It’s been a little more than 3 weeks since Bella’s attack. I don’t know what to do anymore. I’ve done as Emmett said. I’ve been patient. She won’t talk to anyone. She eats if food is placed in front of her. She only gives two word answers to everything I say; ‘yes Edward’ or ‘no Edward’. Occasionally I get lucky and get three words; ‘thank you Edward’.
The holidays passed without fanfare due to Bella’s state of mind and the ‘sad’ deaths of her father and brother. I thought with satisfaction once more that at least those monsters couldn’t ever hurt her again. The investigation ruled a faulty gas line to the kitchen stove. Evidently Charlie, James and Paul died of asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning in their sleep before the fire. We were told they didn’t suffer. I smiled, as I knew better. More like plastic bags and they were wide awake. I wanted them to see it coming. I don’t even know what all Sam and Jacob did to them before they died. I just know they grabbed all the vegetables off the table on their way out along with the canvas bag. I wished we could have let them burn alive in the house fire. Jacob and Sam told me it would raise too many suspicions so they died right before the fire started.
At first when we left Charlie’s house she clung to me. She went into hysterics when I wanted Carlisle to examine her. She made me stay in the room with her and wouldn’t let go of my hand. Now, she flinches anytime I try to touch or kiss her. She has nightmares every night. Carlisle finally gave me some sleeping pills to crush in her drink. She refused to take them voluntarily. I hold her every night while she sleeps. Of course, I can only do this after the pills take effect. I make sure to move back to the sofa in the sitting room before she wakes in the morning. I don’t know how she would react knowing I watch over her throughout the night.
I’m so afraid that she won’t recover from this. I need to talk to someone. As I looked down at my angel sleeping in my arms I thought about Alice. James traumatized her also. Jasper would know what to do. I would talk to him in the morning. Maybe I’ll talk to Emmett again also. I was so confused by what I’d learned from my brothers. Neither of them followed Carlisle’s example for a successful marriage, yet they both felt they had one. From the little bit I’d observed and what they had told me I gathered that Jasper had deviated the furthest from Carlisle’s teachings.
Emmett still felt there was merit in some of the things we’d been taught. He said to focus on what mattered most to me and leave the rest. Could I do that? Could I live without her being perfect? I looked down at her sleeping face that was finally peaceful, the latest nightmare having passed. I stroked her hair back so I could gaze on her one last time tonight before slipping out of bed back to my cold lonely sofa. Who was I kidding? She was perfect before she came here. Before I destroyed her life with my choice and expectations.
So what mattered most to me? This was something I would have to do some serious thinking on. Until this moment everything was important. Now I was going to need to reevaluate levels of importance and decide what I could live without. I only knew I could not live without Bella in my life.
The first step was complete now. Carlisle and Esme are her parents as of this week. The attorney rushed everything through and the judge took Bella’s behavior as shock from the deaths of the last of her family. The story was she spent the evening at our house with Esme taking cooking lessons and had fallen asleep watching a movie with the family. The judge was very sympathetic and since Carlisle and Charlie’s friendship was longstanding felt this was the best environment for her to finish high school.
The judge would have a heart attack if he knew the truth of our wonderful dedicated chief of police and chief of staff at the hospital. Of course I’m no saint either.
The only saint I see in this family is possibly Jasper.
Hmm…Jasper. Knowing the little that I do now from our brief talk I understand why we aren’t close any longer. Why we drifted apart after he got Alice. He was hiding who he became from the family, even me. He didn’t trust any of us not to give away his secret. Again, Emmett is right. We hide how we get our wives from the public and then hide how we live with them from our father.
Even as grown men our father still had control over our lives and actions. I had never looked at is as control before Bella. I had seen it as love and devotion to family. Jasper and Emmett had me questioning the very foundation my values and morality were built upon. Emmett and Jasper both ran successful businesses. However, one hundred percent of the financing came from Carlisle. They each built homes when they married. They owned their homes; Carlisle owned the ground they sat on. I owed him my entire college education and construction was already underway on our home.
It was too late to back out. He could literally pull the rug out from under any of us at any given moment if he sensed anything less than total loyalty from his sons.
I would talk to Jasper in the morning. I slipped out of bed tucking Bella under the covers and kissing her forehead for the last time until she was asleep again tonight. Soon I’d find a way to get her back.
I woke up to the empty room I have been living in. I wasn’t ready to get out of bed. I lay here staring at the ceiling trying to put my thoughts together before I face another day. I don’t know what is going to happen to me now. I vaguely remember Edward saying my adoption was finalized. The attorney was able to rush it since now I was an orphan. I remember sitting in a courtroom and someone offering condolences.
I gave the responses that were expected of me. Funny, being an orphan is probably the best thing that’s happened to me since I moved here. God must have finally decided I had enough at their hands. They all died the night of my attack. How bizarre is that?
I’m now officially a Cullen, but I know Edward doesn’t want me any longer after what James and his friend did to me. Edward was there, he saw me. I knew he was disgusted with me. That’s why he never sleeps in his bed. If I didn’t have Rosalie, Alice and Esme I don’t think I could have survived the last three weeks. They are helping me mend, especially Alice and Rosalie. They convinced me to talk about what happened and how I felt. I didn’t want to at first; it was just too hard to say the words.
I know what happened isn’t much different than what I had already been subjected to at Charlie or James’ hand, or even, for that matter, Edward’s. But somehow, this time felt different. This time wasn’t just abuse. This time felt like rape even though they didn’t break my hymen. Carlisle verified that for Edward, much to their combined relief. I shuddered as I thought of that exam. I was so terrified to be left alone with Carlisle after the last time alone with him. I refused to let Edward leave the room. As much as I was afraid of him also, he was the least of the villains in my life.
I heard Edward moving on the sofa in the other room. I knew that meant he was awake and would come to get me for breakfast. My body was healing and most of my bruises were an ugly yellowish color now. I could sit with only minor discomfort. I knew Carlisle wanted to check my progress today. He seems to have lost interest in all thoughts of revenge since my attack. Whether it was because of what was done to me, made me less appealing in his eyes or because of Charlie’s death. Either way, I was grateful not to worry about him any longer. I heard their voices from the sitting room so knew it was time.
Edward came into the room first to be sure I was awake. I watched him walk up to me. He smiled at me and carefully reached out his hand toward me.
“Good morning Bella. How did you sleep last night?” he asked.
I couldn’t stop myself. I flinched. I didn’t want him to touch me. I was dirty. I saw his smile disappear. I looked in his eyes and was confused by what I saw. I saw frustration and sadness in his gaze. Why would he be sad?
“Fine Edward. Thank you for asking,” I answered.
“Well that’s progress at least.” He smiled again, clearing his expression.
I looked at him in confusion. I didn’t know what he was talking about. He seemed to understand my unspoken question.
“That’s six words Bella,” he said softly. “That’s the most you’ve spoken to me in three weeks.”
“I’m sorry,” I answered. I didn’t know what to say to him. I didn’t know what he was going to do about me. He didn’t want me. No one wanted me after this. Right now I felt I was little better than a charity case.
“Bella? Carlisle would like to examine you to see how you’re healing.”
I looked toward the door and saw Carlisle standing looking at me. There was no lust or ugliness in his gaze as he watched our interaction. Of course, there was no compassion or sympathy either. I looked back at Edward.
“Will you stay with me? I’m afraid.” I asked. I still couldn’t handle being alone with Carlisle.
“Yes, Love if it makes you feel better.” He smiled again, “That was seven words.”
Was he honestly going to count every word I said to him? Have I been that quiet? I talked to Esme, Alice and Rosalie. I thought back over the past three weeks. I guess I haven’t said anything around him. I didn’t know what to say. What was acceptable?
“Ok Bella, lets get this exam finished so I can have breakfast, shall we?” Carlisle said briskly. He was clearly annoyed with our conversation. “The sooner you heal the sooner you can start taking care of your duties for Edward.”
I felt the tears start welling in my eyes. I tried to stifle them before they became noticeable. Edward noticed and frowned.
“I’m sorry Edward,” I whispered. I didn’t know if I was apologizing for crying or my attack.
“Carlisle that isn’t necessary. I’m not worried about her duties. I want her well. That’s all I am concerned with right now.”
He turned back toward me and smiled encouragingly.
“Bella, love, it’s alright. Your only concern is to get well.” He seemed hesitant. “May I touch you? Would that be ok?”
I couldn’t believe he was asking! I heard Carlisle huff behind him, clearly getting angry at Edward’s behavior. I nodded my head to Edward and braced myself not to flinch this time.
He reached slowly so as not to scare or startle me. I watched his hand as he brought it closer before I felt it tentatively brush my cheek. We watched each other carefully. He continued to brush my cheek each stroke going slower until he finally cupped my cheek in his hand and held it there.
We both let out a breath. I don’t think either of us realized we were holding our breaths until that moment. He smiled the most dazzling crooked smile at me. Anyone would think he had just won the lottery. I felt my heart skip a beat looking at him. I gave him a small smile in return.
“I have things to do Edward. I can’t stand here all day.” Leave it to Carlisle to ruin the moment.
“Of course, Carlisle. Forgive me.” Edward was clearly trying to hide his anger at his father’s insensitivity. He turned back to me. “Bella I’m going to pull the blanket down so Carlisle can check your recovery.”
I took a deep breath and nodded my consent. I stared at Edward refusing to look at Carlisle.
“Well that’s hardly appropriate attire, Edward.”
Carlisle was annoyed. Since the attack I had been sleeping in Phil’s baseball jersey. I refused to let Edward take it when we got here that day. I didn’t know if I would ever see it again. He had promised he would leave it in the bedroom for me with clean underwear after I took a shower. I have only let it out of my sight since then for Esme to wash it. Carlisle hadn’t known I still had it. It didn’t fit with the Cullen men’s taste in clothing.
“Let it go Carlisle. I don’t see the harm while she is healing. It helps her.” Edward defended his stand on this. I was grateful.
Carlisle huffed again and said brusquely, “Fine, let’s just get this over with.”
After a cursory examination showed that everything was healing and there would be no lasting damage to my body Carlisle left to clean up and go down to breakfast. I was glad to see him go.
I took a shower and washed my hair. I didn’t feel the need to scour my body any longer. I just washed extra thoroughly now. Maybe my mind was healing a little also. I would talk to Alice after breakfast.
I came out to the bedroom to see my clothes laid on the bed for me today. I may get to sleep in my jersey for now, but Edward still picked my clothes. At least they were jeans lately. Still tight the way he liked them, but I didn’t feel as exposed.
There was also a long sleeve royal blue sweater that fit snug and had a deep V that showed the swell of my breasts between. I sat zipping up the heeled boots he’d placed by the bed as he came back in the room.
I stood for his appraisal as expected. I’d already fixed my hair and make up before coming out of the bathroom. I saw his eyes darken, as he looked me over. He slowly walked to me with his palms up in front of him, stopping to stand before me.
“May I hold you?” he hesitated watching my eyes carefully.
I took a deep breath and stepped into his arms. They slowly enveloped me. We stood like this for a few minutes while I got used to the feel of him holding me. I finally started to relax encouraging him to tighten his hold ever so gradually. If my breath hitched he would stop and not move again until he felt me breathe again.
He finally tilted my face up to see his.
“May I kiss you Bella?” he asked.
I could hear the pleading in his voice. The tremor he was trying to hide behind his darkened eyes. He actually desired me still. Did this mean he still wanted me?
I stared into his eyes searching for anything that would cause me to fear him. Finding nothing there but desire, I nodded my consent slowly. I wasn’t sure if I could handle this, but I wanted to try.
He kept his eyes open as his face descended to mine. I thought he would kiss my mouth. He didn’t. He kissed my forehead before raising back up to gauge my reaction to this touch. He must have been encouraged by what he found in my gaze. He then leaned back in and kissed my eyelids before kissing my forehead again. He again rose up to look at me always searching my reaction to his touch.
This time I reached up and touched his cheek gently. He closed his eyes and leaned his face into my touch.
“Oh Bella, I’ve missed you so much,” he groaned softly.
His hold tightened ever so slightly around my waist.
“May I kiss you again Bella?” His voice was shaking.
“Please,” I whispered back asking as much as answering.
He opened his eyes and looked at me again. I tilted my face back to him and closed my eyes. I was putting my trust in him with this gesture not to hurt me.
He groaned and I felt him lean in to place a whisper of a kiss on my lips. He continued placing only the lightest kisses across my mouth. Each felt no more than a brush of a feather. None ever made me feel fear or anxiety. I was willing to try a step further. I slid my hand that was resting on his chest up around his neck and let him know he could deepen the kiss further.
“Open your mouth to me Bella,” he whispered as he brushed his tongue against my lips begging for entrance.
I opened my lips to him ever so slightly. I still wasn’t sure if I could do this or not. He seemed to understand and kept the kiss gentle, just brushing the inside of my lips and my teeth with his tongue, never plunging deeper. I shuddered. This was as far as I could go.
He sensed my withdrawal and I looked for reproach in his eyes. I was surprised only to find understanding. He kissed my nose before loosening his hold on me.
“Let’s go to breakfast shall we?” he smiled. “I need to go to the hospital today, but Esme is going to be here with you.”
I smiled. I liked spending time with his mother. She was so sweet and kind to me.
She was becoming my second mother. She was the nurturing figure I needed to help guide me in this confusing world in which I now lived.
Carlisle had already eaten and left for the hospital by the time we got downstairs. Esme was cleaning up from Carlisle’s breakfast and was waiting for Edward. She smiled at me as we entered the kitchen. During this time she had been fixing Edward’s meals, knowing I wasn’t up to it. I always ate after he left.
“Good morning Edward. Bella.” Esme said coming up to hug us both.
“Good morning Esme,” I replied.
“Good morning Esme.” Edward kissed her cheek. “I would like Bella to serve me this morning. You can go take care of whatever you need to do.”
He turned to me as he said this. “Do you think you can do that this morning, Bella?”
I knew being alone would mean I would have to let him touch me again. I had to move past my fear. I didn’t know how long his patience would last with me. I have to admit he’s been kinder than I thought he would be during this. But I knew he was getting frustrated with my distance.
Esme looked at me with concern, but didn’t voice any objections. We’re not allowed to deny or give any indication we disagree with the men. Esme has been helping me learn my way when we’re together.
I took a shallow breath so that Edward wouldn’t notice my trepidation.
“Yes Edward. I would like to serve you this morning.” I gave him a weak smile. It was the best I could do at the moment.
“See Bella, we’re getting there. That was ten words. You didn’t even have to think about them.” He smiled as he went to the breakfast table to wait on me to serve him.
Esme gave my hand a brief squeeze as she left the room. I took another breath and walked to the stove to prepare his food. Esme had left a plate warming in the oven so his food would be served hot. She explained this allowed him to take his time eating (in case he wanted to prolong my time ‘serving’ him) and his food would remain hot.
I took the waffle from the iron that she had been preparing for him and put it on his plate with the warm blueberry compote and a dollop of real whipping cream. She explained Carlisle did not like the whip cream in a can when we could always make fresh. I put two slices of bacon on the plate with it and took it to set in front of Edward.
He watched me as I walked to the table. I set his plate in front of him and went to get his cup and the coffee pot. I chewed my lip working on building my nerve as he watched me carefully.
“Edward, may I pour your coffee for you?” I could hear the tremor in my own voice so I knew he heard it.
He chose to ignore the way I asked. I forgot I’m supposed to ask if I could sit in his lap. He pushed his chair back slightly and smiled encouragingly.
“Yes Bella I would like that very much.” I heard the intensity he was trying to hide as he spoke.
I sat down in his lap forcing my feet to stay put and not run from the room. He placed both hands on the table on either side of me. He was careful not to touch me, but I was trapped within his arms nonetheless. I took a breath and forced myself to remain calm. I could feel the memory of spilt coffee with Charlie trying to come forward and I relentlessly pushed it away. I was so relieved when I was able to pour his coffee without spilling.
“Would you like cream in your coffee?” I asked.
“Yes Bella, that’s very good. You paid attention.” He slid his hands off the table and rested them lightly on my hips. I sat stiffly trying again to not bolt from the room.
“Relax Bella. I’m not going to hurt you. I want to have breakfast with you,” he murmured.
I could feel his breath on my neck as he gently placed a kiss below my ear. He slid his hands slowly forward to wrap me fully in another embrace pulling me back slightly so I rested against his chest. He continued to place kisses from below my ear down to where my sweater hid my shoulder. After a couple of minutes doing this feeling me start to relax, he lifted his hand to slowly pull my sweater away from my shoulder to expose more skin to him. I shuddered. This time my shudder had a different feeling. It wasn’t all fear. A very small part of me liked the way his lips felt on my neck.
I could feel Edward’s arousal against my back and felt my anxiety start to build again. I knew I couldn’t take much more before he felt it also. I decided to distract him instead.
“Edward, your food is going to get cold.” I tried.
He let his lips linger in a soft kiss on my shoulder before setting my sweater in place once more. I felt him rest his forehead between my shoulder blades and I could feel his breath warm through the fabric of my sweater as he tried to gain control of himself.
“You may get your breakfast Bella,” he finally said.
He released me and I fought against bolting out of his lap. I stood and calmly walked back to the stove to prepare my breakfast. I fixed my plate and went to sit with him at the table. I made certain to keep an eye on Edward to see if there was anything he needed. It was my job to anticipate his needs and take care of them before he had to ask.
Fortunately he seemed to sense that I couldn’t handle another encounter in his lap and didn’t want anything more. He finished eating and stood to leave. He held my chair for me to stand and follow him from the kitchen to the door. He kissed me again gently before leaving for the hospital.
“I’ll be home early today Bella. I would like to have dinner with just you in our room so we can talk tonight.”
“Yes Edward. I’ll have dinner waiting for you.”
I watched him drive away and felt the tension melt away from my shoulders. I heard a noise from the hall and smiled. A true smile. I walked quickly back to the kitchen where I got to be myself.
I saw my ‘real’ family. My new mother and sisters were sitting at the table shuffling cards and waiting for me. There was a coke sitting at my place. They were laughing and talking.
Esme looked up as I walked in. I propped against the door and unzipped the boots kicking them off and padding barefoot to the table wiggling my toes. Everyone had bare feet under the table.
“I’m sorry Bella. How did it go this morning?” Esme asked concern written in her face as she looked at me.
“It was fine. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done to help me adjust. I didn’t run from the room and I think he was pleased. He wants to have dinner in our room tonight to talk.” I leaned down to hug and kiss her cheek before sitting in my seat taking up my cards. “I don’t know how much longer his patience is going to last. I’m still not ready to be ‘more’ with him yet. I still feel dirty and I still have nightmares, but they’re getting better. Sometimes lately I dream that Edward is holding me keeping James and Paul away from me. But then I wake up alone and he’s not there. I don’t know if he still wants me. This morning though, he wanted to hold me and kiss me, so maybe?”
“Bella, Edward still wants you,” Alice assured me. “He’s at a loss right now with how to be with you. Look at how he’s acting with you now. It’s not easy going against a lifetime of twisted logic and beliefs pounded into his head. Carlisle isn’t pleased that Edward is being so patient. He thinks Edward should ‘snap you out of it’. It says a lot for his potential that he’s gone against Carlisle in this.”
“That’s right Bella. Give Emmett and Jasper time.” I turned to Rosalie as she spoke. “I know they can get through to him. Just keep to the program when you’re with Edward or Carlisle. I know Edward feels something for you. I saw him at Charlie’s when he carried you out of the house. I think it’s only a matter of time.
Alice and I have had time with Emmett and Jasper to show them how marriage should be. Edward is new to this and he has a lifetime of Carlisle ringing in his head. I know Edward will change. I promise you will be just as happy as we are.”
“Bella, honey, know that we’re here for you. I told you from the beginning it would be ok and it will. This,” she said making a circle around the table with her hand to encompass us, “is our time together to gather strength for when we put our masks back on at night.” Esme smiled. “I’ll help you prepare dinner for the two of you this evening, Bella.” She smiled widely and laughed. “Now I think yesterday I was down by $13,229. So anti up girls, momma needs a new pair of high heels.”
We all laughed and threw our matchsticks to the center of the table.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
The Perfect Wife - Chapter 22