Edward walked the path with me, keeping his hand on the small of my back. I knew he needed the comfort of touching me after my meltdown. He probably thought he was offering support by doing so; in reality, I just wanted to be alone. I had things I needed to say - things I knew he wouldn’t want to hear. Although, I guess, it really wouldn’t have been any worse than what I had said to him at home.
I was still in shock that he didn’t hit me, and that he even swore never to hit me again. This was such a huge step. The best promise I’d gotten from him so far was that he wouldn’t lose control when he hit me, that he’d never hit me in anger. He kept that promise even though I know I didn’t make it easy for him at times. Maybe he would keep this one also. Swearing never to hit me again and the promise to change were the only reasons I was willing to give him a chance. Without that, I knew I could never love him. Love was the only thing I still had control over in my life. It was my choice to give it or not; it was the one thing he couldn’t force from me.
I knew better than to even ask him to let me go. It was what I wanted above all else. To be normal again, to come home and live with Uncle JJ and Aunt Teri, to attend A & M… but I’d finally come to accept this as my life now. Even if Edward would let me go, I knew Carlisle never would. There was something possessive in his eyes when I caught him watching me; something that I didn’t understand. I was guarded so closely, I couldn’t get away - and I tried.
In the beginning, I tried every way I could think of to escape. Esme finally showed me one day just how futile it was. I figured she knew the code to the gate since she went shopping on her own. I was wrong. I never noticed the security camera inside the gate. I knew there was one outside for people to buzz in - that was how the landscapers got in. The one on the inside was how we got out. Esme, Rosalie or Alice had to get Carlisle, Emmett or Jasper to notify security ahead of time if they were going to leave. Security wouldn’t open the gate if it wasn’t on their schedule until they confirmed it was okay. Since Edward refused to let me out, I wasn’t even allowed to leave with Esme. Security came to the gate and took me out of Esme’s car and escorted me back to the house before allowing her to leave.
I didn’t completely give up hope of escape, though, until I tried running from school. It was my second day at school and everyone was going to an assembly in the gym, so it was easy to slip out the door unnoticed. I was caught by one of Carlisle’s security guards just as I turned onto the sidewalk. I hadn’t even known I was being watched. It scared the shit out of me when he grabbed me on the street, covering my mouth so I couldn’t scream, and started dragging me toward a car without a word. I thought for sure I was going to be raped and killed. I’d never seen him before; I didn’t know who he was. Instead I was driven home while the man called Edward and Carlisle to let them know I tried to run away.
“Yes sir, I’ve got her with me now. I’m taking her back to the house per Edward’s instructions. He told me to lock her in their room until he gets there,” the man said. “He should be just a few minutes behind me.”
There was a pause as he listened to Carlisle on the other line.
“I’m sorry, sir. I called Edward first because she’s his. I understand, sir. Yes sir, I swear if it happens again, I’ll call only you. Again sir, I’m sorry.” He hung up his phone and glared at me as he drove. I could see he was angry.
“You just had to fucking run, didn’t you, bitch? You couldn’t keep your ass where it belonged. Now I’m going to have to deal with Sam. How the hell was I supposed to know Carlisle was supposed to be the only one notified if you pulled a fucking stunt like this? No one fucking ever told me. Shit! Damn it! Stupid, fucking bitch!” He slammed his fist on his steering wheel several times, taking a turn too fast, causing me to be thrown against the door. “I’ll probably end up in Bumfuck Nowhere, Alaska after this. God, Marcus lives in the middle of fucking nowhere. It takes two hours just to get to town,” he grumbled. He glared at me again. “Two fucking hours! I only hope whatever Carlisle and Edward have planned for you leaves a fucking mark.”
“I’m sorry,” I started to apologize, thinking it might calm him down. I didn’t know what this man was capable of. I didn’t know if he’d pull over and hurt me also.
“Shut the fuck up,” he growled. “Just shut the fuck up and save your excuses for them. I fucking hate Alaska!”
I was scared to death, not knowing what awaited me. I knew what Carlisle was thinking; why he wanted to be the only one called. If I was home alone with him, he would have time to rape me without Edward knowing. That was enough motivation for me not to try running from school again. I was finally fully aware that there was no escape from this life other than death. I was truly trapped.
We pulled up to the house and he dragged me up the stairs, making me stumble several times. Esme, Rosalie and Alice were shopping today so there was no one home. He shoved me into the room, causing me to fall to my hands and knees. I was in freaking heels and a skirt.
“Edward should be here in about 10 minutes to deal with you, bitch. You better say your prayers,” he laughed darkly at me on the floor. “You’re going to need all the help you can get.” With that, he slammed the door and I heard the lock click.
I got up from the floor and kicked off my shoes before curling up on the sofa to wait for whatever Edward would do to me. I didn’t know what to expect, I hadn’t been here that long. The only experience I had with Edward’s brand of punishments was that first night. He’d been patient with me since then but I knew this was going to be bad.
I wrapped my arms around my knees, resting my chin on them as I stared at the door waiting. I felt my eyes well up and tears start running down my face. After a few minutes, I heard the muffled sound of a door slamming in the house then footsteps running up the stairs. I guess my time had come. I continued to stare at the knob, watching for it to turn. I heard his footsteps coming down the hall and then stop in front of our door. I held my breath as I waited. It felt like forever before I heard the door unlock. He finally threw open the door, banging it loudly against the wall and making me jump before it reverberated back at him. He stuck his hand out to stop it from hitting him, stepping into the room before slamming it closed and locking it from the inside this time.
He was so angry I could feel the heat from his eyes scorching me as he glared at me. He strode over and pulled me off the sofa by my elbow, propelling me into our bedroom.
“Ed-” I started.
“Shut up, Isabella,” he snapped. He shoved me toward the bed and I turned to lean against it. I stared warily at him. He was pinching the bridge of his nose and I could see a vein standing out on the side of his forehead.
“Edward?” I tried again softly. I was already crying, so afraid.
He put his hand down, glaring at me again. “I told you to shut up. That means keep your mouth shut. Do you understand?”
I silently nodded my head and tried wiping the tear off my face. It was a lost cause because more kept coming. He reached for me suddenly and I flinched unconsciously. That caught his attention. He reached again for me but more slowly this time and pulled me up to stand in front of him. He gripped my upper arms, staring at me a moment. I stared at the tick in his jaw with wide eyes before finally looking him in the eye.
“I’m so-“ I started before shutting my mouth at his raised eyebrow.
“Isabella, I want to know what you thought you were doing today,” he demanded.
I continued to stare at him in fear. Now that he wanted me to speak, I couldn’t.
He shook me by my arms, snapping my head back. “Answer me!” he yelled.
I swallowed hard before stuttering. “I- I was tr- trying to run a- away,” I admitted.
“Where the hell did you think you’d go? You have no money and you know no one here.”
“I was hoping to get to a phone and call my Uncle to help me get away.”
He growled low in his throat making him even scarier. He shook me again with rage in his eyes. “You will not leave me, Isabella! So help me God, I swear I’ll hunt you down if you ever try to leave again. You’re mine!” he screamed. He shoved me away from him. “Strip!”
“Please,” I cried. “You promised.” I started crying harder. I knew he was going to hurt me.
He glared at me a moment before turning away. I could hear him breathing heavily. He stormed out of our bedroom, back into the sitting room. I couldn’t see him, but I heard his footsteps as he paced. They finally stopped, and a moment later I heard a roar and a loud crash followed by the sound of furniture breaking. I jumped, startled, and cautiously went to the doorway to see what happened.
Edward had his back to me and was leaning heavily against the fireplace mantel with his head hung down between his shoulders. I looked around the room that had been pristine not five minutes before. He had thrown everything off his desk, breaking the lamp, clock and pictures that once sat there. His desk chair was now lying broken in the middle of what used to be the coffee table.
I swallowed hard and waited. I didn’t think it was in my best interest to remind him I was here at the moment.
He finally straightened back up and turned to see me. He was still angry but some of the fire had gone out of his eyes. He walked towards me, stepping over the mess on the floor. I took an involuntary step back as he came closer.
“Isabella,” he warned calmly. I would make it worse by resisting.
I knew it took an effort for him to keep his tone neutral. I stopped, not wanting to provoke him again.
He grasped my chin and tilted my face to him. He sighed. “You’re right. I did promise; never in anger and never out of control. You still need to be punished though, but I will not lose control now. Strip, Isabella. When I’m done, you can clean this mess up while I talk to Carlisle. He’s waiting downstairs for me.”
I felt the tears start again as I nodded my head. He released my jaw and stood back so I could comply with his order. He kept his promise, but it was even more humiliating having him spank me with his bare hand.
I sighed heavily as we turned off the path to finish our walk through the grass to my destination. I felt Edward’s eyes on me.
“Bella, are you alright?” he asked.
“Yeah. Just thinking, that’s all,” I replied. “I only got to come here twice before I had to leave, but I’m pretty sure it’s over by that bench.” I pointed to a stone bench that was just ahead of us.
As we drew near, I could make out the name. I swallowed the lump that was suddenly blocking my airway.
“This is it,” I said softly. I stopped and ran my hand gently over the top of the smooth granite stone. “Hi Mom. Hi Phil.”
I sank down to the ground in front of their headstone and ran my finger over the faces on the medallion. The picture was from their last anniversary. Their love for each other was so obvious to everyone around. I leaned in and kissed the medallion, wishing for the millionth time that they were still here to keep me safe… Even if I could only have one more day, one more hug, one more joke. Just one more ‘I love you,’ that would be enough.
I looked up at Edward standing next to me, watching me. I gave him a weak smile as I reached for the bouquet of daisies he was holding. They were mom’s favorites. She always said they just looked like happy flowers. I smiled as I thought of all the daisies scattered throughout Esme’s garden. I never put it together until just now. There was at least one clump of daisies planted in every section of her garden and they were scattered all over my wildflower garden. They were all for mom. Anywhere she worked, she could see and remember her only friend. I never realized just how lonely her life must have been before Rosalie, Alice and I came into her life. After mom and I left and until then, she had no one - just her flowers.
I laid the daisies down in the center between mom and Phil. I looked back at Edward and took a breath. “Edward, would you mind if I had a moment alone? I just want to talk to them for a little while.”
He squatted down to my level and stroked my cheek with his thumb. “That’s fine, Bella. Take your time. I’ll wait for you on the bench if you need me or when you’re ready to leave.” He gave me a tender kiss on my forehead and I smiled my thanks up to him as he stood and walked away. I turned back and stared at the medallion again.
“Mom, Phil, I miss you so much. I’m living in Forks now with Carlisle and Esme Cullen; they adopted me.” I smiled and ran my hand over mom’s name. “Momma, I’ve gotten to know your friend Esme. She misses you a lot. You’d love all the daisies planted in her garden. I wasn’t very nice to her in the beginning, but now… I love her almost as much as I loved you.”
I thought back in shame to how I acted in the beginning.
I had only been with Edward a few days, my bruises still vivid from Edward, James and Paul, and what they’d all done to me. I begged her everyday as soon as Carlisle and Edward left to let me escape. I just needed enough money for a pay phone to call Uncle JJ.
“Esme, I don’t want you to get in trouble for helping me, just take me with you when you go shopping today and either let me jump out of the car or leave from the store. Please? I just want to go home,” I begged.
“Bella, I can’t do that. Edward hasn’t given permission for you to leave the house yet. Alice will be here in a few minutes. She’s going to stay and keep you company this morning. I know it isn’t easy but remember that we’re here for you; Rosalie, Alice and I. We want to help you, just talk to us,” Esme told me. “I know what you’ve been through was horrific. Let us help you; we’re family and that’s what family does.”
“You’re not my family! I barely even know you,” I accused. “You want to help me? Then just let me go. You don’t care about me. If you were really my mom’s friend like you say, then you’d help me, but no! You won’t lift a finger to help me; you’re just as evil as they are. You’re helping Edward keep me prisoner.”
I could see my accusations hurt her just before she turned away from me. Rosalie embraced her and glared at me over Esme’s shoulder.
“How can you even say something like that to her?” Rosalie yelled at me. “You have no idea what she’s done to protect us over the years, even you.”
Esme straightened up and shook her head at Rosalie. I saw her wipe her eyes before turning around again. She put her hand on Rosalie’s shoulder. “Rose, don’t go there. It’s not important.”
“Esme,” Rosalie protested, “she ought to know. She shouldn’t talk to you like that.”
“Rose, it’s my choice. I want it dropped. She doesn’t need to know. It would only hurt her.”
“What don’t I need to know? What are you hiding from me?” I glared between Esme and Rosalie.
“We’re trying to help you and all you do is throw temper tantrums like a spoiled brat,” Rosalie accused. “Alice and I started out just like you. We went through all kinds of hell because of your father and brother. Alice had it the worst with what those monsters did to her. Esme has been nothing but kind and supportive to us. How dare you put her in the same category as those monsters! You don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.”
I at least had the good sense to feel a little guilty, but I was scared, hurt, and angry. I just wanted to go home. I started crying again, getting hysterical.
“Just let me go!” I screamed pulling my hair with my fists. “I want out of here!”
I sank down on the floor against the wall and started screaming and banging the back of my head against the wall. “Let me go! I want to go home! I want my momma!”
As I continued to scream and cry, I felt arms pulling me into a warm embrace. I was being gently rocked against someone’s chest. I clung to the security they offered while I sobbed for everything wrong in my life. I felt them stroking my head and humming the lullaby my mom used to sing to me when I woke with nightmares. I realized it was Esme holding me, soothing me.
“Please, just let me go,” I whimpered. “Why won’t you help me?”
“Bella, I’m sorry but you would never get away. You don’t understand the lengths Carlisle is willing to go through to keep us here. I know it isn’t fair or right, but you have to earn Edward’s trust before he’ll let you go into town with just us. I’m sorry. If there was a way to escape, don’t you think I would have helped Rosalie and Alice leave in the beginning? No one should suffer this life.”
I looked up at her while staying in her arms. My sobs had quieted down to just hiccups now. “Have you ever even tried to get away? It’s like you’re happy living here. How can you be?”
Esme sighed and gave me a sad smile. “Oh Bella, if you only knew how many times I’ve tried. That’s how I know without a doubt there is no way. I’ve tried them all.”
Alice came in the kitchen door and saw Rosalie. She hadn’t noticed Esme and I on the floor yet. “Hi Rose, will you pick up the new Vogue magazine for me while you’re-” She stopped, finally looking over to us. Esme was still holding me. She looked between us in confusion. “What happened?”
Rosalie gave me a look that said she was still angry with me but felt sorry for me at the same time. She sighed loudly before answering, “Bella felt the need to throw another temper tantrum this morning. She said some really hateful things to Esme.”
“Rose, that’s enough,” Esme warned sternly. “Your bouts of anger far surpassed Bella’s in the beginning. Show some compassion. Not only has she suffered the same way you have, but she lost her mother on top of this.” Her voice softened, “Rose, put away your anger, it serves no purpose other than to keep us at odds with one another. It’s just anger and fear that’s causing Bella to lash out. You remember what that’s like, don’t you?”
Rosalie looked ashamed. “I’m sorry Esme. I should be more understanding; I just hated hearing her say those things to you. You don’t deserve that.” She looked at me next. “Bella, I do understand how you feel. We all do. You’ve got to give us a chance to prove to you that we’re your support system, your therapists, if you will.”
She and Alice came and sat on the floor in front of me, each of them putting a hand on my knee. Esme reached out with one hand embracing their other hand together.
“We are your family,” Alice grinned impishly, “if you want one.”
I looked at each of them and saw only love. Love for one another and the offer of love for me, if I would only embrace it. I reached up tentatively and put my hand on top of their interlocked hands.
I sighed against Esme. “I’m sorry I said those things to you. I just don’t understand what’s going to happen to me.”
We continued to sit on the floor together while I finally opened up to them. They helped me grieve for Phil and my mom. They listened and laughed along as I told stories of my life in Phoenix. I felt the beginnings of peace settle around me and was able to open up to them about my attack. I was surprised to realize just how much comfort I derived from having someone to talk to; confide in.
I wiped my tears. “It hasn’t been easy since you left. You probably don’t even recognize me anymore. I know you’ve got to be disappointed in me. I’m not the girl you raised anymore. That was Edward Cullen. He’s Carlisle and Esme’s youngest son. I’m marrying him sometime this year. I’m not going to college in the fall like we planned.”
I swallowed the lump in my throat again, looking over to Edward. He was talking on his cell phone to someone. He smiled at me when he saw me. I smiled feebly in return then continued to look around. I saw all the headstones, the flowers, both real and plastic, dotting the landscape. There were a few other people in the cemetery visiting their loved ones. I finally looked back to mom and Phil. I knew there was no answer to my question, but it was constantly on my mind and I felt I would go insane if I didn’t say it out loud just once.
“Momma, I love you so much. I don’t understand though; why did you want me to go to da-“ No, I refused to call him daddy, he wasn’t alive to make me anymore. “Charlie? You knew what he was like. What did I do wrong? Why couldn’t I stay with Uncle JJ and Aunt Teri? You always told me that I was supposed to live with them if anything happened to you. You never even talked about Charlie or James. Why did you send me there?”
I felt my hysteria coming back again and started sobbing. I laid down across their graves, facing the medallion and stroking it. “I know I wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t think I was that bad. You never said anything to indicate you were ever disappointed in me. What did I do that was so bad that you felt I deserved this? I don’t understand. Please tell me. Why teach me to be independent and encourage me to go to college if you were only going to let it all be taken away by him. He sold me to Carlisle like something you sell in a store. The things he did to me. James raped me!”
I was crying so hard I didn’t notice Edward was picking me up again. He sat down on the bench and just held me gently while I cried. This time, though he didn’t say anything, he just let me get it all out.
I looked up at him through my tears. “Why would they do that? Am I bad?” I asked him.
He pushed the hair back from my face and used his thumb to wipe my tears. He shook his head at me. “No, Bella, you’re not bad. I don’t know why they wanted you to live with Charlie. There’s no way to ever know the reasons why. I’m sorry that you’re in so much pain. What can I do to help? Please, baby, talk to me.”
I shook my head against his shoulder. There wasn’t anything he could do to make this better; he was part of the problem. He didn’t know the answers any more than I did. And even though he didn’t say it, I knew he was glad I was there. I was his toy after all.
‘No,’ I mentally shook my head, ‘I can’t think like that anymore.’
I said I would give him a fresh start so I had to change my thinking. He was Edward and I was Bella. That was all. No owner, no toy, no slave - just us. As screwed up as our beginning was, this was a new day and I needed to treat it as such. The ending was still the same, but we could change the journey getting there.