I couldn't stop fidgeting. I knew I must be driving Edward crazy but I couldn't help it. He would just have to deal with it. It felt like the drive from the airport would never end. We were spending my spring break in Arizona. My god, I haven't been home in so long. It felt like a lifetime ago. It was in so many ways. My breath caught in my throat-the first of many emotional breakdowns I knew I would endure. I was finally seeing familiar places and knew I'd be home in another 10 minutes. We had just passed my old school. I could run from here. Well, in my former life I could have. I couldn't do it in high heels.
I really missed sneakers.
Edward was thrilled about the weather here being sunny and warm. Not because of the sunshine though. It meant he got to pull out my dresses and more revealing clothing that I hadn't worn while it was cold. I was used to my wardrobe now, but I missed sloppy t-shirts, torn up jeans and flip-flops. Normal clothes. As I glanced down at the dress I wore today I prayed that Mrs. Murphy who lived next door was out of town and wouldn't see me. That would be embarrassing, the new lifestyle I now had to embrace-it held no resemblance to my life then.
I didn't know Edward's plans during our trip. I only knew we were going to close the house so he could sell it. It was so hard to keep my mouth shut. I didn't want to sell it. I don't care how silly it seemed- yes, I didn't live in Phoenix anymore so why keep an empty house, but I just wasn't ready to let go completely. I wasn't ready to let go all hope, I suppose. It’s all interwoven. Maybe this trip would help me gain some closure to who I used to be, but I didn't want closure. I just wanted it back.
Edward had told me I could bring back anything that was important to me. He stopped to pick up packing boxes after dropping our bags at the hotel on the way from the airport. He would have anything shipped back to Forks to store until our home was finished this summer. I didn't know how I was going to handle it. How do I tell him that all of it was important? It was my home, it was the last place I'd ever truly be me. At least he was letting me keep my memories.
The builder assured Edward the rest of the framework should be complete before we got back. Edward was pushing hard for the builder to finish our home as quickly as possible. Not that I was complaining. I couldn't wait to be out from under Carlisle's microscope. Every time I turned around he was there, watching me, inspecting Edward. The comments were becoming more and more intense. I was so glad when we finally left. Of course Carlisle wasn't happy about this trip. I only wish we could stay longer, but I have school and Edward needed to get back to finish his residency. May was coming up on me fast. Breathe, Bella.
I pulled my focus back to the present and realized where I was. My breath hitched as we turned onto my street. I looked out my window. The Ferguson's were on the corner, the McDonald's that I babysat for were next, then my friend Cindy, my friends Matt and Mark. Only two more... Johanna, then Mrs. Murphy and finally-. I swallowed the lump that had formed in my throat as Edward turned into my driveway. I stared at the white limestone façade. I looked up at the window that was my mom and Phil's room. My room overlooked the large backyard. I saw the porch swing that they used to sit on in the evenings as they watched my friends and I shoot hoops across the street at Mr. Meyer's house. His sons were grown and gone but he kept the hoop up for the neighborhood kids to keep from being lonely. I was never any good, but it was all about fun anyway. Softball was my game, not that it mattered anymore.
I waited for Edward to open my door chanting ‘I will not cry. I will not cry' over and over in my head even as I felt the tears gather. My door opened and I put my hand out automatically to Edward. I didn't want to take my eyes off my home. I was afraid it would be a dream. I felt Edward wrap his arms around me gently. A little awkward. This was the one thing he didn't know about, wasn't educated about. My life in Phoenix; my blissful, carefree existence. He always knew everything, but this... this was new territory for him. After all, he didn’t know the real me. And he couldn't pretend like he did, we both knew that.
"Bella," he said softly, "Are you ready to go inside?"
I swallowed and nodded my head. I didn't trust my voice to speak yet. He guided me onto the porch and I stood as he unlocked the door. I turned to look out at my street before going in. I heard the door open and turned to go in. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes before stepping over the threshold. I held my breath as I stood in our living room. I saw the ghosts of ten long, happy years flit through the room. I saw the evenings of playing games or watching movies while we had our picnics around the coffee table, Christmas mornings, and nights of homework at the table, Phil helping me with Algebra while mom worked on her scrapbook hobby across from us. I saw my friends and me lounging on the couch, watching movies, and devouring junk food.
It was all gone now. I wondered if maybe, just maybe, I could have any of this in my life with Edward. Would he be the kind of father to put together a dollhouse in a Santa suit at 2:00 AM just to prove Santa existed to a skeptical 8 year-old? Would we have a porch swing to sit on in the evenings? Would I be able to resurrect a few of my rituals to bring them back to this life once we were out of Carlisle's house? He liked our picnics, maybe he could like more. Maybe I could show him what normal was. Maybe I could find happiness with him. Maybe I could really love him. Maybe- I stopped as I realized that was a long list of ‘maybes'.
I sighed. One step at a time, as Esme kept reminding me. She saw this trip as another step toward Edward slowly becoming the man everyone was still working to convince me was in him. She truly believes there is a gentleman underneath his exterior layers. It's almost as if Carlisle built a wall, separating Edward from reality and kept him hidden in this lifestyle, and it still stands, for it is nearly unbreakable. But I could be the one to slowly, brick by brick, take down that wall. This was one of those bricks. I had inspired him to give me this trip and my happiness had encouraged him-not Carlisle, not his needs...my desires. Esme had pointed out that he didn't need to take me on this trip. He could have just as easily hired someone to box up the house or for that matter he didn't have to let me keep anything of my old life.
But I'm not that much of an optimist these days. He was still selling it, without an ounce of input from me.
I turned toward the stairs. Edward followed behind me as I climbed. I knew what I would find. This was going to be the hardest door to walk through. I turned to the right and took another breath before opening the door. I felt the pricking of more tears and the lump in my throat got larger as I finally opened the door. I walked in and forced myself to hold it together. I knew my knees were ready to give out so I walked over and sat on the bed. As I stared at the purple walls I reached behind me for what I knew would be there. The tears rolled unchecked down my face as I squeezed the stuffed collie in my arms. I looked at the typical teenage posters hanging on the wall along with pennants for Phil's team and A&M. I saw the trophies from my years playing softball. Phil was coach for my little league team. There was a picture frame full of pictures of friends, from football games, going to the lake, just hanging out. There were posters of bands I loved, a huge one of George Strait. I loved all kinds of music; country, rock, reggae, even a little rap. It had been so long since I could take a walk, listen to some Marley, and feel at peace.
On my desk was a picture from the day at the zoo when I was seven. I stood and walked over to pick it up. It showed me on Phil's shoulders with my new cotton candy and mom standing beside him laughing. It was the first time she had laughed since we moved to Phoenix. I smiled remembering. That was when our life really started.
We had only been in Phoenix a few months. I got too close to the monkey cage with my cotton candy. A monkey had reached out and got a hold of the hood to my jacket that was hanging down my back. It pulled me against the cage trying to get my cotton candy. I had slapped at the monkey crying until a man helped Rene get my jacket off so I could pull away. I lost my candy, but he promised to buy me another. Renee never trusted strange men but there was something about him that made her feel he was safe. Intuition. He was at the zoo with his brother's family. He spent the rest of the day with us; we were brought to tears from his humor. He was the best dad any kid could wish for.
I turned back to Edward to see him watching me. I gave him a weak smile. "I guess I should get started," I offered.
He looked like he wanted to say something but as he opened his mouth the doorbell rang. Awkward much? I would never have associated hesitation with Edward… he was always so sure, such a force.
"That should be the realtor," he said, a little shakily. "I'll get the boxes from the car in a little while. Why don't you decide where you want to start while I talk to him?"
“Ok.” What more was there to say? This was so awkward! He left the room and I followed him downstairs. I couldn’t pack my bedroom yet. I wasn’t ready for that. I decided to start in the living room. I entered the room and walked over to the entertainment center on the far wall. It was flanked with shelves on either side. I ran my finger over the spines of the DVD’s. I stopped at all the home movies, a gift from me and Phil a couple of years ago. We’d taken all the old VHS tapes and had them converted to DVD’s for Mother’s Day. Ten years of memories. They were going with me. I started pulling them out when I realized the voice Edward was talking to wasn’t a man’s. It was an older woman’s voice. I listened a little more closely then closed my eyes groaning in realization. I kept my back to the doorway.
“-went to live with her biological father. I always hoped Bella would move back when she graduates and go to college here, but I know she had her heart set on going to college in Texas. Poor thing absolutely loathes the rain. Can’t imagine her finding much fun in dreary Washington. She always had so much energy, Bella is quite the individual, you see. You know her stepfather was an Aggie. He played baseball. So tragic what happened. They were good people. Bella was such an animated girl, she always had an opinion. I normally have no use for teenagers, but Bella was special. Not many teenagers would take time out to visit an old woman, but she did. Every day after school she brought my mail up to the house and sat with me before going home. And laugh. Let me tell you that girl could tell the best stories. She inherited Phil’s dry wit. I always thought the sarcastic ones were the funniest. Don’t you? Well, let me tell you, those family dinners were hysterical! Always poking fun at one another…”
“Hmm,” I heard Edward mumble. Really once Mrs. Murphy got on a roll you didn’t get a word in until she was done.
“She’s going to be a great writer one day. Mark my words; you’ll see her face on the jacket cover of a best selling novel. She just… always… had so much to say. And it was so worth listening to, every word that she spoke was so sharp, so insightful, she was an old soul. Way beyond her years. How old is she now? What, seventeen I think? Still just a child though, she’s got her whole life to grow up, meet people, make a name for herself. She’ll do wonders on her own. ”
I smiled listening. I loved Mrs. Murphy. I always called her Meme. She was the grandmother I never had. I heard their footsteps moving toward the living room. I glanced down at my dress, cringing again. It was short and tight. The kind Edward liked best. She would not approve.
“Now I want to meet your young lady. I saw her when you pulled up. She reminds me so much of Bella, only older,” she ordered.
Edward cleared his throat, “Love, there’s someone here to see you.”
I heard the tension in his voice. I turned around looking at Edward first. I saw his jaw clenched as he stood stiffly beside Mrs. Murphy. He obviously didn’t have a plan for running into anyone who knew me before. I was certain that would change as soon as she left. But unfortunately, that was out of his hands now. Meme was an avid gossip, and the word of my return would be known within 5 minutes of her departure from the house.
I took a deep breath and walked over to them. I stood in front of her. She was scrutinizing me with her eagle eyes. I smiled warmly at her. “Hi Meme,” I said as I hugged her and kissed her cheek. “I’m glad to see you. I’ve missed you.”
She continued to look at me for a moment. She took my arms staring at me. “Bella?” she asked.
“Yes, it’s me,” I assured her. I felt a tear slide out of the corner of my eye. I wanted to throw myself in her arms and weep, but she didn’t even recognize me now. I was a stranger.
She took in my appearance before turning me to the side so she could see how short and tight my dress really was. She turned me back to face her before turning to stare at Edward. I saw her eyes narrow at him in accusation.
“Isabella Marie Swan. Where is the rest of your dress?” She demanded. “You know your parents would never approve of what you’re wearing. You wouldn’t approve of what you’re wearing. You were raised to have some class. Not strutting around in some trashy excuse of a dress. Really, dear, look at it! Your mother raised you to be a lady. I know girls these days think showing skin is the only way to get a boy to notice them. You’re beautiful inside and out. I’m sure your young man here would think you were even more beautiful if you dressed appropriately.” She turned to Edward daring him to argue with her. “Wouldn’t you, young man?”
I saw the tick in Edward’s cheek start. He was getting angry but couldn’t voice it. After all, he bought this dress. He tried to turn on the charm instead. “Yes, ma’am. I know Bella is beautiful. She’s beautiful in anything she wears.” He looked at me warning me as he reached out to stroke my cheek with the back of his hand. I knew to keep my mouth shut.
Her lips thinned as she stared at him. She had judged Edward and found him lacking. She turned back to me now choosing to ignore Edward. She pulled me over to sit on the sofa. I quickly pulled the sheet off of it before we sat. I tried unsuccessfully to pull the hem of my dress down to cover myself even though I knew it was useless. She turned to me. “Now Bella, tell me about Washington. First of all, how are you? Are you okay, you don’t look so well. How are you getting on with your father and brother? Are you having any problems? Did they travel down with you?” She looked at Edward again disapprovingly. “And who is this young man here?”
I swallowed before answering. “My father and brother died a few months back. There was a house fire.” I started explaining. I still didn’t really know any of the details myself. Edward had told me not to worry about it. Honestly, I didn’t care anyway after what they did to me. I was only glad they were gone.
“Oh Bella I’m so sorry,” she sympathized. She didn’t know any better. She pulled me into a comforting hug. I looked up at Edward over her shoulder. His eyes were dark. He was getting angrier by the minute. I pulled back from her. “You poor thing, so young. You’ve been dealt a tough hand this year haven’t you?”
I smiled weakly back at her. If she only knew just how tough it really was. I glanced up again at Edward. She caught the gesture and turned on the sofa to look up at him. “Where are you living now that your father is deceased? You know you’re always welcome in my home. All of your friends are here, you’ll be closer to Texas… You don’t need to live with strangers, and you’ll be eighteen soon, so then you can decide for yourself where you choose to reside.”
Edward jumped in at that point. I don’t know if he didn’t trust me to answer correctly or if he was just trying to end the conversation and get her to leave. I decided it was probably a little of both.
“Bella is my fiancé. My parents adopted Bella after Charlie’s death. They were close friends. Now, I’m sorry to be rude, but we’re expecting the realtor any minute.” He gestured to the door to indicate she should follow him out. “Bella and I have a lot to get done. It was very nice to meet you and I hope we see you again before we leave.”
As if on queue, I heard the doorbell ring. I stood with Meme. I started to walk her to the door when Edward stopped me. “Bella why don’t you finish what you were doing? I’ll walk Mrs. Murphy out.”
I stopped and gave her a hug. “It was good to see you again Meme, I’ll never forget you,” I whispered. I could feel the lump coming back. I was saying goodbye to another part of the real me.
She hugged me back then stood back and looked in my eyes. She always saw so much. She knew something wasn’t right. “Bella, I love you like my own granddaughter. You know that right?” she asked.
I nodded in response.
“Now I don’t know what’s really going on with you, but something is different. You know I’m always here for you if you ever need anything,” she said softly, conspiratorially. She then raised her voice to be sure it carried to Edward. “And don’t you let that young man bully you into anything you don’t want to do. You’ve got a good head on those shoulders. Don’t forget to use it.”
She walked away from me to follow Edward to the door. I heard it open and Edward greet the realtor. He said goodbye to Mrs. Murphy and I heard the door slam. It was going to be a long afternoon.
I was taking pictures off the wall in the hallway when arms slipped around my waist. I was pulled back into a hard chest and felt Edward’s lips on my shoulder. I closed my eyes to the sensation while I waited for him to speak. I knew what was coming. Carlisle’s Edward. I had brought mine with me to Phoenix, but Meme’s visit woke up Carlisle’s. I prayed it would be a brief visit and I could get mine back quickly. I would just have to reassure him that I knew he owned me. That usually worked to sooth the beast. I sighed. I guess it was time to pull out the stops on Bella Barbie.
He continued to kiss and suck on my neck and shoulder as he slid one hand up under my dress in front and the other moved up to cup my breast. He tugged my thong to the side and slid two fingers in me while he circled that bundle of nerves with his thumb. He pinched and rolled my nipple at the same time causing a rush of moisture between my legs. I moaned involuntarily. I could never deny that he was very skilled. He played me like an instrument that had been custom made just for him. I braced my hands against the wall to keep from falling as he continued to work his fingers deep inside of me. I felt the pressure steadily build in the pit of my stomach. He slipped a third finger in me and pumped harder. I was whimpering now and grinding my hips against his erection. I needed him and I hated it. This wasn’t loving; he was claiming me yet again. He bit down on that sensitive place on my neck as I screamed and exploded around his fingers.
He finally released me when my breathing slowed and turned me to face him. His eyes were dark and smoldering. I knew he wanted his release, but he would never make me get on my knees for him. He would stay frustrated until we got to the hotel. Then and only then would he allow himself what he needed. He knew that I saw being on my knees in front of him as a form of punishment and since my drunken confession, he also knew it reminded me of Charlie and James. He didn’t want me to ever be reminded of them when we were together. Where James had told me he would make sure he was all I ever saw or thought of when I was with Edward. Edward was just as determined to erase that.
“Bella,” his voice was deep and strained. “I need you.” He pressed me into him to demonstrate his need. “I can’t wait until our wedding night. I love you so much.”
He leaned in and kissed me. Not the gentle loving kisses my Edward gave me. This was Carlisle’s Edward. I opened my mouth to him and he was all over me again. His lips seared mine. He sucked my bottom lip between his teeth and bit down. He finally raised his head to lock my gaze with his.
“You’re mine Bella and I will never let you go. No one can take you away from me. If you ever try to leave me I will track you down and bring you back, make no mistake. There is no place on this Earth that could hide you from me. Do you understand me? Promise me,” he growled.
I had never seen him look so threatening. My eyes widened and I shivered at the sincere threat in his voice. I was actually a little afraid of him right now. I knew without a doubt he meant every word. He would never let me go.
“I understand Edward,” I whispered.
“Say it Isabella. I want to hear you say it,” he ordered as he held me tighter in his arms.
“I’ll never leave you,” I swore.
He raised his eyebrow at me.
I swallowed. “I promise.”
He was pleased with my answer. I saw relief wash over him before he got serious again. Here it comes now. “I didn’t consider running into people you knew before, how hard that would be for you. If we meet anyone else, you are to be polite and nothing more. These people are your past. They have no place in your future. I am your future,” he declared.
“Yes Edward. I understand,” I whispered.
He kissed me again, reassured of Bella Barbie’s loyalty. He’d never have mine. I detested this Edward, I internally snarled and cussed him out. This was why Esme says what she says. She knows how strongly I despise this Edward. “Now let’s get to the hotel.” He pressed my hips against his reminding me of his unfulfilled need. Selfish, horny, loathsome…the list goes on. “I want to finish what we started,” he reminded me. How could I forget? “We’ll come back in the morning and start boxing things up.”
I stood awkwardly in the doorway to what was obviously Bella’s bedroom. I had thought this gift was a good idea. Now I wasn’t so sure. I hated to see how much pain she was in. Something stirred deep inside of me at the sight of her sitting on the bed holding a stuffed animal. This was her room. No, I told myself, this was the room of a teenager, not my Bella’s. I heard a small voice whisper in my head ‘Bella is a teenage’. I shut down the voice. I didn’t want to hear it. I watched her as she walked over to a desk and picked up a picture sitting there.
I couldn’t see what she was looking at so took a moment to look at her past. I saw posters from movies and bands. There was a shelf full of trophies that looked like she may have played softball at some point. I didn’t even realize she liked baseball. ’What else don’t you know about her? She’s only what you made her’ the voice teased me. I turned and looked at the wall next to me. There were pictures of teenagers in various activities. I looked at the faces and saw a different Bella than the one I knew. She was laughing. One showed her at a football game sitting on the shoulders of two football players. She had letters painted on her cheeks and wore a school t-shirt. It must have been her high school team. There was another of her at the lake with a group of kids. I looked at the rest noticing a common theme; Bella was laughing in all of them and she was surrounded by kids her own age.
Charlie and James took all of this away from her at my request. I felt the stirring of guilt deep inside of me. I rationalized my part in this by reminding myself if I hadn’t chosen Bella, Charlie would have either offered her to someone else or kept her for their perverted pleasure. She still wouldn’t have led the life she had before. At least with me she was loved. That made it better didn’t it? Didn’t it? The voice in my head was silent.
Bella finally turned to look at me. Her attempt at a smile failed miserably. “I guess I should get started,” she said.
I hated to see the sadness in her eyes. I wanted to offer her comfort but was at a loss for what to say. How do you tell the woman that you love that you’re sorry you took away her life? Especially when you know you can’t offer her anything any different than what you have. I opened my mouth hoping the right words would come out when I heard the doorbell. I was almost relieved.
“That should be the realtor,” I told her. “I’ll get the boxes from the car in a little while. Why don’t you decide where you want to start while I talk to him?”
“Ok,” she said. She followed me downstairs heading into the living room as I went to answer the door. Instead of the realtor I was expecting there was an elderly woman on the doorstep.
“Hello. May I help you?” I asked.
She smiled, stepping through the door forcing me to step back to allow her entrance. She put out her hand. “Hello. I’m Mrs. Murphy. I’m your neighbor. I live next door,” she said pointing to the house to the right of us.
“Edward Cullen,” I answered shaking her hand.
“I knew the people who lived here before, a wonderful family. I didn’t realize the house was even for sale. Their daughter went to live with her biological father. I always hoped Bella would move back when she graduates and go to college here, but I know she had her heart set on going to college in Texas. You know her step-father was an Aggie. He played baseball. So tragic what happened. They were good people. Bella was such a joy. I normally have no use for teenagers, but Bella was special. Not many teenagers would take time out to visit an old woman, but she did. Every day after school she brought my mail up to the house and sat with me before going home. And laugh. Let me tell you that girl could tell the best stories.”
“Hmm,” was all I could say. I swear this woman hadn’t taken a breath since I opened the door. I couldn’t get a word in to politely ask her to leave. I hadn’t thought about what might happen if we saw people from Bella’s past. I would need to think about this quickly. She was walking toward the living room where I could hear Bella moving around. This woman was talking about what Bella’s life would have been without me. I didn’t like being reminded so soon of the guilt I had just been feeling.
“She’s going to be a great writer one day. Mark my words; you’ll see her face on the jacket cover of a best selling novel. Now I want to meet your young lady. I saw her when you pulled up. She reminds me so much of Bella, only older,” she ordered.
I felt another wave of guilt at her comment on Bella’s appearance. She hadn’t recognized Bella from the girl she knew before. Was she really that different? I saw Bella standing in front of the entertainment center. I smiled at how beautiful she was. I loved the dress she was wearing. It was one of my favorites. I let my gaze travel over her. I loved her long legs. Her heels just made them appear that much longer. Her dress was short and tight showing off her curves and cupped her ass just right. My gaze continued to travel up her back to her bare shoulders and her long mahogany hair. I realized her shoulders were tense. She knew this woman next to me and was nervous about seeing her again. Well I was just as nervous, but I’m sure my reasons were different.
I cleared my throat, “Love, there’s someone here to see you.”
Bella turned around and I caught her gaze before her eyes shifted to her neighbor. She smiled to her as she walked over. She hugged and kissed her on the cheek. “Hi Meme. I’m glad to see you. I’ve missed you.”
“Bella?” Mrs. Murphy asked.
“Yes ma’am, it’s me,”
I felt that twinge of guilt again. Bella wasn’t recognizable to her even standing right in front of her. I watched as she turned Bella this way and that obviously looking at the changes in her appearance. I was surprised when she turned to me. She laid the blame for Bella’s changes at my doorstep where they rightfully belonged. I just didn’t want to see it.
“Isabella Marie Swan. Where is the rest of your dress?” She demanded. “You know your parents would never approve of what you’re wearing. You were raised better than this young lady. Your mother raised you to be a lady. I know girls these days think showing skin is the only way to get a boy to notice them. You’re beautiful inside and out. I’m sure your young man here would think you were even more beautiful if you dressed like a lady should. Wouldn’t you young man?”
Her sharp eyes were burning into me. I was getting tired of her unspoken accusations. I had enough guilt without her adding to it. She was working my last nerve. I would just turn on the Cullen charm.
“Yes ma’am. I know Bella is beautiful. She’s beautiful in anything she wears.” I stroked Bella’s cheek while gazing into her eyes. I picked out that dress and Bella was sexy and beautiful wearing it. I conveyed my feeling on the subject to her.
Mrs. Murphy was staring at me again; disapproval written all over her face. Well, her opinion didn’t matter. Bella would never see her again. Before I could ask her to leave she pulled Bella over to sit down.
“Now Bella, tell me about Washington. How are you getting on with your father and brother? Are you having any problems? Did they travel down with you?” This woman was starting to piss me off. I was tired of her stares. “And who is this young man here?”
Bella was just as uncomfortable answering her questions. After all, she didn’t really know what happened to Charlie and James. She never would.
“My father and brother died a few months back. There was a house fire.”
“Oh Bella I’m so sorry,” she sympathized. “You poor dear. You’ve been dealt a tough hand this year haven’t you?”
I saw Bella look to me. She was being very careful with her comments. I started to worry if she would see this woman as an escape. Her looks were making this woman more and more suspicious. She needed to leave.
“Where are you living now that your father is deceased? You know you’re always welcome in my home. You don’t need to live with strangers.”
That’s it. There’s no way this busybody neighbor is going to take Bella away from me. I’m not a stranger to her and its time to put a stop to any more accusations.
“Bella is my fiancé.” I stressed the word to get my point across. Bella was mine. I fought to keep my voice polite and not snarl at her. “My parents adopted Bella after Charlie’s death. They were close friends. Now, I’m sorry to be rude, but we’re expecting the realtor any minute.” I made it clear it was time for her to leave. “Bella and I have a lot to get done. It was very nice to meet you though and I hope we see you again before we leave.” I was never happier to hear a doorbell ring. Perfect timing. That would be the realtor.
“Bella why don’t you finish what you were doing? I’ll walk Mrs. Murphy out.” I stopped Bella from following us. I didn’t want her near Bella a minute longer.
“It was good to see you again. I’ll never forget you,” Bella said. I could tell she was upset saying ‘goodbye’ to her.
“Bella, I love you like my own granddaughter. You know that right?” she asked.
I saw Bella acknowledge her comment. Mrs. Murphy leaned in and said something softly to Bella that I couldn’t catch. Then she spoke loud enough for me to hear her. Her comment was directed at me.
“And don’t you let that young man bully you into anything you don’t want to do. You’ve got a good head on those shoulders. Don’t forget to use it.”
I walked her to the door, opening it for her to leave and to allow the realtor inside.
“Hello, you must be Mr. Smith? Come in.” I turned to Mrs. Murphy. “Again, it was nice to meet you Mrs. Murphy. I hope we get to see you again during our trip, but I doubt it. We’re going to be extremely busy.” I knew I was being rude, but I wanted to convey to her that she shouldn’t expect to spend anymore time with Bella.
She took my hand and stared at me a moment pursing her lips. She finally spoke. “Well, young man I can’t say that it’s been a pleasure meeting you. Something isn’t right with Bella and I have a feeling you’re to blame. She’s changed and not in a good way. Fiancé, my eye. Bella is seventeen. She hasn’t even finished high school yet. Bella knows she has friends here and she knows she has somewhere safe to go. She doesn’t have to stay in Washington if she doesn’t want to. You just remember that. Bella always has choices.”
With that she turned and left me standing there. I couldn’t believe this woman who was 75 years-old, if she was a day, actually threatened me. She had offered Bella a way to leave me. Well, that would never happen. I would never let her go. I slammed the door.
I turned and saw Mr. Smith standing there awkwardly. He had heard the exchange. Well, his opinion didn’t matter either. He was here to do a job and he was being paid for it. “Now, Mr. Smith if you’ll follow me I’ll give you the tour and you can tell me what you think.
I shut the door on Mr. Smith. The house would go on the market after Bella and I leave. I didn’t want her to see the ‘For Sale’ sign in the yard while we were here. I knew it would cause her pain. This trip was hard enough on her. I should have listened to Carlisle. He told me not to bring her. He said it was a mistake letting her come here. I didn’t believe him. I knew Bella needed closure. Carlisle and I had argued about it even.
“Edward, I don’t like it,” Carlisle was telling me. We were sitting in his study talking. “You can call a local charity there and have everything donated. Why bother going and why are you taking Bella? Leave her here if you’re determined to go. Esme and I can keep an eye on her.”
“I’m sure there are things that Bella would like to keep, Carlisle,” I reminded him. “I don’t know what they would be so I can’t just do this without her input.”
“She doesn’t need anything from that life Edward. She only needs whatever you provide. She does not dictate those needs to you. Get rid of all of it. That’s the best thing you can do.”
“I won’t do that to her. She lost her mother and step-father. Her life has changed drastically from what it was before. She needs closure and I’m going to give it to her.” I told him.
Jasper and Alice thought the trip was a great idea. Jasper had told me it would be good for Bella and for me. I was starting to think though Jasper blindsided me. He knew I’d be faced with Bella’s past as well.
I sighed. This trip was turning out to be harder than I thought it would be. I walked through the house looking for Bella. I found her in the hall taking down more family pictures. I noticed one of her blowing out birthday candles on a cake. There were several people in the picture with her. Most were other teens, but I noticed Mrs. Murphy was there also. My jaw tightened remembering her threat.
I walked to Bella and pulled her into my embrace. I needed to feel her respond to me. I needed to prove to her that I owned her and she wanted me. I kissed and sucked her neck and shoulder. I slid one hand up under her dress cupped her breast with my other. I pulled her thong out of my way and slid two fingers in her while I circled her clit with my thumb. I pinched and rolled her nipple in my hand. I smile against her neck at her moan and the feel of her juices flowing over my fingers. Only I could give her this feeling. I continued to pump my fingers deep inside her. I knew she was close by her whimpering. She was grinding her hips into me rubbing my erection with her ass. I wanted her so bad. I slipped a third finger into her and pushed them as deep as I could go to hit that spot that I knew would make her scream for me. I bit down on curve of her neck where she was most sensitive when I felt her walls clamp down. I was rewarded with her scream of ecstasy as her juices rushed over my fingers in her orgasm.
I slipped my fingers out of her and licked them tasting her. I would happily eat her for every meal if I could. I waited for her breathing to even out before turning her to me.
“Bella I need you,” I told her. “I can’t wait to claim you completely. I love you so much.”
I leaned in to kiss her. I let my need take over and ravaged her mouth. I wasn’t gentle with her. I felt a little guilty, but I needed to reinforce my hold on her. I couldn’t let her slip away from me. I sucked her lip between my teeth biting it. I was careful not to break the skin. I raised my head and let my gaze penetrate hers.
“You’re mine Bella and I will never let you go. No one can take you away from me. If you ever try to leave me I will track you down and bring you back. Make no mistake. There is no place on this Earth that you could ever hide from me. Do you understand me? Promise me,” I swore to her.
I hated her response. Her eyes were wide and I could read the fear in them and I felt her shiver. I don’t want her afraid of me, but I need her to know that despite what that old woman told her she didn’t have choices. She was mine forever.
“I understand Edward,” she whispered.
“Say it Isabella. I want to hear you say it,” I demanded
“I’ll never leave you,” she swore.
I raised my eyebrow at her. That wasn’t enough this time. This time I want her promise. I want her word that she won’t leave me.
I felt relief wash over me. I wouldn’t ever have to worry about her leaving me now. She would stay with me. She promised. ‘How much value do you place on a promise given under duress?’ Damn the voice. She promised and I would hold her to it. It wasn’t duress. ‘If she loved you, you wouldn’t need the promise.’ I refused to let the voice taunt me. I was changing for her. I was earning her love. It would happen. ‘Really? With your caveman behavior today?’ I’m not a caveman. ‘Well you’re about to prove my point aren’t you?’ I locked the door on the voice. I didn’t want to hear anymore from him today.
“I didn’t consider running into people you knew before, how hard that would be for you. If we meet anyone else, you are to be polite and nothing more. These people are your past. They have no place in your future. I am your future.” I told her. My jaw tightened at the last whisper from the voice. ‘Caveman’.
“Yes Edward. I understand,” she answered softly.
I kissed her. I needed her so badly. “Now let’s get to the hotel.” “I want to finish what we started. We’ll come back in the morning and start boxing things up.” I was going to need to rethink a Christmas wedding. That was too far away. I couldn’t wait that long.
“I need a human moment before we go,” she said.
I let her go reluctantly, but I would have her again soon. There was no school, no set schedule that needed to be followed. I could take my time with her tonight. I would make her scream for me so many times until she was hoarse.
I went into the living room to wait for her. As I stood waiting I noticed a stack of DVD’s on the coffee table. I shook my head walking over. Why would she want to bring back movies? Number one, she won’t have a lot of time to sit and watch movies once we’re in our home. I was building a large two-story home for us. It’s going to take up a large part of her day just to keep up with everything. And two, I can buy whatever movie we would want to watch on the occasion that we do.
I bent and picked up the movie on top to see what was worth packing to take back. I was surprised that there wasn’t a movie cover on the black case. I turned it to read the spine; ‘Summer Vacation-2008’. I picked up a few more and started reading the spines; ‘Our Wedding-July 8, 1999’, ‘Lady Devil’s Championship & Party’. Out of curiosity I opened the case. I was surprised to see someone had labeled one of the discs with a picture of a girls’ softball team. Then I remembered the trophies upstairs. This was Bella’s team. I quickly looked through the rests of the cases and pulled a couple more out.
I heard the water running so knew Bella would be out in a minute. I ran out to the car and put three movies in my laptop case to watch later. I don’t know why, but I didn’t want Bella to know I had them.
I opened the front door as Bella came down the hall. “Are you ready love?” I asked her.
I was propped on my elbow watching Bella sleep. Some nights I was rewarded with her sleep talking. It was almost as good as being able to read her mind. In her sleep she didn’t censor what she was thinking. I loved the nights when she would call me ‘her Edward’. She would smile in her sleep. These were good nights.
Then there were the nights of her nightmares. I still hate that I let Charlie and James hurt her. How long would it be before she was finally past it all? These nights tore my heart out because she would call me ‘Carlisle’s Edward’. She would lump me in with the ones who hurt her. I don’t want to hurt her. I love her. I want her to feel safe and loved with me. I’m trying so hard.
I’ve had a few more talks with my brothers since the night at the club. Emmett’s ideas were easier to follow than Jasper’s. He hadn’t changed as much as Jasper. Of course all of that’s changed now. He treats Rosalie like she’s made of spun glass since he found out she was pregnant. He’s even had words with Carlisle more than once about it. I had a feeling my brother was a ticking time bomb ready to blow if our father pushed his last button. He was awfully close when we left.
I always thought pregnant women’s cravings were all in their head to get attention. That’s what Carlisle always told us anyway. No one would really eat some of the disgusting things I’d heard of at the hospital. I knew now they were all true. I brushed Bella’s hair back and kissed her cheek. I wonder what she’ll crave when she’s pregnant with our child. I really hope it’s not as disgusting as Rosalie’s.
I chuckled softly remembering. It was the evening before we left for Phoenix. Emmett wanted to test out his new barbeque pit so invited everyone for dinner. Bella, Alice and Mom spent the afternoon making the side dishes since she was still on bed rest. It was so funny to see my bear of a brother carry his wife around the house. I had just walked in but hadn’t made my presence known yet so I could watch Bella unobserved.
“Emmett, I can walk to my own kitchen you know?” Rosalie was scolding him.
“Rosie, the doctor said you were to rest. That means no walking. You can sit in the kitchen and visit, but your feet aren’t gonna touch the floor. Not if it’s the last thing I do!” He said this is in a mock Captain Hook voice, everyone chuckled at his nonsense. He continued, “Now, where do you want to sit?” he was standing in their kitchen, carrying her bridal style. Mom, Alice and Bella were all holding onto each other, gripping shoulders hard, on the verge of hysteria. It was amazing to see the differences in Bella when she didn’t know I was around.
“Put me at the island so I can help cut everything up.” She was pointing to the barstools.
Emmett scowled at her. “That’s not comfortable for you or the baby. Try again.”
“Fine then. Set me at the breakfast table,” she huffed.
He attempted to kiss her, but she smacked him away, he rolled his eyes and walked to the table. She leaned to pull out a chair to sit in. Emmett looked down at the chair and shook his head at her.
“Nope that won’t do either,” he said. I noticed he had a wicked gleam in his eye.
Rosalie crossed her arms over her chest and frowned at him. “Then just where in the hell do you expect me to sit Emmett Cullen? Huh? Are you just going to stand here and hold me all evening? You aren’t a multi-tasker and you and I both know it, jackass. How are you going to barbeque then? Now just put me the fuck down! Now!”
I was shocked at her language but Emmett just laughed at her. “Now Rosie, honey, you know getting upset isn’t good for you and the baby. Calm down like our old yoga instructor used to say,” he patronized her, making fun at the same time.
“Emmett you are making me so angry right now I’m going to scream and break windows. That won’t be good for the baby or the baby’s father. I promise you that,” she threatened.
Mom stepped in at that point. “Emmett, stop teasing her and show her already. You’re just aggravating her more.”
Rosalie narrowed her eyes at Emmett. “Show. Me. What?”
Emmett yelled over his shoulder. “Alright Jazz; bring it in before I spend the next five months in the doghouse.” He turned to Rosalie in his arms. His voice was full of love. “I love you baby. This time is going to be different. I can feel it. Our baby is going to make it and you’re going to be the best little mommy in the world.” He turned her around to Jasper so she could see her surprise.
She squealed and wrapped her arms around Emmett kissing him repeatedly on his face. “Thank you Emmy-Bear. I love it. The baby loves it too. I love you,” she was gushing, and had the most love-struck, goofy expression.
Emmett went and sat her in her new padded rocking chair. She rubbed the arms and leaned her head back against it. “It’s really comfortable. Mmm, I love it.”
He squatted down beside her. “I’m glad you like it Rose. I just want to make you happy. That’s my biggest goal in life, you know that?”
She stroked his face, affectionately. “I love you Emmett, with all my heart. You do make me happy… now,” she sighed. He sighed too, looked at Jasper with sad eyes, almost regretful.
Jasper just shrugged, almost telling him, hey kid, it was your fault, deal with the aftermath.
But he nodded in acknowledgment. Then Emmett proceeded to cast his eyes to mom, who was smiling slightly, her eyes showing sympathy, she walked over and hugged him. She kissed his cheek.
“I’m so proud of you,” she said.
She never said that to me. She never said anything to me, she didn’t hug me, kiss my cheek. She wasn’t proud of me. My conscience was telling me there wasn’t anything to be proud of.
I was so fucking fed up with this. They all had it and I wanted it. I stepped into the room so Bella would know I was there. I wanted to throw a fit as I watched her guard go up at my appearance. Why couldn’t she just continue like she had been before she saw me?
Carlisle came in at that point. “Well isn’t that typical? Sitting around when there’s work to be done. It’s the new norm, women being lazy,” he said sarcastically.
Emmett stood. His back was to Carlisle and I could see the anger he was trying to mask before turning around.
“Carlisle. Come outside and see my new barbeque pit.” He said stiffly.
Jasper jumped in, “Hey I want to see it also. I’ve been thinking about getting one for our house too.”
We went outside while Emmett made burgers. Jasper and I helped to keep the conversation off Rosalie for Emmett’s sake.
When dinner was ready Mom served Emmett since he wouldn’t let Rose out of her rocking chair. He carried it with her in it to the table much to Carlisle’s annoyance.
Carlisle was about to say something when Emmett jumped up from the table and went to the kitchen.
He came back with a jar of grape jelly. He kissed Rosalie’s cheek. “Sorry babe, I forgot. Esme made boiled okra for you also.”
She smiled at him and proceeded to build her burger. It was the most disgusting thing I’d ever seen in my life. The most repulsive, revolting…I couldn’t even go on. I choked up when I glanced at it. I went into a coughing fit, with Bella patting my back, almost slapping it. She took one particularly hard whack. Whoa, she was definitely hitting pretty hard.
“Are you okay, Edward?” her eyes were actually a little smug, a wicked gleam. She was nearly smirking, hitting my back. Almost as if she was enjoying it… It was something other than the blank stare I usually saw, so I did a double take. It was gone, she was now nervous, shaking off the momentarily lapse of emotion. Damnit.
I looked back to the reason, Rosalie’s burger. She put boiled okra and grape jelly on her hamburger with lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. It was on a cinnamon raisin bagel. She was eating it with chips.
Carlisle threw his napkin on the table. “Emmett, enough is enough! I understand following her doctor’s orders for bed rest. However, there is no reason whatsoever for that monstrosity of food. That is ruining my appetite. Get rid of it.”
Emmett slammed his hands on the table making everyone jump. “Carlisle this is my home. This is the only way Rosie can keep down beef right now. Yes, it’s gross, but no one said you had to eat it. You don’t like it then don’t look at her plate. Now stop upsetting my wife. I want her to enjoy her dinner. So back the hell off.”
The rest of the evening was awkward to say the least. Carlisle and Esme left right after dinner.
“Carlisle, please don’t.”
I snapped my attention back to the present. Bella was starting a nightmare tonight. It was another one that involved my father. I just wish she would say more when the dreams involved him. I didn’t understand how he could be a part of her nightmares.
“Please-. Momma, help me.” She started crying out. “He wants to hurt me. Make him stop.” She was crying and thrashing her head. Was I hurting her in her nightmare?
“Bella, I’m here. I won’t hurt you. I love you baby.” I held her closely and whispered in her ear trying to sooth her.
She continued to whimper in her sleep. It was starting to work again. I was calming her. I decided to try something different.
“Bella, am I hurting you?” I asked softly. I was afraid of the answer, but maybe if I understood her nightmares I could stop them from coming.
I watched as she wrinkled her brow. Did she hear me? “Bella, who’s hurting you? I want to stop them for you baby.”
I was glad to see her breathing coming back to normal and she was relaxing again. She snuggled back into me going back into a deep sleep. “Bella? Who wants to hurt you?” I tried one more time.
“Carlisle wants to hurt me,” she mumbled.
I stared down at her in shock. What did she mean? Carlisle would never hurt her. For the most part he ignored her. I was the only one to punish her so it couldn’t be that. I haven’t physically punished her in months. What was she afraid of? Was this what she was holding back from me that night, some irrational fear of my father? She never struck me as being irrational. She was actually very levelheaded considering everything she’s been through. So what was her fear? I played back the interactions I could remember; trying to see if there was something I was missing. Ok, Carlisle didn’t completely ignore her. He did tend to watch her a lot, but he never said anything. I knew he just wanted to be sure she was perfect. That could explain it. Couldn’t it?
I sighed. I was getting nowhere. I would just have to see if Bella will trust me enough to talk about her fear or ask Carlisle what she could be afraid of. I slipped out of bed tucking the blanket around Bella. I went into the living area of our hotel room and got out my laptop. I figured I could do some work. As I pulled it out of its case I saw the movies I had brought from Bella’s home. I decided to put one in and watch.
I looked at the dates on the cases. I had picked an old one and a couple that were recent. I put in the old DVD first. The year on the spine indicated that Bella was 8 years-old. The screen lit up to a picture of a ballpark. There was a young Bella in pig tails swinging a baseball bat. She missed the ball coming at her. I could hear the voice of a woman that must have been her mother encouraging her. The camera swung to focus in on a man at the pitchers mound.
“Come on honey. You can do it. Remember nothing is impossible,” her mother said.
Bella was angry and crying. “I can’t do it! It’s too hard. I suck.”
The man at the pitchers mound ran up to her and knelt down hugging her as she cried. I realized this was her step-father Phil.
“Bella sweetie its ok. Don’t ever put yourself down. You can do anything you set your mind to. I know it’s hard, but like your mom said ‘nothing is impossible’. How about we make a game of hitting the ball?”
Bella raised her head sniffing. “How?”
“Well…think of someone you don’t like very much,” he said.
I chuckled as I watched Bella screw up her face in concentration. “James. He was always mean to me,” she said.
I saw Phil glance up at her mother behind the camera worried. “Alright Bella, that’s good.” He held up the baseball in front of her. “Now you see this ball? Pretend that it’s James. When I throw the ball to you hit it as hard as you can. Do you want to try again?”
I smiled at Bella on the computer. She took a deep breath before nodding her head. Phil hugged and kissed her cheek before running back to the pitchers mound.
I held my breath as I waited for him to throw the ball. I wanted her to hit it. I didn’t want her to miss. I was surprised to hear my own whisper, “You can do it Bella.”
I watched her screw up her face again concentrating. “I’m gonna get you back James. You watch,” she said, now full of confidence in herself.
Phil threw the ball at her and she hit the ball with her bat. She was screaming, jumping up and down. “I did it! I did it!”
Her mom was cheering behind the camera and Phil came running up and picked her up over his shoulders. “That’s my girl. I knew you could do it.” She pulled off his cap and put it on her own head. “I’m a baseball player just like you now.”
He put her back down on the ground and she threw her arms around him. “I’m so glad momma married you. I love you Phil.”
“I love you too, honey. You’re my little chocolate eyed girl. ”
I backed up the movie to the point where Phil set her down. I closed my eyes as I hit play again. I pictured Bella as she is now; so calm and subdued. Then I saw the little girl she used to be with big sparkling brown eyes. She was so proud of her accomplishment. Then I heard those words so freely said that she wouldn’t say to me. ‘I love you Phil.’ I backed up the DVD and hit play again. ‘I love you-‘. I stopped the movie. I imagined my name coming after those three words. I heard them over again in my mind ‘I love you- Edward’. God, how sweet would that be to hear the woman I loved say those four magic words to me with as much enthusiasm as she said them for her step-father.