I spent the rest of the night watching the home movies I’d brought back to the hotel with me. One video was at a lake and dated just a month before the accident. I watched my Bella running around in a bikini and cut-off shorts while she played football with several other teens and Phil. One recurring girl kept showing up, her and Bella laughing, whispering to each other. There was a close up shot of them, they had their arms wrapped around one another, yelling incoherent things, smiling all the while. Maybe they were best friends. There also was one boy that seemed to focus only on catching Bella. It didn’t matter if she had the ball or not, and the worst part was she was laughing about it. He never hurt her. He wouldn’t tackle her to the ground. He would catch her and swing her around over his shoulders tickling her sides to make her laugh and scream.
I knew my jaw was tense watching it. I had to remind myself that she wasn’t mine then. She is now and she was sleeping just in the next room. No one would touch her again but me. She’d never see this boy again. Ever.
The other video was Bella’s championship softball game and after party. She was on the varsity softball team last year before moving to Forks. Let me tell you, that girl could swing a bat like no other. She made two homeruns and a triple. I was in awe of her ability. I couldn’t help but notice how hot she looked in the uniform. I wondered if she still used the visual of James when up to bat. The after party was at a park. Her best friend was there, but in this video, snuggling up to some boy. He had his arm around her; they were sitting on a bench. They were getting into some serious kissing. Phil, evidently the one videotaping, yelled at the kid, “Scott! You too, Janey, enough with the PDA. Break it up already.” So her name was Janey.
Bella appeared to be telling some story to a bunch of kids. She had them all in hysterics. The boy from the lake was with her, his arm around her shoulder. She was so animated; she was laughing and talking with her hands. The boy with her was laughing trying to hold her hands down. “Damn Bella, I swear you wouldn’t be able to talk if you didn’t have hands,” he laughed. I heard Phil laugh and agree with him. “Yep, she’s exactly like her mom. They never sit still.”
The Bella I was accustomed to was demure; I’ve never seen her this animated. What was so depressing is that I helped instill this new side of her. It was like software, Carlisle and Charlie’s methods; you installed it into women as if they were computers. It was rather sickening when I really thought about it. It made me envious to watch her laugh and cut up with other teenagers. She was so free.
I looked at my watch and realized it was 6 am. The time difference meant that it was only 5 am at home. I knew it was still early, but I had to talk to Jasper. I called him on my cell while staring at the paused picture on my laptop; Bella with her head thrown back laughing wearing a baseball cap.
I heard him answer; his voice was groggy at the other end. “What’s wrong Edward? What did you do?”
“I can’t just want to talk to my brother? Does something have to be wrong?” I sighed.
Who was I kidding, no one.
“Right, you call at 5 in the morning because you just wanted to know if it’s raining here or not,” he said sarcastically. “It is by the way. Hang on a minute.”
I heard him talking softly to Alice. “Go back to sleep baby. Edward’s being a prick, as per usual. You don’t need to wake up yet.”
I heard a mumbled, “Hurry back. I’m cold without you.”
I heard Jasper chuckle at her. “I love you Pixie.”
“Love you too, Jazzy,” she mumbled.
I felt a pang in my chest. I want what they have so badly I can taste it. I heard a door close and realized he must have left the room so he didn’t disturb her.
“Alright Edward. Now, what did you do?” he asked again.
“I didn’t do anything Jasper,” I said defensively.
He didn’t say anything, just waited. I realized he must have picked up this technique from our father. The typical waiting game, but I didn’t do anything wrong. I have nothing to confess. It was an unfair accusation.
Um, excuse me? Who pinned the woman they profess love against a wall and used sex to dominate her? It may not have been punishment, but it was pretty damn close, asshole.
Shit! The voice was back.
“Look. I haven’t slept all night. I’m tired and I didn’t call to have you throw accusations at me,” I huffed. “I wanted your help. You said you’d help me if I needed it,” I reminded him.
“So what happened then?” he asked.
I pinched the bridge of my nose as I laid my head back on the sofa. “We ran into one of Bella’s former neighbors. God, I’ve never been so irritated in all my life by a woman; a tiny, frail, elderly woman at that,” I admitted.
Jasper chuckled at the other end. “I like her already. So what did she do to piss you off so bad?”
“Very funny. She offered Bella a way to leave me. I won’t let anyone take Bella away from me, Jasper.” I could feel my earlier anger coming back and knew he could hear it in my voice.
“Edward, calm down,” he ordered. “You didn’t take it out on Bella did you?”
“No, I didn’t take it out on her,” I sneered.
Right, why don’t we ask the jury? Everyone who believes that raise your hand. Don’t see any hands in the air, Assward.
What? Now the voice was going to start calling me names? I sighed. His ramblings are becoming more difficult to tune out.
“So just what exactly, did you do?” he stressed.
“I made her give me her word that she’d never leave me,” I admitted.
“God, Edward! Can’t you go two days without being an ass?” he growled. “You can’t force Bella to give you that kind of promise. It’s just not a valid request! Think rationally. Granted, Bella’s situation is different thanks to our father’s screwed up family beliefs, but a person can chose who to be with, who to surround themselves with. People decide who their friends are, not by forced promises of loyalty. You’re trying to win her love. You don’t do that by acting like a Neanderthal. Stop trying to be Carlisle’s golden boy. Have you not heard anything we’ve been trying to tell you? Well, you’ve definitely heard it, but are you processing it? There’s a difference, you know.”
I had two responses.
“I’m not an ass, and she gave me her word so what’s your problem?” I demanded.
Now I’m being called an ass by the voice and my brother. Was I an ass? I didn’t think so. I rubbed my hand over my chest trying to figure out what this pain in my chest was.
Do you know what a guilty conscience feels like? Just like that. You should read up on human emotions, Retard-ward.
I heard silence on the other end and could imagine him tugging at his hair. I heard him sigh. “Edward,” he started, “I’m going to say something to you. You’re not going to want to hear it, but I want you to listen to me and don’t interrupt. Alright?”
“Fine,” I said, exasperated.
Better get a pen and paper, there may be a pop quiz on this later. You were always a straight-A student, but you’re failing Bella 101 miserably.
I leaned back and closed my eyes.
“Edward, you have to know that vow doesn’t mean anything. You forced it from her. She didn’t promise to stay with you because she wants to. She promised because I’m sure, in her mind, if she didn’t comply you’d abuse her. That’s all she knows. Bella doesn’t have any choices, she’s trapped in this life. What other answer could she give you?” he stressed.
“She’s mine-,“ I started.
“Listen to you, Edward!” he yelled. “I wish I could record you. That’s your only response ever, ‘She’s mine! She belongs to me!’ She isn’t your stuffed lion you had as a kid. She’s a person. Every time you say that you strip away at her identity. It’s wrong, unjust, and cruel. I don’t care how much money Carlisle paid Charlie. You DON’T own her. It’s all in your head, man. Do you honestly think if Bella had the choice right now, today, she would choose to stay? No. She’d take that neighbor up on her offer so fast it’d make your head spin.”
I felt that pain in my chest stab harder, it was like a knife twisting in my heart. Didn’t I show Bella how much I love her? I told her often enough. What else did I need to do to show her? I listened with pain and dread as he continued.
“She’d run as far and fast as she could to get away from everything she’s been subjected to. She wouldn’t choose marriage to you over a normal life. She’s known the difference and you can’t erase that, I don’t care how long she’s with you. She will always know that what she was raised to believe about love and marriage isn’t what you give her. If she wasn’t so damned scared of you, she’d probably try to run away on her eighteenth birthday, when she legally is able to. You do know that, don’t you? You’re fortunate though. You have a chance, a small window of opportunity to show her real love. I think she already cares for you in some way… it’s just, you know… man you have no idea how fucked up you sound. God, and to think that is just how I sounded in the beginning. Thank God I learned before it was too late for me and Alice.”
I heard him sigh, “She’s not a damn toy, Edward. For god’s sake stop saying that to her. It’s toxic to your relationship. The more you say it, the more she’ll resent you. You’ll dig your own grave…”
I pinched the bridge of my nose again. I am not as bad as he keeps trying to make me out to be. I needed to defend my actions, they were perfectly logical.
I took a deep breath. “Jasper,” I started slowly, keeping my emotions in check, “I know she’s not a toy. She’s going to be my wife. Therefore, she is mine.” I decided to take a different approach with him. “Could you let Alice leave you?”
Ha! I knew I had him there. There was silence on the phone. See you, damn voice. He’s no saint either. Great, now I’m talking to the voice in my head. I guess that’s still okay. It’s when I lose the argument that someone needs to put me in a padded room.
My jaw dropped at his answer.
“If it made her happier, and I knew our father wouldn’t hurt her, then yes. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t break my heart to pieces… but Edward, you have to realize my situation is different. We’re in two different ballparks. I already have Alice’s love so I don’t worry about her leaving me. Our relationship has grown into the partnership a marriage is supposed to be, it’s built on love, trust and respect. We know we belong together, but I don’t pound it into her head like you’re doing with Bella. We don’t have to continuously promise each other that we won’t leave, because leaving, not being with her, man it would mean my world would end, as hers. Or so she says…” he chuckled, a little lost in the moment of talking about his love with Alice.
He continued, “I hope you know it only makes you weaker. If you always force Bella to promise she won’t walk out, it just feeds your insecurities. If you’re trying so hard to dominate, be strong, then why do you feel so afraid, Edward? You probably get cold sweats just thinking she might not be there someday, I know I did with Alice in the beginning. But aren’t you sick of the guessing, of the fear? Don’t you want to find that level of happiness? I’m telling you, happiness isn’t overrated. The path you’re taking isn’t leading you leading you there. It’s leading you straight into despair. And you’ll just be dragging Bella down with you. And come on, if you love her, you wouldn’t wish that for her, would you? So can I offer a suggestion coming from experience?”
I sighed. “What, Jasper?” I asked wearily. How did he know all my insecurities? Has he ever felt like this over the last two years? Could I really get Bella to feel I was her ‘happy ever after’? I knew she was mine.
“When I brought Alice home, do you know why I sequestered us in our home for those first few months?”
“No,” I answered. I often wondered his reasoning since finding out more about their real relationship.
“Alice was so traumatized by the time I married her that she was never going to love me, let alone trust me. She was terrified of me. She cowered from me any time I came near her. I couldn’t even hold her hand without her fearing I was going to hurt her. Then she would fear that I was going to punish her for that fear, which in turn scared her even more. I had never felt like such a monster, a true demon. It was a vicious cycle that seemed unbreakable. I didn’t know how to reach her. I was very lucky that mom overheard me pleading with Alice a few days after we got home. She really helped me Edward. I still wouldn’t have Alice’s love and trust if mom hadn’t taken a huge risk and intervened. I owe my relationship to our mother. It was her idea to shut us away from everyone for those first months. That’s why I only allowed mom to come to our home.”
“Jasper?” I interrupted. “Do you…call her ‘mom’…to her face?” I felt a tightening in my chest. I think I knew this answer.
“Yeah Edward, I do, when Carlisle isn’t around,” he answered. His voice was full of regret. “We were wrong to ever let Carlisle stop us from calling her ‘mom’. She never deserved the way we treated her after that day. God, all this talk just brings it all back what we did…I’ve spent these past two years and for the rest of my life, I just know…you know?”
I couldn’t say I did know. I haven’t earned her forgiveness…yet.
“When you get back you really should take the time to talk to mom. She loves you and misses you. You were always closer to her than Emmett or I was. Take advantage of the fact that she’s here now.”
When he spoke, I knew he was remembering all the horrible things we said and did to her after Carlisle told us she didn’t deserve our love and respect any longer. We were scolded if we showed her any kindness or affection. That night after he let her out of the basement and we’d had dinner, we made our list of demeaning jobs for future wives. He made our mother do every single one of them for us. I was even rewarded for coming up with the most humiliating job of all. I couldn’t remember what it was now, I didn’t want to.
“I will Jasper. It’s something I’ve actually been thinking about for a while now,” I assured him.
“Edward, my point is, I would have never known the real Alice, and she wouldn’t have fallen in love with me if we didn’t have that time alone to drop all our defenses. I became her rock, as she is mine. You know? We support each other. She was free to tell me what she felt and I was free to let her. I didn’t have to look over my shoulder all the time for fear that Carlisle would catch me letting her tell me ‘no’. She acts and does what she wants in our home, and I love her, so everything she does is beautiful. Carlisle, Charlie, and everyone else who lives this adaptation of love is twisted, and I’m just trying to straighten it out in you. I don’t want you to miss out on the greatest feeling in the world; the love of your wife.”
“So take advantage of this time away from everyone. You gave her this trip as a gift, so let it be a real gift. Remember this trip is going to be hard on her. It was her home where she was loved for herself. You’ve taken that from her with your behavior. Use this time to get to know the real Bella.” He paused and then chuckled, “I’ve met her, Edward, and I think you’d like her. If you would let your guard down I think she’d like you too. You two are actually quite compatible-”
That comment stopped me in my tracks. “What do you mean you’ve met her?” I demanded.
“Just that, she only has to hide from you and Carlisle,” he said smugly. “She’s a different person when she’s with Alice, mom or Rosalie. Well, she’s not different, she’s just Bella. She’s different with you. You’ve seen glimpses of her, but not all. It’s like watching a remake of a classic movie. There are similarities, but the remake is never as good as the real thing. And since she knows she’s safe with me, I got the privilege of meeting her also. You’re missing out on a fantastic girl by acting the way you do.” I heard him start to chuckle over the phone. “She has the most fantastic sense of humor. Pissed myself…” he trailed off.
I growled in frustration. I could feel all the old rivalries trying to come up. He had everything I wanted. Why don’t we make a checklist?
He had a wife that loved him.
He had the relationship with our mother that I missed.
And now, he has closer relationship with Bella than I did.
Well then maybe you should try listening to his advice, Dumbass. All this too could be yours if-
Great, now the voice sounded like an infomercial.
He must have read my silence. “Edward, don’t you dare retaliate against Bella for what I’ve just told you,” he warned. “I’m not trying to pour salt in an open wound. I just want you to know there’s a whole other person inside of Bella that, because of how hard you’re holding on to the way Carlisle raised us, you’re missing out on. Underneath the plastic exterior is a bright young woman. She’s just been scared into hiding by everything she’s been through at the hands of her family and ours. She’s the one you want to love you. You will never get the love you crave from your ‘Barbie’. She isn’t real, she’s just pretend. Carlisle has convinced you to create a plastic version of the real thing. Trust me, if she gives you her love she will want to stay with you forever. You’re a decent guy when you want to be. Can you do that, Edward? Can you give both of you this chance?”
“I don’t know Jasper. I honestly don’t know how to let go. If I do this though, what happens when we come home?” I asked. “How do you and Alice keep everything a secret? Remember I’m still suffocating in Carlisle’s house until June, it will be much harder to put up a charade in such close proximity…”
“Look Edward. Why don’t you get some sleep? Decide first if you’re going to give yourself this chance, and then see what happens. Why don’t you have her show you around Phoenix today? It might be easier for her to loosen up around you as well. Remember, it’s going to be just as hard for her to trust you with her true self as it is for you to let her. Worry about home when you get back. If you spend the week stressing about later, you’ll never have the courage to do what you need to now.”
“Alright Jasper. Thanks again.” I was getting ready to hang up when I stopped. “Hey Jasper?” I asked.
I paused. “What’s she like?”
There was a moment of silence on the phone. I guess he was trying to decide how to best to answer.
“She’s a great girl Edward. You’re very fortunate to have her in your life. She has a lot to offer…given the chance. I won’t say more.”
“Thanks.” I hung up the phone and sat there a moment processing what he’d told me. The last videos I watched were taken within the past year. The glimpses I’d seen of Bella; they all had one thing in common. This was the Bella I wanted to know. This was the girl I was in love with, and I wanted more of her.
I shut down my laptop and got up from the sofa. I walked quietly back toward the bedroom. I opened the door partway so that the light spilled across the bed leaving the top part still in the shadows so it didn’t wake her. I walked over to the bed and stared down at her frame. She was curled up like a kitten, on her side with her hands tucked under her pillow. The blanket had slipped down to her waist exposing her upper body to me. Her lips were slightly parted and her hair spilled over her face and shoulders. I gently lifted her hair from her face. She was so beautiful, even in slumber. I noticed goose bumps on her arm and she shivered. I pulled the blankets back up to cover her and smiled as she shifted backward to my side of the bed. Her arm slid behind her. She frowned a little in her sleep before burrowing further into the blankets. I realized she was searching for me; for my warmth.
I quietly went back to my side of the bed, slipping off my boxers as I climbed in. I gently pulled Bella to me. She rolled over and put her head on my shoulder, throwing an arm and leg over me. She was actually quite the character in sleep, always sprawling around, throwing limbs everywhere. If I wasn’t so charmed I’d be annoyed.
I kissed the top of her head and thought about what Jasper said about giving us this time. I wouldn’t have this kind of opportunity to be completely alone with Bella for any length of time again until our honeymoon or our house was finished. I even offered a bonus to the builder if he could have it completed by the end of May. Living with Carlisle was becoming a nightmare. He was demanding more and more information about Bella’s training. His comments becoming downright crude, hellish even. If I didn’t know any better I would think he got off on it.
Thinking about it made me remember Bella’s nightmare. Maybe this was the cause of her nightmares about him. So far she hasn’t heard the worst of his comments but she heard enough about his ideas of punishments. I drifted off thinking about how I would approach the rest of this trip. I would adjust myself to Jasper’s guidelines. It was for Bella, all of it was. I love her and I want her love. I need her love.
I woke up with Edward spooned against me, his arm wrapped around my waist holding me to him. I could feel his warm breath on the back of my neck and shoulder. I couldn’t see the clock from my side of the bed to know what time it was, but judging from the sunlight coming in the window in the other room it had to be at least 8 am. I was surprised Edward wasn’t awake yet. He was always up by 5 am on weekdays and never slept past 7 am on the weekends. After all it takes time for me to prepare a full breakfast every morning I thought sarcastically. The man has never heard of cereal or a granola bar. If it wasn’t for my long walks in Esme’s garden or up and down the driveway to the gate that was always locked, I’d probably weigh a ton. But then again, it would be hard for me to be fat since Edward portions out my food also, I thought sarcastically.
I was changing. I could sense it. Everything just felt different, tasted different, and smelled different. I was going numb. My only sensory comfort was the aroma of my hair, my shampoo. It was the only thing about me that was still the same.
Maybe I’m going crazy. Maybe since I’m so accustomed to turning on an invisible switch to two different people, I’m officially diagnosing myself with Multiple Personality Disorder? I sometimes feel like I’m really losing it. What will happen in a year? I’ve been here months, almost six, that’s half a year. How the fuck am I going to do this for a lifetime? STOP, Bella, my rational internal voice was yelling. I needed to stop this now. Going down this path again was like falling in a black hole with no way out. There was no need for deep reflection. It didn’t change anything to think about it, I couldn’t control it. This was my life and I would survive.
I huffed laying there. I knew I was still mad from yesterday. My internal voice was very sarcastic and edgy when I was angry at Edward. It was my only form of retaliation. I couldn’t say what I felt to him so I would just say what I felt about him. His behavior at my home made me so angry I could spit nails, like mom used to say. I never understood that saying until recently. I was angry because I couldn’t stop him from what he did to me and he made me want him in spite of it. I sighed. Self pity wasn’t worth the ramblings; they just made me feel worst. I started running my list of all the good qualities in Edward and the little things he had changed so far. I smiled slightly at my list. It had started getting a little longer before this trip. If he could change, he would be happier, his life would be better, which in turn would make my life better.
I owned a cell phone now. Big fucking deal. It was humiliating. It was one of those phones for young children that could only dial preprogrammed phone numbers. It was only to call him or someone in the family if I needed them. Edward decided it was necessary for me to have one after an ice storm hit Forks causing school to close early. I didn’t have a way to let anyone know I needed to be picked up. I didn’t even know Edward’s cell phone number or the number to the house and how do you explain that to someone? I couldn’t get a ride with a friend because the gate is locked and the only way in is with the code or remote, which I don’t have. So, I told my friends that Edward was already on his way so they would leave. I stood outside for over an hour. Edward jumped out of his car, hollering my name, cursing his way over amidst the ice. He thought I was near death, it was mildly amusing to see him so distraught, apart from my shivering limbs. After some sleep and hot tea, he told me that he overheard some parents who worked at the hospital talking about how school closed early, and then put the pieces together; I was in a sticky situation, with no contact information. I spent 4 days in bed with the flu, which meant he had to move back to the sofa, served him right. But I do admit he was a good caretaker. He stayed home from the hospital to care for me, bringing my meals, and would sit next to the bed, watching movies or playing scrabble with me. I smirked, Carlisle was not amused.
I looked back at Edward and he was still asleep. I sighed. How much longer before he would wake up? I was awake, but I couldn’t leave the bed until he woke up; one of his many idiotic rules. I really needed to go to the bathroom. I decided to see if I could slip out of the bed without waking him and then I’d come right back. I gently lifted his arm from around my waist; at least I wasn’t in one of his death grips. Some mornings I woke up and was held so tight I could barely breathe and he would wake the minute I shifted in his arms. As more time passed, I was slowly coming to understand Edward more and more. He had problems. Anger, separation anxiety, abandonment issues...the list went on. I wanted to help him, but he was such a jerk. It’s not like he’d ever listen to my advice. I carefully slid out of bed still holding his arm above me and turned my pillow against him so he was now holding it instead. I sighed in relief and swiftly went to the bathroom closing the door gently behind me.
I took care of my human moment and quietly padded back to the bed. I stood looking down at Edward for a moment. I smiled. He certainly was going to have a case of bed head when he woke up. His hair looked like he’d been trying to rip it all out and was sticking up everywhere. I noticed he had circles under his eyes like he hadn’t slept, but I had to admit, his physique took my breath away.
If that’s what love was based on, looks, I would have been in love with him from the start. My parents taught me well. I knew it was more than that, because I wasn't in love with Edward, regardless of how gorgeous he might be. He made some changes, but how could I love him? Honestly, falling in love happens over the course of time, unless it's at first sight. But my first sight of Edward was when I was bound and gagged, so we may as well rule that out. I liked him now, though. My Edward; I liked a lot. I appreciated the little things he had changed for me, I loved when he let his guard down- his proper, controlled facade, and just relaxed. He seemed... more human. I liked when he laughed. I want to know the man the Esme told me about. If only he'd let go, it would be much easier. I’m not going to base trust on the fact that I could pick my own drink now. He needed to make some big gestures also, like stop being so damn possessive and give me a freaking break.
I decided to take the chance. Edward was asleep so this may be my only opportunity. I stiffened my spine; it was now or never. I went to the closet and pulled out clothes to wear and went back to the bathroom to get ready. I kept the door partially open so I could hear Edward’s breathing. If he woke up and saw me, there would be hell to pay. I stepped back into the bedroom. He was still asleep; good.
Now if I could just get out the door without him stirring. I closed the bedroom door as I went out and slipped on my shoes before walking quickly to the front door. As I put my hand on the knob I listened one last time for Edward. I still didn’t hear anything so I opened the door and left. I tried to close it quietly once I was in the hall, but didn’t realize how heavy the door was. I quickly ran to the elevator and punched the button. Why did we have to be on the 18th floor? He couldn’t have picked a room on the first or second floor that I could have just run downstairs. No, now I have to stand here, ready to jump out of my skin, and wait on a freaking elevator.
I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the numbers start to climb closer to our floor. 13...14...15... just a few more and it would be here. I was so focused on watching the doors that I was startled when I heard my name shouted. He’d found me. Damn! Damn! Damn!
I woke to the sound of a door closing and realized Bella wasn’t in bed. I got up, pulling on my boxers and jeans that were lying on the chair.
“Bella?” I called. I listened for her, but didn’t hear anything. I was reminded of my dream again and felt my heart rate pick up. I’ve had the same dream several times now of Bella being gone and not being able to find her. I always woke up in a cold sweat until I could reassure myself that she was curled against me or lying on my shoulder. I went in the living room hoping to find her there. She wasn’t. She wasn’t anywhere in our suite. I ran out the door and looked frantically up and down the hall. I saw her at the end of the hall waiting on the elevator.
“Bella!” I shouted, running down the hall toward her. She turned to me with wide eyes. I saw her shoulders slump. I didn’t want to think what that could mean. I reached her just as the elevator doors opened. “Where do you think you’re going?” I demanded. I was wheezing, not from running down the hall, from my anxiety.
I have never been so scared in my entire life.
She looked at the doors that were closing again before turning to me. She searched my eyes before answering. I kept my gaze blank; I was careful not to let her see my fear fighting for dominance over my anger at her betrayal. Yes, I was angry, but the fury didn't compare to the terror. I wanted to cry at the thought of her not being there. God, I don't know what I'd do if she was gone.
“I- I was just going down to pick up our breakfast. It was getting late and I didn’t know how much longer you would sleep. I’m sorry, I was hungry,” she said, keeping her eyes focused below mine.
I put my arm around her and started walking her back to our room. “Well, why don’t we go out to eat breakfast instead? I just need a minute to get ready.” I couldn’t very well interrogate her in the hallway where anyone could overhear.
I looked down at her. She was chewing her lip which I knew meant she was nervous and lying to me. I swiped our keycard and ushered her into the room. After the door shut I faced her. Now that she was here, I could see her, the rage was back. She had just sworn not to leave me. I know Jasper said it didn’t mean anything to her, but it did to me.
“Isabella, sit down,” I said icily. I took a deep breath so that I could reign in my temper and not scare her. I did at least remember I was trying to gain her trust and that would only set me back if I lashed out at her like I wanted.
She sat down and I noticed for the first time what she was wearing. She had on a white denim skirt and one of my favorite blue woven tops with heels. It was one of my favorite outfits. I took her shopping before the trip to buy new spring clothing. The trip was successful, and it held many purposes; for one, she liked it. She had a genuine smile on her face when I had a personal shopper dress her in gauzy tops and pretty dresses. I looked at her now. Her hair and make up were done. She looked beautiful as always. Her hands were clasped tightly together in her lap. She still hadn’t spoken to me. She finally looked up at me, and I wasn't surprised to find fear laced in her expression.
Well wasn't this just great, I've made her scared. I felt like a monster. I couldn't help it though, she was gone! It's not my fault...wait, why am I trying to explain myself?
Because you're not completely brain dead like I thought. If you feel like a monster, there's something wrong, about time you realized that.
Ah, and he is back, ladies and gentleman!
I stood over her holding her gaze. “Would you like to explain yourself? Did you think I was joking when I said I’d never let you leave; that I would track you down and bring you back? I wasn't messing around!” My voice continued to climb until I was shouting at her. I sounded desperate.
She flinched from my accusations. Her eyes were filling with tears.
“I want an answer, Isabella,” I ordered.
She took a trembling breath and looked down again as her tears spilt down her cheeks. She angrily wiped at them. I heard her mumble, “I won’t cry, damn it.”
She took another couple of breaths before looking back up at me. She had her emotions under control. In fact she had a very detached look on her face, just staring off, “I wasn’t trying to leave you Edward,” she responded in a monotonous tone. If I really read into it, she almost looked...well, annoyed. That just pissed me off even more.
I raised my eyebrow at her in disbelief. “Then why did you leave our room? I don’t want to hear any excuse about breakfast either. I want the truth.”
“I was going to get our breakfast. I promise. You want me to trust you. Well I want you to trust me too. I thought if I left our room without your knowledge and came back on my own, you’d see you don’t have to guard me so much.” She gestured to her clothes. It was another of my favorite outfits and she knew it. “I also wanted you to see that I can dress myself; that I can make decisions. I’m not a child,” she finished softly.
I sat down beside her and pulled her onto my lap. I needed to hold her to reassure myself she was still here. I was so attached to her it was scaring me, I felt like such a tool. But who cares? I hadn’t lost her. She was here... she was here... I thought over what she said. If it wasn’t for my conversation with Jasper I would be looking at all of this as an act of defiance on her part. I swallowed hard as I realized I would have physically punished her if she had done this at any point before today. This is what Jasper was telling me to allow happen. It would have been...I was starting to see it as... it would have been abuse. I wasn't a monster.
“I believe you, Bella. I’m sorry I jumped to conclusions. You know, first time waking up without you there...” I sighed, she knew the rest. I tilted her face up to me and gently kissed her lips. I smiled as I realized I felt good telling Bella I was sorry. It almost felt liberating to admit I wasn’t perfect. I thought briefly of Maddie’s words at the hospital. She told me I wasn’t perfect and to quit trying. I was rewarded with one of her smiles as she relaxed in my arms. She pecked me on the nose, it was becoming her signature kiss when I did something she liked. They were adorable, and her eyes twinkled, she seemed...giddy.
“I want to try something while we’re here, since you’ve already made decisions this morning without my input. For this week, I will follow your lead. Today, instead of going back to the house, why don’t you show me around? Take me wherever you want to go. I don't know much about your past, and I want to know. We can pack tomorrow,” I suggested.
I could see the apprehension growing in her eyes as I told her my plans. Her eyes were darting back and forth looking into mine; searching for this to be a trick before reaching out to take the offer. I hated the comparison, but she was almost like ‘Pavlov’s dog’. The dog was brainwashed to respond to the bell even if nothing was there; Bella’s reactions to certain situations were automatic now as well, just like this. The giddiness of the situation died- I was making an effort to do something to make her happy and she expected to be punished if she accepted the gesture without a second thought.
She always thought any act of kindness was some sort of test, so she never trusted it at face value. Another result of Charlie’s training methods. It was one of the techniques he used to strip the girl’s expectations. I had to admit it was effective even though I was learning to regret it. There was never a true spontaneous reaction to anything I did for her. She always waited before responding.
All of my interrogations with Carlisle were teaching me more of the horrors Bella, Rosalie and Alice faced in that house. They endured hell at the hands of the devil, truly. I wasn't being melodramatic, it was fucking disgraceful. Carlisle helped to create the training regiment and wanted me to learn everything to train Bella. He even hinted that he would be proud of me if I took over all the training for the family. I don’t think so. This was one time I wouldn’t fight for his approval.
Jasper continually tried to get me to take Bella to Alice’s therapist. I knew I could help her. She didn’t need anyone outside of me to help her heal. She wasn’t traumatized like Alice. I was confident I could fix her myself.
“Do you mean it?” she asked cautiously, guarded.
I nodded and kissed her forehead. “Yes Bella, I do. This week you’re in control. I encourage you, this is your territory, show me. But, understand, this isn’t easy for me to do. It's only for this week and if at anytime I feel you’re taking advantage of the situation I will end it. Agreed?”
“Thank you, Edward!” she squealed throwing her arms around me. “I promise you won't regret this!”
I silently thanked Jasper. Her eyes were sparkling again and it was for me. I laughed. “Okay then, what are we doing first?”
“First we eat. I’m hungry. Oh! I want to take you to a place that makes the best French toast in the world. They make their own bread. It’s out of this world,” she gushed. She got off my lap, pulling me by the arm. “But we have to hurry or they’ll be completely out.”
“Alright, let me grab some clean clothes and we can go,” I told her laughing as I headed toward the bedroom. I was curious to try this famous French toast, she claimed it was her favorite.
Her next comment stopped me dead in my tracks. “Do I get to pick out your clothes?” she asked carefully. Hip jutted out, her eyebrow raised. I had to give recognition to Emmett, some feistiness, attitude... it was hot.
“Alright Bella, what shirt would you like me to wear today?”
She grinned at my response and walked over to me. I was surprised when she pulled me down to her and gave me a passionate kiss. Her fingers tangled in my hair as I slipped my arms around her waist. Her tongue swept out as I opened my mouth to her. She was dominating this kiss. She sucked my tongue into her mouth and stroked it repeatedly with hers while her lips moved over mine. I pulled her closer to me letting her feel the effects of her kiss. She broke the kiss to catch her breath.
She shook her head at me. “You can wear what you want. I don’t need to pick your clothes. I just wanted to see if you would really let me,” she admitted shyly. She smiled and kissed my nose. Score!
I realized she was testing me and I had just gained a little more of her trust. “Bella, I’ve told you and I'll tell you again, I’m a man of my word. I told you this week is for you and I mean it. I love you.” I cupped her face with my hand as my thumb grazed her cheek.
“I know,” she stated looking away from me.
I sighed and started to say something more when she pushed against my chest. “Go. I’m hungry and I want to eat. You’re wasting my week,” she laughed.
I knew it made her uncomfortable every time I told her that I loved her. I turned, and she caught my wrist, I swiveled back. I was momentarily caught off guard by her penetrating stare. It was intense, fueled by a fire I had never seen. It was staggering, and left me speechless.
"Your taking a chance," she said, her eyebrows knitted together, almost as if she was frustrated with something, like it was so impossible, "And I...I'm just, um, really glad you are," she finished off, shaking her head.
I smiled nodding my head in agreement. I think I understood. This was different for me as well. I walked away again, satisfied.
"Thank you," she said breathlessly, full of emotion.
I was in a state of shock. My mind was all over the place, a jumbled mess... of joy, of disbelief, of thanksgiving. I resisted the urge to jump up and down when Edward went into the bedroom. I would have to remember to thank Jasper when we got home. I honestly didn’t think it would work and I knew I was risking getting hurt by doing it. I felt my heart start to slow back down and I sighed in relief. I sat on the sofa to wait for Edward as I thought about where I wanted to go to show Edward who I was. I still couldn’t believe it worked. Jasper really was a genius.
It was the weekend before we left. Edward was at the hospital with Carlisle, and Esme was at the garden center so I was at Alice & Jasper’s home spending the afternoon. Emmett was at home taking care of Rosalie. We were all shocked at the changes that were happening in him. He was giving Rose even more reasons to love him now. She was finally getting the man she deserved and he was doing it all on his own. Well, almost all on his own. He did tend to drop in on Jasper for some pointers.
“Bella trust me,” Jasper stressed. “If Emmett can change then so can Edward. Use this trip as a way to break down his barriers. It will work. He won't see it coming.”
I shook my head. “I can’t do that. Do you know how much he'd hurt me if I did that? Jasper, with all due respect, you've never experienced Edward’s punishments. You have no idea-”
"Do you trust me?” Jasper interrupted.
I laughed. “Jasper you’re the only man I trust since moving here. The rest of them I trust about as far as I could throw them.”
“Really? The only one?” he laughed raising an eyebrow.
“Okay I admit, I’m also beginning to trust Emmett… just a smidge.” I laughed and held my hand up forming my thumb and index finger to make an inch space between.
The last couple of weeks if he was around without Edward or Carlisle, he would greet me by picking me up into big bear hugs until I couldn’t breathe. One day I was over at his and Rose's house for lunch on a Sunday, Edward was picking up an extra shift, and we spent a good two hours exchanging jokes and funny stories. All three of us had similar senses of humor, it was great to laugh, really laugh. I was glad I could joke around with him. He kept telling me to ‘keep the faith little sister. Confusedward (his secret nickname for Edward) would come around and probably not take nearly as long as he had.’
“Alright then,” Jasper stated, “I know I’m asking you to take a big risk. I know you’re scared,” he empathized. “I wouldn’t suggest it if I thought he would hurt you. You know that don’t you? You’re my little sister and it’s my job as your big brother to protect you,” he said.
I went over and hugged him. “I know Jazz. I wish you’d always been my brother,” I sniffed. Each time he said this to me it made me cry. Maybe if he had been my brother instead of James mom would have fought for her son. I could still be in Phoenix living a normal life if things were different. I stifled my depression. Thinking ‘should a, would a, could a’ wasn’t going to change my life now. I had a real big brother now, on the verge of another one, a wonderful second mom and the best sisters I could ever dream of. And who knows, maybe one day I’d even have a decent husband?
“I will be working on Edward for you at the same time. I’m sure he’s going to have a hard time seeing your past. He always calls me when he’s confused about you. His conscience must be raging inside by now. All I’m suggesting is that if you see the opportunity to do something to shake him up, do it. He may look and sound intimidating, but really, he's pretty damn vulnerable. He needs his eyes opened, even if just for a week. To be away from Carlisle’s influence. I only wish you had more time.”
“But Jasper what if it doesn’t work and he gets angry?” I asked. “You know he’ll hurt me.” I looked down in shame at what my mother must see in me now. I wasn’t the confident girl she’d raised any longer. I was too afraid of the hands of my fiancé or whatever he was to ever be strong again. “I’m not that brave anymore,” I whispered, ashamed.
Alice came over and hugged me. “Bella, I know this is going to be the hardest thing for you to do. Believe me, I know. Jasper wouldn’t make this suggestion unless he felt absolutely sure that Edward was ready to be exposed to this. Jasper has promised to be here for you. He won’t let Edward hurt you.
“Bella,” Jasper started, “Even if it doesn’t work and Edward gets angry, he won’t risk abusing you in a hotel room. He would wait until you’re back here. I’ll be here to stop him if it comes to that. You have your cell phone that Edward gave you, call me if you are having any trouble. Edward won’t know and then I’ll call him and talk to him before anything can happen. We will be in constant contact.”
I took a deep breath, “If you’re sure he won’t hurt me, I’ll try.” I shuddered, wondering if I would even have the nerve. If the opportunity presented itself, I chanted to myself.
I looked up as Edward came out of the bedroom. I stood and smiled at him, a real smile. I couldn’t wait to show him my past; I wanted to show him that I was a person. That I had a life and it was great. Maybe he'd realize that and want to... damn it with those 'maybes'.