Friday, September 11, 2009
The Perfect Wife - Chapter 38
We drove back to the hotel quietly holding hands like any normal couple. Today was so monumental for me. I hoped and prayed I made the right decision by staying. I knew the chances that I would ever have such a clear opportunity to leave again were slim to none. But at that moment it just felt like the right decision. Now here I was, twenty minutes later, chewing my lip and second-guessing myself. What if I was wrong? What if it was the wrong choice? What if all of this was only a temporary reprieve? What if I just blew my only chance at survival? Oh God, what have I done?
I think I’d come to one absolute, rock solid, carved in granite, take it to the bank conclusion. I hated the words ‘what if’ and ‘maybe’ probably more than any other words in the English language. I suddenly felt very tired. I released a heavy sigh and leaned my head in my hand that was braced on the car door. I felt Edward release my other hand before feeling it slip under my hair to massage my neck. I closed my eyes. He was so good at that.
“Mmm.” I didn’t even bother to hold back the moan of appreciation.
“Are you alright?” he asked, slowly running his thumb up and down the side of my neck.
“Um-hum,” I mumbled, keeping my eyes closed. I wasn’t ready to talk just yet. I was too unsure of myself right now. I just needed to get a grip.
“Bella?” he prodded.
I squeezed my eyes closed tighter. “Not now, alright? I want to talk, but not until we’re in our room. Okay?” I requested.
I felt his hand still a moment before starting to massage my neck again. It took me all of half a second to realize what I’d done. I’d just turned him away without even a thought. I opened my eyes and turned to look at him. I stared at his profile for a moment but couldn’t see any of the usual signs of anger in his expression.
“Edward?” I asked softly.
He glanced at me and reached down taking my hand in my lap bringing it to his lips. He smiled and held my hand to his chest.
“We’ll talk in our room, just a few more minutes. I just have to get us through all this traffic.”
He kissed my hand again before releasing it back into my lap and returning to massaging my neck. This time when I closed my eyes, I felt the excess moisture that had welled up, not enough to fall but enough to wet my lashes. I took a deep breath releasing it. I’d made the right choice. I didn’t make a mistake. I reached up and gently pulled Edward’s hand from my neck. I kissed the back of his hand and held it against my cheek. I felt his thumb brush my jaw and smiled.
Nothing else was said in the car, and we arrived back at our hotel without further incident. Once in our room, Edward went to drop the bags in our bedroom and I got a couple of waters out of the mini-fridge as I kicked off my shoes and curled up on the sofa to wait for him.
Now that it was time to talk I had no clue how to begin. How did you negotiate your future with a fiancé you didn’t choose? Ours wasn’t a normal relationship by any stretch of the imagination. Now, however, everything was changing and we were going to find a way to be ‘normal.’ At least that was what I hoped Edward was agreeing to.
I’d made a split second decision to stay with him based really on two days’ behavior. What rational person did that? I’d either have to say I was the only one or I wasn’t rational; I was insane. I guess we’d see soon enough.
Edward came back in the room and sat on the sofa with me, taking the water I offered. I watched him as he took a long drink before setting the bottle down beside mine and turning to me. I had my legs curled up on the sofa, facing him, and smiled as he brought his arm up to rest on the back of the sofa. He seemed to be deep in thought, staring at his hand that was playing with a lock of my hair.
The silence was almost deafening as I tried to figure out what to say to begin this talk and Edward worked out whatever was on his mind. He finally looked up and our gazes locked together.
“Bella,” he started, breaking our silence. “Why didn’t you leave when you had the chance?”
I stared down at my hands, rubbing my palms back and forth on my thighs, while searching in vain for the words to explain what I was thinking and feeling at that moment in the mall. I struggled to put my thoughts together into a cohesive explanation that would make sense, but the more I tried, the more muddled my thoughts became. I finally gave up and decided to just let whatever words came fall out of my mouth, and hope they made sense.
I looked up at Edward, who was still waiting for my explanation, and took a deep breath. I sent up a quick silent prayer that I wasn’t going to sound stupid and juvenile to him. However smart my mom and Phil thought I was, I was still just seventeen and I was so afraid my reasons would prove just how naïve and immature I really was to him.
“I --” I hesitated.
“I --” I tried again to get the explanation to come forth.
“I --” I huffed. I drew my knees up to my chest dropping my head in my hands and gripped my hair in frustration.
“Ugh! I hate this!” I began mumbling to myself, forgetting Edward was even there. “I knew exactly what I wanted to say to you in the parking lot when you were holding me. It was crystal clear in my head.”
I jumped up from the sofa, unable to sit still in my frustration, and began pacing the room. I bemoaned my inability to put into words what was in my mind. And maybe in my heart?
“Why is this so freaking hard now?” I continued to ignore the fact that Edward was sitting and quietly observing my little monologue. My hands were flying all over the place as I tried to work out what I needed to say. I always thought better when I was moving. “I just want to tell you that you make me happy now. I’m not scared of you anymore. I feel like me again. I don’t even feel like a Barbie doll right now. You did this. You let me yell at you, and even when I gave you the belt, you didn’t hit me.
“You knew I needed to cry at the cemetery and you held me and comforted me. You laughed with me today. You’ve never really laughed with me before, not like normal couples do. I’ve never dated anyone, but I’ve seen Janie and Scott together. Today was just like them. I was having so much fun for the first time in forever that I forgot everything else. For the first time since entering this nightmare I was really happy. I could almost pretend that we were dating like normal people. It felt normal. I want normal. I freaking earned it and I’m not about to give it up. You’ve given me the best gift I could ever expect from you short of my freedom…”
I stopped short as it all fell into place. I looked over to Edward still sitting on the sofa, realizing that he’d just sat there silently through my rant. He had the strangest look on his face. He looked like he was in pain. I had to see the answer for myself. I walked over and kneeled onto the sofa with my legs straddling his lap. I held his face in my hands and searched for the confirmation of the truth in his eyes while he held my hips gently waiting for me to continue. I looked down into his eyes and felt those emotions bubbling up inside of me again. I felt the tears start to fall again as I stared into his eyes.
“You did that. You wouldn’t have stopped me today, would you?” I asked in wonder.
“No, I wouldn’t,” he admitted softly. He reached up to tuck my hair behind my ear giving me a gentle smile that melted my heart. “Today I would have let you go if that’s what you wanted.”
Somehow deep inside of me I’d known that. In that moment before walking away from him in the parking lot I’d known. Edward loved me enough that he would have let me go. Now I just had to learn to love him in return. A part of me knew I was already falling for my Edward. I knew now that it wouldn’t be hard to fall completely in love with him, the real Edward. Esme’s Edward. I smiled at the thought. My Edward and Esme’s Edward were the same man, only she knew and loved the boy. I was going to know and love the man. I had my answer for him now.
“I stayed because in that moment I wanted to be with you. I wanted to see what a future with you would be like. I stayed because I’ve given you my trust, not to hurt me and to love me for who I am. I stayed because I guess I really do care about you and I want to learn to love you as much as you say you love me.”
I leaned forward to curl up into his arms and gazed into his face with his dazzling crooked smile and his brilliant, emerald-green eyes that looked at me with so much love and emotion. Not a hint of Carlisle’s Edward to be found.
“I stayed because today you would have let me leave.” There was no other explanation needed than that. He would have let me go. I had seen it in his eyes. Today had really been my choice to stay. If I’d gotten into the car with the police officer and left, I would have been free.
One thing I’d learned in my time in Forks is that the Cullens were powerful and had the money to get away with anything. No one stopped them, the way we lived, and how I came to Edward proved this. If today had been any different and Edward hadn’t been willing to let me leave, I might have gotten away in that moment but one way or another I would have been back within 24 to 48 hours, tops.
I reached up and pulled his face to mine, kissing him with all the feeling inside of me. He returned my ardor with equal passion. I felt him slide his tongue between my parted lips and I welcomed him into the warm embrace of my mouth. I turned toward him more so that I could wrap my arms around him and felt Edward wrap his hand around my thighs, pulling me closer. I sucked and stroked his tongue with mine before slipping my tongue into his mouth. He groaned into my mouth and our tongues danced together between us.
I felt a hand quickly slide up under the back of my shirt and come around to cup my breast, pulling down the cup of my bra and pinch my nipple. He pulled me tighter into his hips grinding me into his pelvis.
I felt the evidence of what our kissing was doing to Edward and carefully began to pull back. My body responded to his every touch, but I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want to just continue our physical relationship as if nothing had changed between us. I know it sounds silly. We were really moving backwards in our relationship. I’d been with Edward for months; we’d done just about everything physical you can short of actually having sex. I knew by choosing to stay with him today I was agreeing to ultimately marry him in the end, but now we were really just getting to know each other. It didn’t feel right to continue the rest until I was more secure in my feelings with Edward. I could only hope he understood and wouldn’t be too angry with me.
“Edward,” I urged softly breaking our kiss. “I need to stop. Please?”
He rested his forehead against mine, breathing deeply, still holding me tightly in his arms. His eyes were shut tight as he fought for control. His hand was still cupping my bare breast.
“Please? I’m so--” I began, afraid to move in case he was angry.
“Bella,” he halted me, “don’t. I promised whatever you were comfortable with now. I’m trying. I just need you so much. It’s hard for me to stop, but I will. Just give me a minute.” He continued to hold me as his breathing slowed back down. He pulled the cup of my bra up over my breast and slid his hand out from under my shirt, letting it rest on my thigh. He finally opened his eyes to me. I could still feel his arousal but his eyes were no longer as dark.
“I guess I should put away the stuff we bought. Will you teach me to play chess this afternoon?” I asked, trying to distract him from his problem.
“That sounds like a good idea,” he agreed. He stood, helping me to my feet as well. “I’ll get the board set up on the table while you’re doing that.”
“Alright.” I went back into the bedroom and pulled out the bag from the game store and took it to Edward to set up.
“Here you go,” I said, handing him the bag. I stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek.
“Thank you, love,” he responded. I could still see the lines of tension around his mouth.
I went back into the bedroom and started pulling everything out of the bags. I went to the closet and realized something. Hotels don’t give you a lot of hangers. I stared at the clothes laid out on the bed and my clothes hanging in the closet. I chewed my lip as I thought about what to do. I released my lower lip and shook my head as I laughed quietly to myself. ‘Things were certainly different today,’ I thought as I began pulling the clothes I hated off the hangers and dropping them into a pile on the floor.
I got to choose what I wanted to wear now so these would go. I left only the couple of shirts and a dress I actually liked then hung up my new clothes on the now empty hangers. I would need Edward to take me shopping when we got home also so I could replace those things as well. I didn’t know what to do with the stuff I didn’t want to wear ever again. I picked everything up off the floor and stuffed them into the empty shopping bags and headed back out to the sitting room. It was time to learn something that was my choice to learn.
I spent a couple of hours teaching Bella the basics of chess; the names of the pieces and the moves they could make. She caught on quickly and I loved seeing the excitement and joy in her eyes as we played. It was a quick game since she would need to learn strategy before she gave me any real challenge, but I knew we would have a lifetime for her to learn.
She chose me today. My worst nightmare was washed away. I understood what Jasper meant when he told me what it would mean to have Bella choose me on her own. I broke down like a baby in that parking lot. I was so overwhelmed with emotion when she called me her fiancé, the fact that she didn’t run away from me when she had the opportunity.
I owed my brother so much for everything. I fought his advice every step of the way, determined to be right in how I handled Bella. I was a fucking idiot. Every time I followed his advice I made Bella happy. Every time I did things my way I hurt her emotionally and physically. How did I forget everything my mother taught me as a child? I saw it now that I was willing to look inside myself through the eyes of an adult; my mother secretly teaching us how to treat a woman with respect, not to be afraid to show love when we found it.
Then to forget everything she taught me in one night, the night I earned my father’s highest praise for humiliating my mother. I was so proud of myself. I strutted around at my brothers because I won his fucking challenge. I was a fourteen year-old punk and should have had my ass kicked for what I did to her, not rewarded for it. I didn’t stop to think about how it hurt my mother. I only saw the pride in his eyes, pride he so rarely showed me.
I was never good enough for him. If I made an “A” in class, why wasn’t it an “A+”? When I played basketball, why didn’t I score more points for my team? It was never enough for him. He was the reason I got where I am in life as fast as I have. I craved his attention, his praise. He withheld it knowing it was the best way to manipulate me. He used it to mold me into an exact replica of himself. I became a monster for him.
Choosing Bella to become my wife was the best decision I’d ever made in my life. She slew the monster within me. I could feel the difference within and I reveled in it. I didn’t think anyone else would have been able to affect me the way Bella had. I wanted to make her happy and earn her love. I knew today that eventually she would love me. We would have the perfect marriage that I craved. It would be like George and Maddie Owens. Bella knew and accepted my faults. However, there were no faults to accept in Bella; she was perfect in every way.
I shook myself from my thoughts as the bedroom door opened to see my Bella walking out in one of her new outfits. She was dressed in a bright pink top and white eyelet swing skirt with ballet flats. She smiled shyly at me. This was new; never before had she thought about her appearance. Probably because I chose all her clothing before so knew I always liked how she looked.
“Do I look okay?” she asked timidly as she walked up to stand in front of me. She looked so cute peeking up at me through her lashes and chewing on her bottom lip.
I held my hand above her and made a motion for her to turn around for me. I didn’t really need her to do it, she looked beautiful as always, but I wanted to play with her a bit.
“Turn around and let me see you.” I grinned as she turned slowly for me, watching my face the whole time.
“Well? Is it?” she asked nervously.
I stepped back and tapped my finger against my lips, contemplating my answer. “Hmm, I don’t know,” I answered slowly. I saw the look of doubt in her eyes and realized it was too soon for her to recognize I was only teasing her. I quickly took her hand and pulled her into my arms, tilting her chin up to look at me. I gave her a quick kiss and smiled reassuringly at her. “Yes, Bella, you look beautiful. You are always beautiful to me.”
I was rewarded with her pink tinged cheeks and shy smile, the twinkle back in her eyes for me. “Thank you,” she answered. She ran her hand across my chest, brushing imaginary lint from my black button down shirt. “You’re pretty handsome yourself,” she grinned.
I could feel my stomach tighten and wished I could take her back into our bedroom. I was going to have a hard time controlling myself around her. This afternoon proved that point. When she pulled back and told me to stop, I wanted to pin her down on the sofa and show her who was boss. I needed to be able to touch her. My body physically craved her body. My heart craved all of her, her heart, her mind, and her body. The real prize was in winning all of her and I knew this meant fighting my physical cravings. I wanted the whole package that was Bella. Today I won a small part of her heart. She chose me on her own. Now I just needed to win the rest. I’d reminded myself of my promise again and stepped back from her touch.
I cleared my throat. “So where’s this steakhouse you were telling me about?” I asked as I led her to the door.
Bella gave me directions to the restaurant and shared more stories of her mom and stepfather. Her life before me sounded ideal, something out of a fairytale, at least in comparison to my own childhood. I could hear the love in her voice for them and could picture them laughing together as a family. I was envious of the relationship she had with them. She openly loved her mother, and from everything she said and the home movies I watched it was obvious, she loved her stepfather and he loved her as well.
I wanted Christmas mornings around a big tree. I wanted to play Santa for our children like Bella told me Phil did for her. I wanted to see her belly swollen with a child, with a couple of little munchkins running around at her feet. She’d be tired at the end of the day from taking care of our children and home. When I came home from the hospital at night, she’d be glad to see me, her eyes filled with love for me. I’d kiss her lips and her belly, telling her how much I loved her. Our children would run to me and I’d take them outside to toss a ball while Bella finished our dinner. I wanted to have picnics in our living room at night, everyone loving and laughing while Bella made popcorn for us to eat. I wanted this life with Bella.
This was love, not the watered down twisted thing my father had for my mother or even for us. Listening to her talk, I came to the realization that I never heard my father say he loved us. I’d never heard him say he loved my mother either. I wondered what led him to become the man I knew. I would love to know if he loved my mother at all, and if so, how he could possibly think everything he did to her was okay.
The hostess tried to flirt with me when she led us to our table, but I only had eyes for my beautiful Bella. There was no other woman in the world beside her. I vaguely heard her mention our waiter’s name as she walked away. I saw Bella open her menu and stopped my automatic response to take it from her. I shook my head in disgust at myself as I opened my own menu. So many things ingrained in me I would need to relearn.
“So what’s good here,” I asked. It felt strange asking her what I should eat instead of telling her what to eat.
“Everything is good. Phil always liked the T-bone, mom liked the filet mignon, and I like their peppered steak salad or fried catfish. I think I want the catfish tonight. I’m in the mood for their squashpuppies.”
I cocked my eyebrow at her. “Squashpuppies? What on earth are those?”
“They’re hushpuppies with yellow squash mixed into the batter.” She grinned mischievously at me. “If you let me get chocolate cake for dessert, I might let you try one.”
I took her hand on the table and brought it to my lips. I winked at her as I kissed her hand. “You got yourself a deal, my love.”
Bella’s eyes continued to twinkle the entire evening. She loved it when I bowed to her knowledge of fantastic cuisine. From now on, if Bella told me something was good, I didn’t care if she told me we were having mountain lion and fried grizzly paws for dinner. If Bella said it was good I would eat it. I was only sorry squashpuppies didn’t come with my steak.
Bella winked and told me the recipe was in a cookbook at her home. I told her to be sure that book came with us. I saw the twinkle dim at the mention of packing up her home. I worked to bring the twinkle back as quickly as possible. I didn’t want to see her sad.
“Checkmate,” I said.
“Ugh, this game is so hard,” Bella complained. “I swear I’ll never be able to win. I know the pieces and what they do. What am I doing wrong?”
“It just takes time to learn the strategy. You’ll get it,” I reassured her. She was so cute when she pouted. I just wanted to suck her bottom lip between mine and never let it go.
I saw her try unsuccessfully to stifle a yawn. “I want to try aga-again,” she yawned eventually.
I chuckled at her. She was obviously tired and too stubborn to call it a night. I stood from the table and scooped her up into my arms. She squealed, and then quickly buried her face in my chest to hide another yawn.
“I don’t think so,” I whispered softly. I carried her to our bedroom and set her on the side of the bed.
I went to the dresser and pulled out her raspberry pajama set. I turned back to her in time to see her mouth stretch in a huge yawn.
“Excuse me,” she grinned sheepishly.
“That’s okay, love. I know you’re tired. Here, lift your arms,” I told her.
I helped her undress and put on her pajamas. I swallowed hard at seeing her bare breasts before me. I struggled but successfully managed to dress her without touching her the way I wanted.
She lay down and I sat beside her to rub her back. I wasn’t coming to bed yet and I wanted her asleep before I left the room. I had a call to make that I didn’t want her to overhear.
“Bella, go to sleep. I know you’re tired,” I said. “I’ll be to bed in a few minutes.”
She shouldn’t have any nightmares tonight but I knew I’d be in bed before she started sleep talking just in case. She finally dozed off and I covered her before leaning in to kiss her cheek and left the room.
Edward noticed my yawn and picked me up, carrying me to bed. He rolled me onto my stomach and lay down beside me rubbing my back. I closed my eyes and hummed in appreciation. It felt so good.
“Bella, go to sleep. I know you’re tired,” he said. “I’ll be to bed in a few minutes.”
This was one of those times I didn’t mind Edward’s highhandedness as I yawned again and nodded. He leaned down to kiss my cheek and pulled the blanket over me before leaving the room. I heard the door quietly click shut and was left in darkness. I thought about our day and what it would be like to have a lifetime of days like today, a lifetime of Edward’s laughter and kindness. To accept the intense love he would give me, as I would learn to love him in return. I would be safe from anyone ever hurting me again. Edward would never let anyone hurt me I knew that now. As I drifted off to sleep, I decided to rethink my decision to keep Carlisle’s threat a secret from Edward. I would let my trust in Edward grow and when I felt completely safe with him I would finally tell him.
I quietly shut the bedroom door so Bella could sleep. I pulled out my cell phone and dialed Jasper’s number as I grabbed a bottle of water. I sat on the sofa and propped my feet up while I waited for him to answer. I had so much to talk to him about.
It was hard to believe we’d only been in Phoenix a few days, but it felt like Forks was a lifetime ago. I could feel the shift inside of me; the shift from the man my father raised me to be to the man my mother raised me to be. I couldn’t wait to get home and talk to her. I owed my mother such a huge apology for the way I treated her over the years. I couldn’t wait to tell her I loved her. My mother would be my first priority when we got home. My apology was long overdue.
Second priority would be to offer whatever incentive the builder would need to finish our home as quickly as possible. I’d pay for a bigger crew if that was what he needed. I wanted to start our picture perfect life just as soon as we could.
I’d need to stop at Mr. McGee’s shop the week we get home so I can pick up Bella’s ring. It was time to make us official. I thought a summer wedding would be best. There was no way I could wait for a Christmas wedding now. I was going to spontaneously combust if I didn’t get to relieve my physical needs soon and I’d only gone without for two days.
I’d need to talk with Carlisle about the timing for voiding the adoption. I knew he made sure the attorney left in that loophole so I wouldn’t have any problems marrying Bella.
I was so busy making a mental list that I was startled when I heard someone yell in my ear.
“Edward! So help me, you better not have hurt her! Answer me, damn it!” I heard my brother yell into the phone.
“Jasper? What the hell are you yelling about?” I asked. I was confused and angry at his accusation. “Why is your first assumption always that I’ve hurt Bella?”
“Edward, what am I supposed to think? You call me, then don’t respond when I say ‘hello.’ I’ve been trying to get your attention for the past couple of minutes. What else was I supposed to think?” he justified.
“Well, I didn’t. I was just thinking and wasn’t paying attention to the fact you had answered. Alright?”
I heard him sigh in relief. “Alright. I’m sorry. You just scared me for a minute. So, what’s up?”
“I need your help with something. Bella’s parents bought her a car for her birthday before they died. She didn’t know. We found it in the garage at the house. I want to ship it home as a surprise for her. Can I store it in your garage until I give it to her?” I asked.
“You’re actually going to let her keep it? Wow. Who are you and what have you done with my brother?” he laughed.
“Well if that impresses you then you better be sitting for this one. I’m not selling the house,” I said smugly. There was silence on the other line for a split second before I heard a shrill screech in my ear. I should have known Alice would be nearby and listening. It amazed me that it didn’t annoy me like it would have in the past.
I heard noise as she evidently took the phone from Jasper. “Hello Alice,” I chuckled.
“Oh Edward, Bella must be so excited. What did she say when you told her?” she asked.
“I haven’t told her yet. I just decided tonight. I’ll tell her tomorrow when we go back to finish packing her pictures and things.”
“How is Bella doing?” she asked.
“Things are really good between us, Alice. Now I hate to cut you off because I can tell you have a million questions, but I really need to talk to Jasper for a bit, okay? I promise to have Bella call you tomorrow and you can talk to her yourself. Just don’t tell her about the house or the car. Those are a surprise, alright?”
I pulled the phone from my ear quickly as she squealed in excitement. “Here’s Jasper. Don’t forget, you promised I can talk to her tomorrow.”
“I won’t forget. Now can I talk to Jasper?”
I heard my brother laugh as he took the phone back from his wife. “Hey Pixie, would you mind making up some of the cookie dough and I’ll make coffee when I get off so we can cuddle by the fireplace tonight?”
I heard kissing noises on the phone before my brother remembered I was still on the line. I heard Alice’s feet skip - or so it sounded - away. I shook my head and thought of seeing Bella that happy. I smiled at the mental picture I’d created in my mind this afternoon of our home life.
“Sorry Edward. What did you need?” he asked.
“I just wanted to be sure she got the flowers I ordered,” I asked nervously.
Watching Bella at the cemetery had made me think of my own mother. I knew flowers didn’t make up for everything, but I didn’t want to wait to tell her I loved her. Sitting in a cemetery brought home how short life can be, how quickly something can snuff out a life. I didn’t want to wait one second to let my mother know I was thinking about her. I’d ordered the largest arrangement of spring flowers to be delivered to Jasper’s house for her. I didn’t want my father to know about them so he wouldn’t get suspicious or throw them out. They were for her.
“Yeah, she got them. She cried for half an hour over the card alone. She comes by the house several times a day to smell them and read the card again. She said if you called again to tell you they’re beautiful and she understands. She said she’ll see you when you come home.”
I finished my conversation making the necessary arrangements for Bella’s car and hung up the phone. As I crawled into bed and spooned into Bella’s back I smiled. I had made good decisions in my relationship with my mother and my Bella. And best of all I had made these decisions on my own. I was going to be able to do this after all. I would make my mother proud of me. And Bella was going to love me and we’d have a wonderful life and marriage.
Posted by rmcrms5 at 8:28 PM