I awoke to sunlight streaming in the window. My eyes squinted against the light and I groaned. My head was killing me. Oh God what was wrong with me? I must be coming down with something. I realized I was alone in bed. This was odd. I never woke up alone anymore. Edward was always here. I looked over at the alarm clock on the nightstand; 11:27. Holy shit! I leapt out of the bed and immediately fell back on it. I grabbed my head moaning as I tried to keep it from exploding in pain. I rolled to my side and tucked my knees to my chest. I felt like I was dying, but I had to get up. I was going to be in so much trouble. Where was Edward and why didn’t he wake me?
I was startled when I felt arms pull me onto a chest. I hadn’t heard him come in the room or even get on the bed. I looked up into smiling green eyes. I frowned at him. Why wasn’t he angry with me?
“Good morning, Bella. Or should I say ‘afternoon’?” he chuckled. “I didn’t think you’d be awake yet. How are you feeling?”
“Edward,” I winced. Even the sound of my voice made my head hurt. “I think I’m sick. I feel awful. I’m sorry I didn’t make breakfast. Please don’t be angry. I’ll start your lunch in just a minute.”
He was laughing softly at me. He must know how bad my head hurts. “Don’t worry about me. Esme took care of me this morning. You’re not getting sick. You’re hung over. You just need some aspirin and rest. You’ll feel better later today. I just came to check on you. Could you eat something for me?”
I groaned as my stomach twisted at the thought of food. “No, I don’t think I can. If this is what it feels like, please don’t make me drink alcohol ever again. I know it’s not my decision, but please don’t make me.” I stared up at him beseeching.
He looked thoughtful for a moment while staring at me. I didn’t know if he was thinking of my request or a way to punish me for telling him what to do. Right now, at this moment though, I didn’t really care. I never wanted to feel like this again. I waited trying not to think of the pounding in my ears. After a moment he answered.
“You don’t ever have to drink anything you don’t want to again. How’s that?” he asked. Then he winked at me and tapped the end of my nose. “From this moment you’re on the wagon unless you tell me you want off.”
I couldn’t believe what he was telling me. He was saying that I didn’t have to drink something if I didn’t want to. I could choose my beverage. I know it’s a little thing in the grand scheme of things, but hell, I will take what I can get. Who knows maybe one day he’ll let me pick my own food too. As I did a soft happy shuffle in my head (it hurt too much to do a real happy dance) I realized something was very different. He let me sleep in. He wasn’t angry at me for not making breakfast. He asked me if I wanted to eat instead of telling me I had to. Now he was telling me I could pick my own drink. I stared at Edward for a moment.
“What happened last night?” I asked. “Did I do something wrong?” Was this why he agreed? Did I embarrass him last night?
He looked at me searching my eyes a moment, “You don’t remember?”
I laid there and thought about last night. “Well- “ I said carefully, “I remember the bookstore and dinner.” I hugged him and kissed his chest through his shirt. “Thank you again. I remember watching the sunset. I remember going to Jasper’s club.”
I looked up at him while I played the night over in my head. He was watching me just as intently waiting for something. Then everything came flooding back. I felt my cheeks flame and my eyes started welling. How could I have been so stupid?! I told Edward I didn’t like him, that I thought he was cruel. Well, I actually told him I didn’t like Carlisle’s Edward. I remember stressing that I did like mine. I also confessed everything with Charlie and James including my rape.
I asked him to make love to me also. What was I thinking? I’m not ready for that. Thank God he didn’t take advantage of me. But would he continue to wait now that I had opened that Pandora’s box or would he see it as a green light to move forward?
As I continued to replay the events from last night that took place in our room I realized to my relief that even my drunken brain had kept some sense of self-preservation. I had kept my most important secret. I didn’t say anything about his father. I knew he could brush aside my feelings about Charlie and James if he wanted. These tortures were part of my training that he approved of, other than the rape. He would only be angry at me if he knew his father wanted in on my torture, if he even believed me.
I could tell that he knew what was going on in my head as if he was actually reading my mind. He reached to brush my tears away that spilt when I blinked.
“Edward- I-“ I started. I didn’t know what to say. How do I apologize for all of that? How bad is my punishment going to be now? And damn it! Why was he still being nice to me and acting the concerned boyfriend, fiancé? Hell, I still didn’t know what to call him.
“Shhh,” he said. He pulled me closer so that I was now laying on top of his chest staring down into his eyes. “I can see that you do remember. But do you remember everything?” he asked gently.
I stared at him in confusion trying to figure out what I was missing. I couldn’t remember confessing anything else. Then I remembered how he held me during my confession. He told me he was sorry. Edward apologized to me. He took some damn responsibility.
”You apologized to me,” I whispered, afraid to say it out loud. I searched his eyes. Did he really mean it last night? Was he really sorry for what happened to me, for letting my father and brother molest me? Was he finally realizing how sick and twisted all of this was?
He smiled softly, but his eyes were pleading, “I am so sorry love that I ever let you be subjected to them. I feel like an excuse of a man, not worthy of your affections, but that’s in part why I love you. I know you’ll forgive me for my careless mistake of letting you be shared. It’s my fault. I’m sorry they hurt you repeatedly. I never want you to feel like that again. I love you Bella. I will spend my life protecting you. You mean everything to me. I know you’re not ready to love me, but-“ he smiled “I do know that you like me.”
I blushed furiously.
Okay, so his apology was rather an excuse of an apology. He was sorry for "sharing me", but not for me being here. But the words 'I’m sorry' came out. I’ll take it. For now.
“You trusted me last night by telling me what you felt. Please know I want your trust. I know you’re still holding something back, but I won’t press. I want you to confide in me whenever you’re ready and know that you’re safe. I want you to love me and I will do everything in my power to hear those words from your lips.”
He brushed my hair back with both hands before cupping my face. He pulled me down and brushed my lips with his. I slid my arms around his neck and opened my mouth to him. He continued to caress my lips with his before sliding his tongue into my mouth. Even then the kiss was gentle. There was no demand for dominance. No expectation. Just a gentle sweet kiss. When he finally pulled back I opened my eyes to see his beautiful green eyes staring at me, smoldering me with the intensity of his emotions. He was for real, and it was rather staggering.
“Edward-“ I warred with myself for about 10 seconds before my fear won out. “Edward, I promise to work on my feelings for you. I want to love you. I don’t want to live my life in a loveless marriage. I want what my mom and Phil had.” As much as it's possible in this twisted relationship. I thought to myself.
He looked at me closely. “All I ask is that you’re willing to work on your feelings.” He smiled then changing the subject. I guess this was getting too serious now. “Now are you sure you can’t eat? Maybe just some toast? I would really like you to eat a least a little something,” he coaxed.
After all of this I felt like I owed it to him to make the effort. He was asking instead of telling me to eat. I nodded and gave him a weak smile. “Maybe some toast would be good and I am thirsty. If you’ll bring me my clothes for today I’ll go downstairs.”
“That’s my girl,” he said with approval. “I’ll get your clothes, but I want you to just rest for now. I’ll bring the toast and a cup of coffee for you to have here. We can have another picnic. Would you like that?” He was grinning at me.
I smiled a little brighter in return. “I would love another picnic with you.” I paused a moment trying to decide if I could do it. He noticed, of course. He always saw everything.
“What is it Bella?” he asked.
“I don’t like coffee. May I have some hot tea instead…if that’s okay?” I felt stupid of being afraid to voice an opinion to a man on something so minor. My new learned behavior had already become so ingrained in me. I was to always bow to Edward’s, or any man in his family’s judgments. I had no original thought as far as any of them were concerned. Well, except Jasper, I amended. I never had this problem talking with Esme, Rose or Alice. I have changed so much, it’s just, incredible. And not in a way that’s good. Bella Barbie and my own personality rivaled for who took the cake in my makeup, they were split evenly. How scary…and sad is that?
I could see Edward catch himself from telling me ‘no’. This was obviously just as hard on him to allow me an opinion as it was for me to voice one. I guess we were going to learn this together. Except I knew, I knew in the bottom of my heart, the very depths of my soul, in the essence of my being! I was right. He was wrong. So very wrong. Now if only he would realize it.
“I’ll bring you some hot tea if that’s what you would like,” he said.
I was with my Edward and I would savor every minute of it while it lasted. I gave myself permission to relish it. I leaned down to kiss him again. He smiled at my intent before we both closed our eyes. The kiss was gentle and sweet. He pulled back and patted my hip letting me know he was getting up. I maneuvered myself off of him carefully, back on the bed again. I had to admit I was a little impressed. Not once during our conversation had he taken advantage of the fact that I was still naked. I really missed pajamas.
He came out of the closet with a sweater, jeans, and my ballet flats. I looked in puzzlement at them.
“Edward? I’m not in any pain today. Well, other than my head. I can wear my heels.” I said in confusion.
He smiled and stroked my cheek. “I just thought you might be a little more comfortable in your flats today. Would you like to wear them?” he asked kindly.
I searched his eyes looking for the test. He must have realized my hesitation in answering.
“There’s no test Bella. I promise. I just want you to be comfortable.” I reached for the shoes and smiled my ‘thanks’ to him. He smiled back, and sighed happily. “Now, about that picnic?”
Edward and I had a picnic in our room for lunch. After lunch he insisted I lie down and rest longer even though I assured him I was fine. He rubbed my back until I relaxed and drifted off. He worked at his desk until he decided I was rested. When I woke up my headache was gone.
Later that afternoon he took me shopping and out to dinner again. He ordered my food but asked me what I wanted to drink. I kissed him to show my gratitude. It felt like a treat to order a coke in front of him. I was actually testing him to see if he would take back this concession. God knows I'm subjected to enough damn tests. Why not make him go through one? His jaw tensed when the waitress brought my coke, but he didn't say a word. I chalked up one point to Edward. We went for another walk after dinner. It was nice.
As we walked we played 20 Questions. He asked about my likes and dislikes; things like my favorite color, favorite author, and favorite food. It was like he was actually trying to get to know me, not his version of me. I just don’t get him. Whenever I think I’m on to something, some little crack in his very structured demeanor, he does something to throw me off the wall. He is ‘training’ me, yet, still wants to know me.
He even asked what my mom and Phil were like. I knew this was a touchy subject. I would have to tread carefully in answering questions about them. After all, telling him why they were great was not a subject he would want to discuss. It would result in Carlisle’s Edward’s arrival from the bitter and cold portion of Edward’s persona. I wish I could erase that whole section of his brain, and then just reprogram him! If anyone needed training, a personality adjustment, it was him. He should be taught that the nineteenth amendment, which gave women equal voting rights, is still a valid part of the constitution, regardless if you’re a Cullen or not. Sorry Carlisle, we do not live in a male-dominated world any longer, it isn’t 1929, it’s 2009.
Mom and Phil pushed me to be my best, I told him. I didn’t bother to elaborate. I didn’t tell him their expectations for me. They were in complete contradiction to Edward’s expectations. They were looking forward to my senior year and all the plans for college that came with this. We had plans for me to visit several colleges that I was considering. Mom wanted me to stay close to home so I had University of Arizona as one pick. Phil had graduated from Texas A & M (Gig 'em Aggies!) so I picked that for him along with University of Texas just to aggravate him since they were big rivals. I really had my heart set on A & M. These were all things that would only irritate Edward and get me in trouble. I was supposed to be focusing on our life together. Not what should have been. So I only talked about the little things; their love for each other and for me; Phil’s sense of humor; all my mom’s hobbies. Safe subjects.
In return I asked him safe questions about himself. What was his favorite subject in school? What sports did he play in school? Favorite music? I didn’t ask about his expectations of our life, when we were getting married, was I ever going to be allowed to be an individual or even out of his sight outside of school. I was learning the path between the landmines of my life. How did it all get so confusing? I banished those philosophical thoughts, they were just too vague for me. I wasn’t vague anymore, I was all about the details. We all were. Because if I missed one detail, I could unravel everything Esme had spun during her thirty years as acting like a plastic doll.
That night in our bed Edward was different as well. Edward was always gentle with me, but this night it felt different. He was on a mission. He was trying to erase Charlie and James from my memory so there was only his touch. He slowly brought my body to life. It felt like he was worshipping me with his hands and his mouth. He took me to the edge and back several times. He knew exactly how to touch me to gain the response he wanted. When my orgasm finally ripped through me I screamed his name louder than I ever had before. He held me afterward laying soft tender kisses on my face and neck, whispering words of love, while my breathing slowly came back to normal.
When I could finally breathe again I raised up to lean over him. I began to kiss his chest so I could do my part as expected. He stopped me.
“Bella love, I just want to hold you tonight,” he said. “You don’t need to do anything. Just sleep my love.” He stroked my head and hummed to me as I drifted off. It was the first time since he initiated our intimacy that he didn’t make me pleasure him in return.
For the first time ever, I actually felt a smidge of guilt for thinking so hastily about Edward. He was showing progress. I wanted to be optimistic, it’s just so much easier to be a pessimist.
The family spent Sunday together once a month. It was a Cullen tradition, Carlisle’s opportunity to be sure everyone was still secure under his thumb. We woke early and Edward gave me a snug pink turtleneck, grey slacks, and heels. He wore a hunter green button down shirt with black slacks. He was always so handsome. After we were dressed I followed him downstairs. We went into the living room to meet everyone to leave for breakfast. Carlisle, Esme, Jasper & Alice were there. Emmett and Rosalie hadn’t arrived yet.
“Good morning Edward,” Carlisle said. He briefly looked over my appearance before turning back to Edward. “I see Bella is perfectly healthy today. There was no reason to coddle her yesterday Edward. You should have given her something to do. Busy hands are a sure cure to most ailments. That or a strong paddle.”
I chewed the inside of my cheek to keep my expression blank. It wouldn’t do to start crying or show any sign of upset. I saw the expressions of the others in the room. They were showing me support, silently. I knew Edward didn’t like his father’s advice when it came to me. The last time he had offered advice, I ended up with the worse punishment of my life from Edward. I think that’s the root of all my anger towards him. That first night. I shuddered internally.
“Carlisle, I handled yesterday as I saw fit,” he said stiffly. “Thank you for your concern.”
I could tell he wasn’t pleased with Edward’s response. He chose to ignore it and changed the subject. “Emmett called. He and Rosalie are running late and will meet us at the restaurant. Some nonsense about her not feeling well.”
“I hope it’s nothing serious,” Edward said concerned. This surprised me. He never thought about his mother, Rose or Alice. The only people who mattered were the men.
Carlisle waived his hand. “I’m sure it’s nothing. Women tend to exaggerate every little ache or pain. I told him a couple of good licks with a paddle should fix her right up and to meet us there.”
I couldn’t help the external shudder this time, Edward felt me stiffen next to him. He pulled me closer to him and kissed the top of my head trying to soothe me.
Carlisle caught the gesture and narrowed his eyes before turning to Esme. He snapped his fingers at her. “Esme,” he barked. I saw her jump to her feet and hurry to him. “It’s time to go.” He put his hand on her lower back and steered her out to their car.
I hated to see how he treated her. I’d never even witnessed Emmett treating Rose like that. Edward only treated me this way when he was being Carlisle’s Edward. I looked to Jasper and Alice. He was holding her and kissing her gently. I knew at times this behavior made her relive her time with Charlie and James. She was getting better at separating the behavior from Jasper, but sometimes it still got to her. They finally turned and walked over to us.
Alice and I hugged each other. “Good morning Alice,” I said.
“Good morning Bella,” Alice responded.
Jasper and Edward shook hands and said ‘hello’ to each other. Edward then did something even more unexpected.
“Good morning Alice,” Edward said. “How are you doing this morning?”
I was shocked. I looked to Alice to see what she thought of it. I was surprised to see her smile at Edward like she was proud of him for something.
“Morning, Edward. I’m fine, thanks,” she smiled.
Jasper seemed pleased also. He turned to me and winked. “How are you doing Bella? I heard you had fun at the club the other night.” He chuckled and looked to Edward.
I blushed in response. I was still embarrassed by my behavior at the club. I made a ridiculous drunk. I still couldn’t figure out why Edward avoided discussing his friend that I inadvertently danced with. When I asked about him, I was told he wasn’t someone I needed to know so not to worry about it. It was clear he wanted the subject dropped. Who was I to argue?
Edward cleared his throat and I looked up at him. He wasn’t angry at Jasper for talking to me. “I guess we need to go before Carlisle gets any angrier than he already is.”
Jasper nodded. “Certainly. I hope everything is okay with Rosalie.”
We arrived at the restaurant a few minutes after Carlisle and Esme. Emmett and Rose were there also. Carlisle and Emmett were reading the paper while they waited for us. I saw Esme and Rosalie were sitting quietly at opposite corners of the table. Edward held my chair for me to sit beside Rose. I noticed that even though Emmett appeared to be ignoring her, his hand was stroking her leg under the table. As I sat I smiled to Rose. She looked pale. I could tell it was an effort for her to be here.
I leaned over to hug her and whispered, “Are you okay, Rose? You don’t look so good.”
She smiled weakly at me in return. “I’ll be alright. My stomach is being temperamental, hopefully it will settle soon.”
“Should you even be out of bed then?” I asked. I couldn’t believe Emmett brought her. I didn’t think he was that bad. Nothing compared to Carlisle or Edward.
“I’ll be fine. Emmett won’t make me eat much this morning. I’m sure it’ll pass,” she assured me. She whispered softly, “Don’t blame Emmett. He didn’t want to bring me, but Carlisle insisted, of course.”
Esme and Alice were concerned also. They couldn’t voice their concerns though with Carlisle watching everyone. It would have to wait until we got back to the house after breakfast.
Edward and Jasper were reading the paper also. I turned to smile at Esme and Alice. Since the men weren’t talking it was okay for us to visit. I had learned the code for these situations. We’d be discussing plants today.
We were concerned for Rosalie so we’d be discussing Esme’s butterfly garden. If we were talking about Alice it was the rose garden. Esme was the kitchen garden and I was the new wildflower garden. I remembered that afternoon. It was one of my lessons before Edward came home from the hospital. There were a lot of lessons he didn’t know about.
Esme and I were walking through her garden. I had been here just over a month. “Bella,” she began, “I know this life isn’t easy for you. You’ve been doing very well learning your balance between who Edward expects you to be and who we all know you really are.” She squeezed my hand smiling at me. “Now there is another lesson for you to learn to help you also.”
I looked at her in question. There was so much to learn. Sometimes it was overwhelming keeping it all straight. I prayed every night thanking God for putting Esme, Rose & Alice in my life. I knew without them I wouldn’t survive this life very long. Charlie and James had destroyed so much of me in such a short time that there wasn’t much left for Carlisle or Edward to snuff out when he brought me here. I had started to recover my identity, in bits and pieces, with their help. I loved them.
“What more is there?” I asked her. I was so naïve about everything in life, even with all of this I couldn’t see past the next day to realize just how long a lifetime was. Being 17, time doesn’t really have a lot of meaning. You only saw the next week, month or year at most. You didn’t look at 10, 20, 30 years down the road, where your life will be. I knew mine would be here, I just couldn’t fathom how long that really was to live day in and day out being Bella Barbie, and how hard it was truly going to be. Of course, Esme knew. She’s been doing it for over 30 years. She knew just how hard it was to keep from slipping into oblivion. That was my greatest fear, along with Carlisle, to just lose myself, to slip away, or rather, slip into Barbie’s shoes, full time. With Bella just gone.
She smiled kindly at my ignorance. “Oh Bella, there is so much still for you to learn. But for your sake, I hope it remains that way. I am praying that Edward becomes the man I know he is capable of being, so you won’t need all of this.”
Her eyes became distant as if she was remembering something about Edward that made her feel this confidence in him. The memory seemed to sadden her. "He used to be such a loving sweet boy." She quickly smiled trying to brush it away. “But until that time, it’s important for you to learn everything you can. Now, as you’re aware Carlisle insists on Sundays with the whole family. You’ve learned that when they’re talking, we don’t. However, sometimes he will read the paper instead of talking and the boys usually follow suit, when this happen its fine for us to visit. Now naturally we can’t talk like we normally would when it’s just us, so there is a code for you to learn. That’s why were here.” She gestured to the newest part of her garden. The ground had been worked and I could see the pathway that would wind through it when it was complete. “This is going to be my wildflower garden.”
“Wildflowers? Why do I need to learn about wildflowers?” I asked. I was completely confused. How were flowers going to help me? Unless she was going to tell me what was poisonous to use for potential suicide, I didn’t see the point.
She smiled as she led me to a bench to sit down with her. “Bella, each one of us has such a unique personality, so very much our own, just like plants. Take herbs for example. They give flavor to whatever dish they’re added. Without them it wouldn’t matter how tender the cut of meat or how you prepared it, it would lack the fullness of flavor without seasoning. The same for vegetables. Everything needs flavor to bring out its best. They are almost the medium of everything in the kitchen, and outside, they know what they’re doing, they know where to sprinkle the zest. ”
I nodded in response. Okay… that made sense, but I still didn’t see why it was so important to learn all of this.
“Consider roses. They are beautiful are they not?” she asked.
“Yes,” I answered. My mind was spinning trying to come up with anything.
“Roses look so very delicate and fragile. Yet they are one of the hardiest plants. Did you know that in Louisiana after hurricane Katrina there was a rosebush that survived? All around was devastation. Homes, lives completely wiped out. And yet this rosebush survived. I have a part of it planted in my rose garden. There are antique roses that have lived completely neglected of care for a hundred years, and are still blooming all over the countryside. That’s why I only plant antiques in my garden. They’re the survivors.”
I started to get a glimmer of where she was going with this.
“Butterfly gardens are one of my favorites. All of the flowers in them look so delicate. It’s the hummingbirds, the butterflies and the bees that are the treasures really. They flit around touching every flower spreading the pollen to create even more flowers. They’re so carefree. They’re beautiful just to watch. They are the dancers of nature. The bumblebee is the most perplexing insect. Did you know that a bumblebee isn’t supposed to be able to fly?” She looked at me smiling.
I shrugged. “I never really thought about it before.” I answered.
She put her arm around my shoulder and hugged me. “Well you see the bumblebee’s body is too big for its wings. It’s aerodynamically impossible for it to fly. Yet it does. It doesn’t let anyone tell it that it can’t fly, it just continues to fly because that’s what it wants to do.”
I looked at her in understanding now. “Rosalie is the bumblebee in the butterfly garden isn’t she?”
She smiled pleased that I got the lesson. “And, what else?”
I thought a moment. “I guess it should have been obvious. Alice is the rose garden, because she survived everything that happened to her because of my father and brother. And you’re the herb and vegetable garden because you sustain us, and give us flavor in this life. Figuratively and literally, your cooking is magic,” we both quietly chuckled, just feeling at peace.
“That’s right Bella. I’m so proud of you. Now do you know why I chose the wildflower garden for you?” she asked.
I thought about wildflowers. They were small, insignificant plants. They paled in comparison to everything else. They were nothing special. I guess just like me. I sighed, she was right after all. I was nothing much. I wasn’t even beautiful like they were. I was cute, but that was all.
I told her this.
“Isabella Marie Swan,” she said angrily. I was shocked I’d never heard her utter a single word in anger. “I don’t ever want to hear those words come out of your mouth again. Do you understand me young lady? Your mother would turn over in her grave if she heard you say that about yourself.”
“I- I’m s- sorry,” I stuttered. I could feel the tears brimming, “Please don’t be mad at me.” I didn’t think she’d punish me but it was becoming too normal for me to expect abuse when someone was angry with me.
She stopped, understanding and sadness in her eyes. She pulled me gently into a hug and brushed my hair back. She tilted my face to look at her. “Bella, you’re not in trouble. I’m not Charlie or Edward. I’m not James. I’m not Carlisle. You’re always safe to say what’s on your mind with me, Rose or Alice. I’m sorry I scared you. I just don’t want to ever hear you put yourself down. You are a beautiful young woman inside and out. You are every bit as beautiful as Rose or Alice. I didn’t use wildflowers to represent you because they’re insignificant. They are anything but.”
I looked at her in confusion.
“Bella, wildflowers are just that. They are wild and untamed. That’s what makes them beautiful. They can survive anywhere. They can thrive anywhere, flourish in whatever situation they’re in. They don’t like to be tamed. Taming them takes away their beauty. Think about Phoenix and the wildflowers in your deserts. They’re magnificent. The deserts would just be dirt and rocks without them; plain, boring, and completely lacking substance. Yet you fill the dirt and rocks with wildflowers of every color, shape and size. The desert comes alive. You possess this beauty.” She smiled at me. “This is why you’re the wildflower Bella. You have a spirit that won’t be corrupted by our life. I know it. You will thrive in your desert and be just as beautiful no matter where you’re planted.” She smiled again wistfully, “and I know you’ll bring my son back to life. He’s been dead for so long.”
She spent the next couple of weeks explaining the code they had worked out for having conversations until I had it down completely. I asked her if this was the secret behind her gardens. She laughed and told me ‘no’. “Bella, you don’t need to learn that secret yet. I hope you never need to.”
So here we sat discussing plant diseases that could cause harm to her butterflies or bees and the possible things to help. Carlisle and everyone just ignored us. He had no interest in Esme’s garden. I smiled. I knew he thought this was just insignificant woman’s talk. If he only knew all the bugs and weeds in the garden represented him.
The waitress finally came to take our orders. I waited to see what Edward would do. Yesterday had just been the two of us. Would he let me pick my beverage again? When the waitress got to us he ordered French toast for me with bacon. I’d managed to let him know during our 20 questions that french toast was my favorite breakfast and that I hate eggs. I smiled at him that he remembered and took it into consideration. He returned the smile and asked, "Juice?" I nodded in response. He kissed me gently on the lips.
“Edward?” I heard Carlisle ask. “What the hell was that about?”
Edward pulled back from me and turned to Carlisle. “What do you mean?” he asked. I had a feeling though he knew.
“You don’t want her to get fat do you?” he asked looking me over frowning. “Why would you order French toast? You know how unhealthy that is.”
“Carlisle, I decide what she eats,” he responded stiffly. “I thank you for your concern, but I take very good care of Bella. She won’t get fat. Look at her for God’s sake, she’s practically a twig.”
Jasper cut in changing the subject. He asked Carlisle about expanding the club to include a restaurant effectively taking his mind off of me. Edward put his arm across the back of my chair and slid his hand under my hair to gently massage my neck, relaxing me. I smiled my appreciation at him.
When the food finally arrived I saw Rosalie frown and wrinkle her brow. She looked at the plate in front of her. Emmett had ordered her an egg sunny side up and toast. She tentatively took a bite of her toast. She looked like she was on the verge of something much stronger and worse than an upset stomach.
Emmett was watching her also. “Baby, you need to eat your egg. You need more than just the toast,” he told her. He was trying to be gentle and not alert Carlisle to his worry. I could tell he was struggling.
She smiled weakly at him and cut into her egg with the fork. As soon as the yellow yolk started to run on her plate, she grabbed her mouth with a gag and jumped up running. Emmett leaped from his seat also and ran after her toward the bathrooms.
Carlisle slammed his hand down on the table making us jump before pointing a finger at me. “Damnit! You see Edward, that’s what happens when you don’t take a firm hand with your wife,” he said, pointing toward the doorway they’d disappeared through. “I hope Emmett handles her punishment appropriately when they get home for leaving the table without permission. I expect you to take a firm hand with Bella here and not allow those kinds of mistakes.”
I shuddered and Edward felt it. “Carlisle, I assure you I know exactly how to handle Bella. She is a very fast learner. She won’t make those kinds of mistakes. She knows better.”
He looked at me to confirm that I understood. He may be nicer to me but I still had rules to follow and punishment was still a possibility. I hated that Carlisle was waking up his Edward. I was watching mine be locked away again. Well I did enjoy my time. Maybe my Edward would come back sooner this time. I ate automatically now, losing all enjoyment in having my favorite breakfast for the first time in four months.
Emmett and Rosalie came out from the bathroom area. She looked green and was shaking. Emmett had his arm around her waist supporting her. She couldn’t even walk. I desperately wanted to do something. We all did. He stopped by the table to grab her purse.
“Carlisle, I’m taking my wife to the hospital to get checked out. She’s sick,” he said stiffly. The look on his face was enough to scare me. He was angry at Carlisle for making him bring her out.
Carlisle waived his hand. “Do what you think is best. I’m sure they’ll be able to give her something to settle her stomach. We’ll see you at the house this afternoon.” He went right back to eating like nothing happened.
After breakfast we all went back to the house. Everyone was quiet. We were obviously awaiting the return of Rosalie and Emmett. Even a phone call would help. Edward was brooding about Carlisle. We were lounging on the sofa, I was sitting up, and Edward was sprawled out over the couch, his head resting in my lap. I actually liked this position, for once I wasn’t being man handled and groped, and it seemed like… Edward was taking refuge in me? Seeking comfort? Some more hope glimmered. I ran my hands through his hair.
“Mm… that feels nice, Bella. Thanks.” Edward informal was quite sexy. When he just let the structured and articulated thoughts go, it was so relaxed, and started to feel a bit…I don’t know… normal?
Carlisle came into the room, and Edward straightened up. I sighed. I heard Carlisle tell Edward he wanted to discuss my progress and some finer points of discipline. He continually made little comments about me; was I giving him any problems, was I performing to his satisfaction, how far has he gotten in my training. I hated this. Edward was always harder on me after a day with his father. And I didn’t know if this would change combined with my confession the other night. At least it was time to start preparing lunch so I could leave the room.
We were just putting the afternoon meal on the table when Emmett came bursting through the front door startling everyone. “I’m going to be a father!” he yelled.
We all ran to him. “Emmett, are you sure?” Esme asked. “What did the doctor say? Where’s Rose?”
Emmett hugged her lifting her off the floor. “She’s home resting. I’m going to be a father, can you believe it?”
Carlisle, Jasper, and Edward came in from the living room. “I wouldn’t get too excited yet son. She’s lost the last two. I’d wait a few months before getting your hopes up again,” Carlisle said. “You know I hate to see her disappoint you again.”
Emmett set Esme back on her feet before turning to Carlisle. His eyes were blazing. “I’m well aware that she lost the last two. That wasn’t her fault. It’s called a miscarriage, remember, Dr. Cullen? They called her doctor when they got the test results. He came down and performed an ultrasound to see how far along she is. He figures she’s about eleven weeks. He wants her on bed rest for the next two months at least, and is going to monitor her closely this time around.”
“Eleven weeks? And you didn’t know?” Carlisle asked. We were all sitting at the table now. Nothing interfered with Carlisle’s timetable.
Emmett shook his head running his hand over his head. “No. I knew she’s been a little off recently. She kept it a secret though. She didn’t want to get my hopes up. She knows how badly I want a son.”
I thought back to the other night. Emmett had ordered Rosalie a margarita also. But now that I thought about it I never saw her actually take a drink. She held it in her hands a lot. That also explained why my glass never seemed to be empty. She kept trading glasses with me.
The rest of the day passed. Esme, Alice and I took a plate over to Rose after cleaning up from lunch. Carlisle told Emmett that we could care for her just fine so he should stay. Rose was so nervous and excited about the baby. She was afraid to get her hopes up again. We stayed for the afternoon visiting before heading back to fix dinner. We promised to help make things as easy on her as we could.
I followed Bella to our room after dinner. It had been a long day and I was not in the best of moods. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy for my brother. I knew how much he wanted a son. But I was also glad that it took Carlisle’s focus off my relationship with Bella. I need out of this house, with Bella, now. I honestly couldn’t stand it any longer. He has his own wife, my mother, so he needs to stop policing mine. Or.. wife to be. I was sick of his constant criticisms about my ability to train her. His implications at breakfast that she’d become fat and unattractive. As if it was ever possible for Bella to be anything but beautiful.
Then he spent the afternoon until Emmett arrived wanting details. He wanted to know how far I had gotten with her and how good she was at pleasuring me. That was brutally uncomfortable. It didn’t help that Jasper was sitting in the room with us. Jasper knew I was trying to gain Bella’s love. I don’t think discussing her with my father and brother was the way to go, but I couldn’t tell this to Carlisle. So I had to sit there and discuss her with him and pretend it didn’t bother me in the least to do so. I knew Jasper was squirming just as much as I was.
He also told me he was disappointed that he hadn’t heard her scream and cry again since the first night. I actually wanted to punch the prick. Punishment isn’t supposed to be a daily routine. He thought I was going soft on her. I assured him that it hasn’t been necessary to punish her again like that. She hadn’t done anything to deserve it. Plus I would never make her cry like that again. Something inside of me stirred when I heard her crying that night, it was bad. Really bad. And I still don’t know how to describe it. I had promised her not to lose control ever again. So far I had only needed to be firm with her a few times and she was a fast learner. I exaggerated that to him. She got the picture. She really did want to please me.
I was quiet while we got ready for bed. I was drying off from my shower while Bella stood naked in front of the mirror brushing out her hair. I hung up my towel and walked up behind her. I let my gaze travel over her body in the reflection. I slipped my hands around to rest them on her on her flat stomach. I let my imagination cause her belly to swell outward. She would one day be rounded out with my child inside of her. Her breasts and hips would be fuller. I imagined feeling the movement of our child kicking away. She put the hairbrush on the counter and stood still letting me do as I wanted. It was routine now, her just going stiff whenever I touched her. Well, it had always been like this. I wish it were the other way around and she would just relax when I touched her. I always had to work for her to relax against me, while, if she so much as touched my hand, I would decompress instantaneously.
I pushed her hair to the side so I could kiss her neck and shoulder while massaging her stomach. “Bella, one day it will be you.”
“Me what?” she asked absentmindedly. Her eyes were closed. I smiled against her shoulder. I knew every sensitive spot on her beautiful body.
“One day it will be your body swelling with our child. Your beautiful body will protect and sustain our child while it grows inside of you. I can’t wait for that day.”
She opened her eyes to look at mine in the mirror. She studied me for a moment. I could tell by her eyes that she was thinking of the day she would be pregnant with my child also.
“When?” she asked quietly.
I smiled. She couldn’t wait to be the mother of my children.
“As soon as we’re married,” I chuckled and turned her to face me. “A honeymoon baby would be nice.”
Her smile seemed weak in response, but I put it down to nerves. I tilted her face to me and smiled reassuringly. “You’ll be a wonderful mother, Bella. You don’t need to be nervous. It won’t be long. I finish my residency and you graduate in May. Then we’ll iron out the rest of the details.” I kissed her lips gently. “Now let’s go to bed. You have school in the morning and I need you tonight.”
Edward drove me to school in silence. I kept thinking about our conversation last night before bed. He wanted to start a family as soon as we were married. I still didn’t even know when that was. Esme thought he was planning a Christmas wedding. That had been Carlisle’s plans anyway in the beginning for me. No one knew if he still felt that way. After seeing the look of yearning in his eyes as he thought of a baby I didn’t think I had that long anymore. I didn’t want to start a family so soon. Not after listening to Carlisle talk about sons carrying on the Cullen name and tradition. What a vulgar thought, reproducing more spawns of the devil. I didn’t want to think about raising a son to become a monster. In all honesty I didn’t want to think about raising sons and daughter’s at all. I’m still a kid. I don’t care what Edward and I do, or the upcoming and creeping plans of my forced marriage. I am still underage! My parents should be taking care of me, I shouldn’t be taking care of a child.
I shuddered. Wait. Realization swept through me. Oh my god. Oh god. The most vile, corrupt thought, or, nightmare bubbled to the surface of my mind. A daughter. What if I… had a daughter, a girl- a… female in this family? What if I brought an innocent little girl into the deranged life I now existed within? A sweet, innocent being doing no wrong, just.. being a baby. Would Edward… would he… no, he couldn’t. He wouldn’t. But Charlie did, my conscious whispering. Would he? To use my daughter, or our daughter for that matter, in ways that made me feel so disgusted I wanted to burn. Or burn something. Or someone. No. No! I would never, ever let him touch my daughter if it be the last action I take in this world. I’d fight for her. Just like Renee. He may have me, and I may have to submit- but not in one million years would I let my own daughter suffer to the horrific hands of her own father. As that conclusion settled, the more rational side of me took over. But it’s Edward. He is not an incestual pedophile. That’s Charlie, James, and Carlisle, remember Bella? Esme always talks about how she sees something in Edward that separates him from Carlisle. He’s different. He just needs to be woken from his state of denial, in which this disturbing lifestyle is acceptable. I can wake him. In order to do that, I had to put some magnitude of trust, or hope, in him. I needed to. I’d be lost without it.
I felt like I was walking a tightrope while juggling pianos. One wrong move and I would crash. I didn’t know what to think of the differences I was seeing in Edward. My chest was tight with anxiety every time I thought about it. Were his changes permanent? Was he really becoming the man Esme kept assuring me was in him? Did I dare to release my hope and let it soar? I kept seeing my Edward fighting Carlisle’s Edward in the way he treated me. I knew that if he continued down the path he was on I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from falling in love with him. If I gave him my love and Carlisle’s Edward won dominance over my Edward in the end, I knew it would ultimately destroy me.
I finally took notice of where we were. We were pulling into the school parking lot. I grabbed my backpack from the floor and started to open the door when he stopped me.
“Bella, before you go to class this morning you need to stop by the office.” He said.
I looked at him in confusion, “Did I do something wrong?”
“No Bella. You didn’t do anything wrong. It’s a surprise,” he replied. He reached up and cupped his hand around my neck and brought me in for a gentle kiss. As he pulled back he stroked my cheek. “Have a good day and I’ll see you this afternoon.”
I was so uncertain of what was happening. It was like night and day the differences in him. Moon and sun. Fire and ice.
I couldn’t believe my surprise. I actually squealed in the counselor’s office. Edward had changed my schedule. I was now taking AP English and AP Government instead of the basic classes. And best of all I was taking Philosophy instead of Horticulture! I was on cloud nine all day. My brain was going to be challenged again. I practically mauled Edward when he picked me up from school.
***Three Weeks Later***
I was lost in thought as I walked across the campus to my Philosophy class. I needed to remember to take my note by the office. Next week is spring break, but I’m leaving before lunch today. Edward was picking me up early. I felt like jumping out of my skin I was so excited. I wouldn’t be able to focus on anything in class.
It was Valentine’s Day. Since it was a Saturday, Edward planned the entire day. He picked out my clothes. I wore a short royal blue sweater dress. I smiled when he pulled out my ballet flats. I grabbed a pair of tights from the dresser to go with them.
I made our breakfast and served him in the kitchen. Esme and Carlisle were already seated. I felt Carlisle’s eyes on my back as I finished cooking. It made me uneasy, as always. I was beginning to notice that he was watching Edward more closely lately as well. It was nerve-racking, it was like he was taking mental notes, studying like a very focused student. He was noticing the changes in Edward also. He wasn’t pleased. He always had a snide remark to make about my behavior.
We spent the day in Seattle. We did all the romantic things you’re supposed to do. He even rented a suite at a swanky hotel for the night so I could change into something sexy for the evening. We had dinner at the top of the needle by candlelight. A violinist wandered from table to table playing the most beautiful music.
He pulled out a small wrapped box. My heart sped up. I prayed it wasn’t what I was thinking. I wasn’t ready for that yet. He was making an effort to be nicer to me in the little things but overall was still very much in control of my life. Nothing that really mattered had changed. Maybe this would be all I would get, the little things, like Rosalie had with Emmett. I knew she had more than I did with Edward but maybe I could convince myself that this was enough. I knew if this was it what my response was supposed to be, but I still hoped to be better prepared when the time came. I sighed in relief when I opened the box to a pair of diamond earrings. I knew they were expensive. Everything he bought was expensive.
“Thank you Edward,” I said. “They’re beautiful.” I leaned over and kissed him as expected. When he pulled back he studied my face for a moment before reaching into his jacket pocket.
“The earrings are just the warm up gift Bella,” he said. “This is your real gift.”
He pulled out a red envelope and handed it to me. I looked at him puzzled why he would give me the card after the gift.
“Open it Bella,” he encouraged me. “I promise you’ll like it.” He grinned wickedly, like he knew a secret and was about to share.
I looked down at the envelope a moment before turning it over to open the seal. I pulled out a Valentines card. As I turned it over to read something slipped out from inside. I stared at the paper in my hands. I couldn’t breathe.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, my love,” he said softly. When I didn’t immediately respond he reached to turn my face to him. “Bella, what’s wrong?”
I looked up at him and felt the tears spill down my cheeks. I stood up and moved to sit on his lap. I didn’t care that we were in a restaurant. I didn’t care that anyone was watching me. I hugged him closely and rained kisses all over his face.
“I love it Edward. You’re wonderful. Thank you so much. It’s absolutely perfect.”
He held me close laughing up at me. His eyes were sparkling emeralds, “You’re welcome love, but I’m afraid you’re crumpling your gift.”
I laughed back at him and sat back down in my chair. I took the paper in my hands and smoothed it out on the table. Two plane tickets to Phoenix.