My brother and father came into the restaurant, women in tote. I sat beside Bella as Jasper sat down with Alice. He glanced briefly at her, almost cautiously, and reached for her hand on the table pulling it under onto his lap. I looked at her face; she physically relaxed when he touched her. I saw a flicker of emotion cross her face when she looked at him before it disappeared as the family sat down. She now looked perfectly composed her face blank of emotion.
I was knocked out of my reverie as Emmett pulled out the chair next to Alice for Rosalie. He leaned down to kiss her neck before sitting next to her. Carlisle sat at the end with Esme, next to Bella. I was about to look away when I saw Esme discreetly turn her head and glance at Bella with sympathy. They locked eyes. Bella looked so sad, I didn’t understand, she looked perfectly fine a moment ago when looking at me. Esme reached under the table and squeezed Bella’s hand very subtly, as if she was soothing her.
I was still trying to calm down from Jasper’s accusations. I didn’t particularly appreciate the grain of doubt he planted in my head with his comments. I know I’m right. Carlisle always taught us that family was everything. The only way to ensure a happy marriage was to have a dutiful wife at your side. My uncles and cousins were happy, and their wives were cherished. They had all chosen their wives and had them trained in the same manner. No one deviated from this practice, so it had to be the only way. Jasper was wrong. That’s all there was to it. I refused to let his words get to me any longer. It was having the same affect as my guilt from last night, I was pushing it away forcefully, yet it had a way of crawling right back, and staying put.
The waitress brought coffee and juice for everyone and left the menus for us to look over. There were only 4 open menus, as there should be. The others were in a stack by Carlisle’s elbow. Our women didn’t need to worry about ordering. It was our job to choose what was best for them, just another way to show them that we liked to coddle them.
I smiled at Bella as she sipped her juice. I looked around the table at my family, surveying the interactions between my father and brothers with their wives. Esme was quietly drinking her coffee looking thoughtfully into her cup while Carlisle was perusing the menu. I noticed he would occasionally glance over the top of the menu toward Bella. He had told me at the house that his exam showed no permanent damage from last night. I guess he was just concerned with her being his newest daughter to the family. I decided it wasn’t anything to worry about. He would tell me if there were any concerns.
Jasper had his arm across the back of Alice’s chair and they were whispering to each other while he had the menu open in front of him. They were always whispering. I looked closer at their exchange. It appeared he had the menu angled towards her and she was copiously glancing at it and whispering in his ear. I saw him smile and kiss her nose before closing the menu. He looked back up at me with what appeared to be pity before starting to massage Alice’s neck gently. Her eyes rolled in the back of her head, again, his touch only brought her relief, while mine brought Bella alarm.
The waitress came back at that point and we placed our orders. I ordered Bella an egg white omelet with ham, mushrooms and cheese. I stressed to the waitress to leave out the bell peppers. I knew from reading her medical records that she was allergic to peppers. Bella smiled her appreciation at my caring and thoughtfulness, but I couldn’t help notice that her smile didn’t reach her eyes.
Emmett had Rosalie’s chair pulled as close to him as he could without pulling her into his lap. They were always physical. He had her in a bear hug grinning wickedly to her in between nibbling her neck and placing soft pecks at her temple. She was trying to hide a grin from everyone; she was obviously enjoying his treatment. I was shocked when I saw her glance to see that no one was looking then elbow him and quickly raise her eyebrow at him. He actually pouted before letting go and turning back to his coffee. My giant of a brother had just let his wife scold him, and he acted like he was in trouble!
Okay, what the hell is going on with my brothers? Unless I was delusional I had just witnessed Alice order from the menu and Rosalie chastise Emmett for his behavior. And the thing was… my brothers were just fine with it, they were happy because of it.
I looked at Bella sitting beside me quietly with her hands in her lap never looking up at anyone. She was the picture of a demure wife. I reached to tuck a stray lock of hair behind her ear, and she quickly looked up at me with wide eyes.
“Yes, Edward?” she asked.
I could detect fear in her voice. I fought down my frustration. Why wasn’t she reacting like Alice was? How long was it going to take to erase the terror I had instilled in her system? Couldn’t she just let it go? I didn’t know how long I was going to be able to handle her being afraid of me. I know it’s my fault, but she needs to move past it.
“Nothing love,” I smiled and kissed her forehead. “I just wanted to touch you.”
I smirked at Jasper. See? I can do the loving, touching thing also. He just shook his head at me in disgust. He wasn’t going to hide it from me any longer.
I heard Carlisle clear his throat to get our attention.
“Edward, have you thought about your plans for Bella for the rest of this year? You will be very busy at the hospital finishing your residency by May, especially since you transferred partway through the year.” Carlisle was looking between Bella and me as he asked; it was nice how my father worried about my future wife.
“Yes, I have,” I answered. “After she gets home from school, I plan on her spending the afternoons working with Esme and doing any school work she has until I get home in the evenings. Then our evenings will be spent working on the finer points of her education.”
I was pleased when I saw Bella blush taking in the meaning of my words to Carlisle.
Carlisle laughed at her embarrassment commenting, “Well with enough work you should at least be able to get rid of that ridiculous blush Edward.”
I frowned at my father, “Actually Carlisle, I happen to like her blush very much. I’ve told her I didn’t want that to change.”
I could sense that Bella was struggling not to show how uncomfortable she was with this conversation so I gently pulled her closer to me shielding her from him. I tilted her face towards me and gave her a gentle smile before kissing both of her warm cheeks conveying without words that I understood her struggle.
“She’ll never learn if you’re too soft on her Edward,” he warned. “You need to quickly establish your expectations. Last night was a great first step. I hope to hear more of that from her. Discipline is the surest method to get the results you want from her.”
“Remember Edward, I’m paying Charlie a lot of money for her. Even more than I paid for Rosalie and Alice. I don’t want you to regret your decision to take over her training. It’s not too late if you want to let him continue. He has been doing this for a long time and other than a few minor mishaps has always achieved excellent results. I really think you should let him resume what he started.”
I felt Bella tremble within my arms at the thought of going back to her father. I had told her she wouldn’t. This was another opportunity for me to earn her trust.
“Carlisle as much as I appreciate your concern,” I began, “This discussion is over. I will not send her back to Charlie’s. You heard last night, I’m fully capable of training her myself so I will continue. If there are any problems then I will handle them in the manner they deserve. I know I will be pleased with the results. She is already showing her willingness to learn.”
I saw Jasper holding Alice closely, and to no surprise he was whispering in her ear. She had her eyes shut tightly like she was trying to block out the conversation. She was nodding in response to whatever he was saying. He glanced at me and I saw the blatant anger he directed at me.
Emmett was also talking quietly with Rosalie. He seemed to be trying to soothe her for some reason. I investigated this further and noticed her clenched fists he was holding in his lap while he massaging them.
I decided I wanted Emmett’s take on this conversation. This morning at the house when Carlisle took Bella to check her out I had talked with Emmett for a few minutes. He had wanted to give me pointers on future punishments. I thought he meant other forms of penalization besides whipping Bella. Instead he had stood there with Rosalie in his arms and just warned me to be careful and not to be so quick to discipline for every mistake. He told me not to sweat the small stuff and just focus on the things that matters the most to me.
“Emmett, what do you think? You’ve been married to Rosalie for four years now. Do you think Charlie did a better job training Rosalie than you could have? Do you think he’d do a better job than I can?”
Emmett cleared his throat then turned Rosalie’s face to look at him as he answered me. I guess he wanted to stress the point home to her as well.
“I wouldn’t know Edward. I got my Rose after Charlie and James had her for 9 months. Rosie has made me very happy since I got her. She made me a better man.” He kissed her before turning back to me. “If you think you can train her then do it. Leave me out of it.”
I didn’t understand his answer at all. It was very cryptic like he wasn’t really answering my question so much as talking to Rosalie. I turned to Carlisle to say more when the waitress came with our food.
That ended any other discussion along these lines and the conversation turned to neutral subjects.
After breakfast everyone parted ways and I drove Bella into Port Angeles to the mall. I wanted to take her shopping since our trip was cut short the day before. She still needed more clothing and I wanted to get her something for last night to make
We were weaving our way through the mall when I pulled her over to sit on a bench. I felt that wave of guilt resurface as I watched her carefully sit down.
“Bella,” I started, “are you alright love? This isn’t too much for you today is it?”
She looked at me searching my eyes for some contradiction to what I was saying. I didn’t understand why she did that every time I asked her something. It was a simple question, I didn’t have a secret agenda, and it wasn’t a test.
“Yes Edward. I’m perfectly fine.” She answered. Her voice was void of any emotion.
“I know you were uncomfortable this morning, with the talk about going back to your father.” I saw her work to suppress a shiver. “I told you I wouldn’t send you back. I meant what I said. I will handle all of your training like I promised,” I said smiling. This has to comfort her; she was safe with me.
I stood and pulled her back up giving her a quick kiss. “Now let’s go get you something pretty shall we?”
I was very satisfied with our shopping trip today. I had bought Bella several outfits that looked extremely sexy on her and accentuated her figure. I especially liked the plunging necklines of several tight sweaters I picked out. I could see the swell of her breasts peaking out, teasing me. I couldn’t wait for her to wear them with some tight skinny jeans and heels. I bought several pairs of heels and a pair of heeled boots for cold weather. I also bought her a warm soft leather coat since it was starting to get cold now. I remembered to get her several outfits for going out to Jasper’s club in the evenings as well. I couldn’t wait to show her off on my arm. The only thing I didn’t check out during all of this was her face. When I did, she wasn’t expressing any ardor for her new purchases.
We finished the trip with another visit to Mr. McGee’s shop. He laughed kindly as he told me it was understandable being in a new relationship that mistakes would be made. He helped me pick out a beautiful set of sapphire earrings and necklace since I told him that blue was my favorite color on Bella. I went ahead and picked up some diamond earrings to give her at a later date. I was going to hold them to give as a reward when she does something extra special.
We walked past the bookstore on the way back to the car. I noticed her bite her lip as we passed, but she didn’t turn, keeping her eyes straight ahead. It honestly seemed as though all feeling had abandoned her eyes, they looked as empty as a flowerpot. I compared her response to her new necklace and earrings versus receiving the books. I heard Jasper’s comment in my head again from this morning, ‘Have you even seen the real Bella or just the trained version?’ That doubt was staring to bug me again before pushing it away again. This time was a little harder than before.
We drove back to Forks. I was wearing my latest apology gift from Edward. It was a very beautiful (and horridly expensive) sapphire matching earring and necklace set. He liked the color blue on me, which is why he picked it out. He was trying to buy my forgiveness. I wish he would ask me, really ask me, what would make up for his treatment of me last night. I’d love to tell him. It would be a liberating experience. Never hurt me again, let me order my on freaking food. I hate eggs, at least he knew about my allergy to bell peppers. For that matter, just let me go home to Arizona. Let me go. I don’t want him or this life. I want my life back. I wish he would see how wrong all of this is. I knew his mind had been mutilated by Carlisle, but there had to be a way to show him. Anyway, back to my list, quit dressing me like a slut, and if I was going to have to play his game of training, quit discussing it with his disgusting pervert of a father. They acted like I wasn’t there, apart from when he bent down to kiss my cheeks, as if to comfort me. Yeah, right. If he only knew, my shudders had nothing to do with embarrassment.
A roll of horror washed through me when I thought of Carlisle. I knew I couldn’t tell. Just like with James. While Carlisle wouldn’t kill me, I knew Edward would never believe me. Carlisle was right about that. He had me under his hand and he knew it. I would have to submit to his ‘revenge’ against my father. All because at one point in time there was a shred of decency in Charlie and he didn’t share my mother with him. Just a shred though, it doesn’t make up for the monster he is. Too bad I never got to experience any decency from him.
I was so grateful this was something my mother never experienced first hand. Phil had been a wonderful and admirable man. The more I learned about my life and what was to come, the more I understood Phil’s compassion towards my mother. He never made her fear anything. I’m so thankful they made each other so happy. Although their time was cut short, at least it was spent sweet and fulfilled. How a marriage should be. My mother laughed a lot. I don’t think I’ll ever laugh again.
And then I realized another thing. In one moment of time, in one split second- I had grown up. I was preparing for a life void of feeling, all emotion abandoning me. I was putting away childish thoughts and dreams of love and romance. I was going to be Edward’s wife. I would have his children. I would clean his house. This was my life. It made me want to cry, it was so depressing.
I thought about my conversation with Alice at the table before everyone came in for breakfast. There was one thing I was looking forward to. I couldn’t wait until we had more time to talk uninterrupted. I wanted to know more about what she meant about her relationship with Jasper, and how he thought he could help me with Edward.
Jasper seemed different from the other men. I was very curious.
I watched them at the table discreetly. It was subtle, and unless you were really concentrating, you would miss it. He loved her as much as she loved him. He looked at her with pure, unadulterated, unblemished adoration, while Edward looked at me like I was some lusty commodity; just a pretty bauble. I was a piece of expensive merchandise, and asset. Alice and Jasper, they were a team. I know he let her order her own food this morning. It was sneaky the way they did it. He was acting like he was nibbling her ear, being affectionate. I’m learning PDA is another sign of ownership with the Cullen men. Anyone witnessing would know whom we belonged to. We were not allowed to be embarrassed by it or pull away. Total and utter domination. It was calculative, he was actually whispering in her ear while angling the menu so she could read it vigilantly. I never even saw what was offered on the menu. And I don’t think I ever will again.
I was pulled out of my musing by Edward putting his hand on my thigh to gain my attention. It felt like a weight.
“Bella, I need to discuss some things with Charlie today about the change in your living arrangements. I need to reassure him that he’s still going to be paid next month even though he will no longer be conducting your training. You can pack your belongings while we talk.”
I internally shuddered at the thought of being in that house again with Charlie and James, but Edward would be there. I would be safe, I chanted to myself.
“I don’t have very much at Charlie’s to pack, just a few things I brought with me from Phoenix and the clothes Charlie bought,” I said, leaving out the fact that he threw out all my comfortable jeans and tennis shoes. I just realized that everything
I say to Edward will always have some part left out, never the full answer. “Everything else I have is still at my home in Phoenix.”
“That’s something else I’ll need to discuss with Charlie. Transferring ownership of the house until I decide what I want to do with it. I’m sure as your guardian he has control over the property and any insurance settlement you received from the accident. We’ll fly down one weekend so you can finish packing.”
I hadn’t even thought about any of this, all of the legal matters. With Edward’s ‘purchase’ of me, he would own everything that was mine. I wanted to keep the house. It was the only home I’d ever known, and will ever know. There were only happy memories associated with it. I didn’t even know about any insurance settlement. I didn’t know about any of this, I was too focused on surviving. Charlie was handling all of these matters and keeping it a secret from me. He wouldn’t want me to know, either. To him, I was a helpless woman, who couldn’t control any a financial matters. He probably didn’t want me to know that there was money, too, that might have given me choices.
“I would like to get my things from Phoenix. I left so much behind.” I chewed on my lip wondering if I could ask him anything.
“Edward?” I started cautiously being sure to watch his expression and hands on the steering wheel while he drove. I’d know before I went too far.
He glanced away from the road to smile at me. “Yes, love?” he smiled. He was rubbing his hand up and down my thigh. This was good, he was happy right now.
“I would like to ask a question, but only if it’s all right,” I hated having to ask permission just to ask a normal question, but this was his game.
“What is it, Bella?” I could hear tension creeping into his voice.
“I didn’t know there was any settlement from the accident.”
I saw his facial expression tighten, but his hands stayed relaxed. So far so good, so I asked the most important question.
“If you sell my home, will I have access to the money?” I held my breath while I waited for his response. His jaw was clenched, but I still didn’t see white knuckles. I didn’t cross the line, but if I took another step. It’d be a different story.
“Bella, I will answer your questions, and when we get home we will obviously need to discuss your role in more detail.” He glanced at me, and as per usual, once again that familiar fear of him was making the hairs on my arm stand on their ends. “You’re not in trouble and I’m not going to punish you. I just need to establish more rules for you to understand your place. That’s all.”
That’s all? If I ever have the opportunity to set loose all of my feelings, I vow to myself to not hold back at all.
“I’m sorry Edward,” I replied obediently. I looked down at my hands in my lap. I didn’t know whether to cry or feel grateful. I wouldn’t be punished, but he was going to efface more of my identity when we got back to our room.
“There is no reason for Charlie to have explained any part of the settlement from the accident with you. It was a traumatic experience for you, and you wouldn’t understand the details with the lawyers or insurance company.” He squeezed my thigh before going back to stroking it. This was a good sign that he wasn’t too angry with me, yet he seemed to find me quite ignorant. Well, he probably wouldn’t ever know that I loved and lived to learn. He wouldn’t know anything about me, just the Stepford me.
We had pulled up in front of Charlie’s house and he turned off the engine before turning to me. He cupped my chin in his hand stroking my cheek with his thumb.
“As to your question regarding the house in Phoenix; the answer is ‘no’ nor to the insurance settlement. You have no need for any money other than what I give you to run our home. Why would you need access to those kinds of funds anyway?” He raised his eyebrow at me.
“You’re never leaving me Isabella. I won’t ever give you the means to leave. I told you that you belong to me now and forever.” His eyes narrowed before he pulled me toward him. Again, with the proprietorship. He really took it home with declaring his ownership of me. “Open for me Isabella. I want your mouth.”
This kiss was like the others. There wasn’t sweet love expressed through this kiss, he showed me his dominance. I kissed him as expected, fighting my chilling terror. I knew that would only make him angry right now. He had fought to stay calm during this and I knew it was a struggle. I didn’t see him as strong so not to lose control; I saw him as extremely short tempered. I was very glass half empty these days, and I have a feeling that wouldn’t change other than that eventually my glass would be completely empty. At least I won’t be punished.
He finally pulled away to look in my eyes, brushing his thumb over my lower lip. “Tell me what I want to hear Isabella,” he commanded softly.
I took a deep breath and recited, “I’m yours Edward. I’ll never leave you. I’m yours for now and forever.” I had perfected it by now, no need for practice. He seemed to believe it.
He smiled and kissed my nose before pulling away. “Good girl, Bella. Now let’s get your things.”
I took the moment while he walked around to open my door to calm my racing heart. When I got out I noticed the police cruiser wasn’t in the driveway. Edward was on his cell phone with a scowl on his face.
“Charlie, I’m at your house right now. You were supposed to be here to meet me. Where is James?” … “Good. Well how much longer are you going to be there?” … “No I don’t want to wait that long. I’ll come there.” … “No, Bella won’t be with me. I’m going to leave her at your house. That’s what I want to discuss with you. Is the extra key still in the eave by the door?” … “I’ll see in a few minutes then.”
He snapped his phone closed before guiding me to the door and unlocking it and ushering me in.
He guided me up the stairs to my room.
“Bella, I’m going to leave you here to get your things together while I go talk to Charlie at the station,” he explained.
I turned to him trembling, the first time all day showing him some emotion, and no surprise, it was fear, “Please don’t leave me here alone, Edward.”
He wrapped his arms around me pulling me closely to him. “It’s fine Bella. James is in La Push with friends. Charlie doesn’t expect him home until tomorrow. I need to talk to Charlie but I won’t be long, I promise,” he said.
He turned my face up to see him. “I promise no one will hurt you, Bella. I won’t be above an hour. Just get your things packed and I’ll be back before you know it.”
I stood as I listened for him to leave the house and drive away. Then I turned back and looked at my prison cell for the last few weeks. I pulled out my suitcases from under the bed. I grabbed my pictures and books along with my baseball shirt from Phil.
I sat on the side of my bed holding the shirt in my hands taking a moment to reminisce back to my home, my mom and Phil. I pictured their faces smiling and full of love. I would hold their memory with me to help me in this life. I sighed and stood to put it in with the rest of my things before starting on the clothes in the closet.
This didn't take long since there weren't a lot of clothes and I didn't care enough to fold them neatly. I just shoved the hated garments in the cases before closing them and carrying them downstairs to sit by the door until Edward came back. I still had plenty of time before he returned so took the opportunity to wander the house. I was curious if I could recall any memories of my childhood here and what it was like before. I wandered downstairs before heading back up to the bedrooms. I knew James' room held nothing but terror so I walked to Charlie's room instead.
I saw the pictures on his dresser I had seen before. The one that really caught my attention was the picture of James pinning me down in the yard. Before when I saw the photograph, it was just that; a photograph. Now looking at it, I saw the significance it held. As I stood there staring at it now I remembered. I knew Charlie was the person behind the camera. Renee would have never photographed me crying with James over me. That wouldn't be a memory she would cherish. She would have insisted Charlie punish him if she'd known.
It was taken the morning of my fifth birthday. Renee was at the bakery picking up the cake for my party that afternoon. I was home alone with Charlie and James. Charlie had been nice to me (or so I thought at the time) by taking advantage of Renee being gone. I was sitting on his lap in his recliner in the living room eating a popsicle. He was laughing telling me how good I was doing, enjoying it. I never thought of it, but now, I knew he was just as sick then as he is now. James had wanted one also and was mad that Charlie told him that popsicles were only for me.
He could have ice cream at the party later. Charlie had let me up to throw the stick away in the garbage outside so Renee wouldn't know I had it. James followed me outside.
He said something about me being daddy's spoiled brat and I remembered sticking my tongue out at him.
He had pulled me over his lap in the yard and was spanking my bare bottom with my panties pulled down to my knees when Charlie came outside. He had laughed and told James something about being proud to see he was following in his footsteps already, and told him to keep me there until he could get the camera.
I was surprised to see a tear fall on the glass protecting the picture. I was so caught up in my memory I didn't even realize I was crying silently. I was so naïve then. I turned over the frame to slide the back off and take out the photograph. I started tearing it into little pieces when I heard the voice from my own personal hell behind me.
“Now why would you want to do that baby sister?”
I turned slowly, in horror, to see James and another boy standing in the doorway watching me. They wore matching evil grins on their faces. Worst than that, was the black canvas bag in James' hand.