just hear his voice, but I knew if I did, I would break all over again. He whispered something to Edward I couldn't hear and then hung up the phone.
A few moments later my phone vibrated with an incoming text message from him:
I love you Bella, with all my heart. I am with you, just touch my heart around your neck and feel me. Be strong my love. It hurts now, but it will get better. I will help you Bella, just let me, please? E XOXOXO
I reached up and grabbed my pendant, just like he asked, and I felt him, felt his love for me coming through. I knew I would be okay, it might take awhile, but with Edward's love and support, I would make it.
With shaking hands, I sent him a message, hoping he wouldn't worry so much.
I love you my Edward. I feel you with me every moment we are apart; you are part of me now so you are always with me. We'll talk when you get here, I miss you so much. Always….B XOXOXO
Seth brought me up a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of milk and one for himself as well. We ate in silence, each of us inside our own thoughts. I am sure his were a mixture of Harry and Charlie. Mine were on Charlie and Renee. I couldn't stop the feeling of rage that coursed through me as I thought about her. She made my life such hell while I was growing up and took my father away from me. Rather than subject me to her cruel remarks, Charlie allowed me to spend as much time away from home with Seth, Jasper and Rose as I wanted, but in turn that meant less time with him. I hated her for that, for taking away that precious time we could have had together.
I grabbed my shoes and ran to the garage, Seth following right behind, and slammed myself down behind my drum set and began to play. I played for hours, feeling the anger being released with each beat. I didn't even pay attention to what I was playing, I just let go. Seth watched in silence, making sure he was there in case I collapsed, but I didn't. By the time I was through, I could barely feel my legs and my chest was heaving as I breathed in and out heavily.
"I hate her," were the first words I'd spoken in hours.
"I know, Bell. I do, too," Seth answered back without a seconds thought.
"I'll never forgive her, for taking him away from me. For stealing the time I could have spent with him that I couldn't because of her," I sobbed as I swiped away the tears on my face.
He walked over to me and pried the drumsticks from my hands and laid them down before he picked me up, cradling me to his chest. "You don't have to Bell. No one would blame you if never forgave her. But think about yourself for a change. Can you live the rest of your life with that anger festering? If you can't, then you know what you have to do. I'm not going to force you to do anything you don't want. Edward won't either, neither will J or Lele. But, we are here for you, always."
He laid me down in bed and climbed in with me, and pulled me on top of his chest.
"Sleep Shortcake, I'll be here if you need me," Seth whispered as he kissed the top of my head.
"Love you brother, thank you for being here with me," I mumbled, barely coherent.
"Love you too little one, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else," he softly said back to me as we each feel asleep almost immediately.
Monday morning I woke up to the smell of coffee and Seth cursing downstairs in the kitchen. I chuckled to myself as I heard a yelp from Rufus and a pot slam on the counter. There is no telling what the hell he is up to down there.
I grabbed my phone and looked at the time, noticing it was after 8:00. I dialed Edward's number immediately, hoping he was on the way to the office by now.
"Bella," he breathed out as he answered the phone, not even saying hello first.
I giggled a little before I answered, "Edward."
Funny how when I heard his voice, his name was the only thing I could get out, too.
"Baby, are you ok?" he asked me quietly.
My heart broke a little at the concern that laced his voice and I had to fight back tears as I answered, "I will be sweetheart. Thank you for your message yesterday. I'm sorry I couldn't talk to you, I wanted to but…"
He interrupted me, "Angel, don't apologize. I just wanted you to know I was thinking about you. Is there anything I can do for you Bella?"
I sighed. Edward Cullen is seriously the most amazing man on the planet…the universe even. "Just love me Edward, that's all I need. I miss you so much."
He snickered a little before he answered, "Baby, you already have my love, and my heart and my soul, and my body…you have all of me. For as long as you want it. I miss you too beautiful, but it's only one more day then I get you all to myself for two whole days. Whatever shall we do to pass the time?" he said huskily.
"Oohh, be careful old man. Remember how you felt the morning after the Gala. We can't take you out of commission before Emmett, Ben, Demetri, and Jasper get here. You'd never hear the end of it. And, you know I want forever with you Edward."
"Good, I was beginning to think you weren't going to respond to that part of my previous statement baby. Forever sounds good to me, too. And as for my idiot brother and best friend, they've never been able to keep up with me anyway. Neither has Dem. Jasper, hell angel, I'm already scared shitless of the man. On second thought, no wearing me out, I need to be ready for him. Can't have him thinking I'm not good enough for his Shortcake, now can I?" Edward laughed.
I rolled my eyes at him, for someone as self assured as Edward was most of the time, he really was worried about what Jasper would think of him. I loved him for wanting to impress my best friend, but it was totally unnecessary. Jasper already loved him because I did.
"Sweetheart, stop fretting about J. He'll love you, you'll see. Besides, he already said he likes you." I chuckled at him when I heard his huff on the other end.
"I know sweet girl, but still. Meeting him in person is different. I just want him to understand how much I love you is all," Edward said adorably.
"Okay baby. I got it. We'll make sure you pass Jasper's inspection before letting you guys act like idiots. I can see it now, racing the four wheelers and the boats; should be something to watch, if you guys can keep from killing yourselves!" I snorted at him.
"Bella, did you just snort? And…wait a damn minute. Did you say four wheelers and boats? Hot damn baby, I can't wait for this weekend!" he excitedly said.
God, he sounded like a little kid, but I am glad he's looking forward to the weekend with his family.
"Just don't kill yourself, please? I'd like to keep you around awhile, you know?" I teased him.
"Like anything could take me away from you baby? I'm afraid you're stuck with me forever," he said seriously.
"I think I like that. Have a good day Edward, I'll talk to you tonight before bed and I'll see you tomorrow. I can't wait, really. I love you!" I told him as I walked in the kitchen, scowling at the mess Seth made in the kitchen.
"Okay Bella, I'll talk to you later. I love you baby, so very much. Tomorrow can't come soon enough for me. Seven days without seeing your face or kissing your lips has been torture!" he exclaimed.
"I'm so sorry Edward..." I tried to tell him but was immediately interrupted with, "Shut the fuck up Bella. Do not apologize. I was just teasing, it's okay and you know I understand. Now, tell me goodbye so I can get the hell off the phone so Tanya stops making kissy faces at me! Love you baby!"
"I love you too, Edward. Give my love to the kids and Tanya," I said before I hung up the phone.
I felt a million times better after talking with Edward. My heart still hurt and I grieved for Charlie, but my future was waiting for me and I was ready to embrace it with open arms.
I spent the rest of the day rushing around the house making sure all the bedrooms had clean sheets and blankets and each bathroom was stocked with clean towels and soap. I had given Seth a huge grocery list that had taken me most of the week to compile and sent him to the store to get the food. There were going to be seventeen people here this weekend so we were going to need a lot of food, especially when you considered Seth, Emmett and Demetri in the mix.
As I walked around the house, I couldn't help but be excited about spending the weekend with all of them. Edward and I were mixing our families and making one huge one, something I never dreamed would happen to me.
I talked to Maddie and Masen before bed, listening to them tell me all the exciting things happening the last few days of school like end of school parties and assemblies. Maddie had mentioned wanting to sign up to play soccer and Masen was excited to start swim lessons over the summer. They were so excited about the weekend coming up and couldn't stop asking question after question about the house and what we would be doing. I finally had to stop them, letting them know I would see them in just a few days.
Edward and I talked again before we went to bed, and the conversation was much easier this time. We didn't mention anything about my dad or the letter, saving that for when he got here. We talked about the weekend and all the fun things we planned on doing. He tried to keep me from planning on cooking all the meals, but he had to know that was a losing argument. I did tell him he could grill some while he was here, if he could get the grilling tools and apron away from Seth. Manning the grill was kind of his thing.
I woke up early on Tuesday to a note from Seth letting me know that he had left for the city so he could get a few things done before picking up Edward and bringing him here. I got dressed and went for a run, wanting to get it in before I got too busy. When I got back I checked my email from Angela and groaned audibly when she mentioned more hate mail they had received during the week I had been gone. I did not look forward to that discussion with Edward at all.
About 3:00, I changed into my favorite jeans and a spaghetti strapped top and went into the kitchen to start on Edward's welcome dinner. I had called Esme earlier in the day to find out some of his favorite foods to eat and decided on steak, twice baked potatoes and fresh green beans. I was planning on making homemade rolls as well as white chocolate mousse with chocolate sauce for dessert. I plugged in my iPod to the docking station in the kitchen, poured myself a glass of wine and got to work.
Time passed quickly, singing to the music and drinking wine seemed to make the time fly by. Of course all the thoughts I had of Edward helped too. I was so excited to see him, my stomach clenched every time I thought of seeing his face, or kissing his lips, or feeling his hard body close to mine. I also couldn't help but get excited when I thought of him being buried deep inside of me. It had been over a week since the Gala, and I wanted him…desperately so.
I was mixing the potatoes, dancing to Are You Gonna Go My Way by Lenny Kravitz when it got to the awesome guitar part at the end when I heard a voice from behind me,
"Baby, you are so fucking sexy… I want you…now."
I gasped, dropping the spoon I was holding as I turned around and looked into Edward's smoldering green eyes that were almost black with lust.
I launched myself at him, gripping him tightly around the neck and wrapping my legs tightly around his waist.
"Take me baby, I'm yours," was all I got out before he pressed me up against the wall in the kitchen.
"Baby, you have no idea the things I'm going to do to you tonight," Edward growled at me.
I couldn't wait to see what he had in store for me…I only hoped I could keep up with him this time.