Monday, June 11, 2012

The Cocky and the Cougar, Chapter Sixteen - The Reality of the Situation


Chapter 16 ~ The Reality of The Situation
I made it out to my truck before I exploded in tears. I was pretty proud of myself for doing that well, but I did have to sit in my truck for several minutes before I was able to turn the key and actually start driving. I was in a semi-panic, afraid Edward would come outside while I was stuck there and there was no way in the world I wanted to see him, yet. That panic seemed to make me cry even harder for a while.
As I took deep breaths and wiped tears from my face, starting up the cold engine of my old vehicle, a million different thoughts trampled through my mind, seemingly all at once. Might that have been a relative or just a friend? He had told me he'd had a friend coming for a visit, after all ... of course, being an idiot, I never asked for clarification as to just who this friend was. I momentarily thought I might have jumped the gun and considered that perhaps I should turn around and simply ask Edward what was going on, like an adult. But then I remembered that voice. The sultry sounds she made, almost purring her words over the phone. And the mention of La Perla.
I don't think a friend shops at La Perla so she can model her purchases for him while she's visiting.
I also didn't think friends said I love you in quite the same way that woman had in her message.
The same I love you Edward had said to me, reflecting a feeling he told me he'd never felt for anyone else.
My phone started to ring and of course it was him.
I didn't even make it out of his parking lot before I pulled over and threw up the egg whites I'd scrambled for breakfast. I would have to talk to Edward, of course. I just couldn’t do it, yet.
I was late arriving to work. I called Carlisle personally that morning and told him I wouldn't make the Director's meeting because I apparently had some sort of stomach flu. I'd never lied to the man before and felt badly doing so, but since I'd been throwing up I didn't really consider my fib too far from the heart of the matter. I asked him if he needed me to call in for the meeting
"For fuck’s sake, no! Get some rest," he almost barked into the phone. "You never call out sick, Bella. You know, we can survive without you."
"I know," I sighed. "Believe me, I'd love to. But I have a conference call midmorning and while I could do that from home, I'd be leaving Jessica in a bit of a bind and I don't want to do that."
"Okay, but if you're still sick just fucking go home afterward."
And so I found myself dragging ass to work at ten o'clock. I felt like shit and was afraid I looked every bit as enticing. I did go through the motions—I covered the puffiness under my eyes (or tried to, anyway) with make-up and wore a new, dark blue business suit I'd just purchased during my recent shopping spree. I even straightened my hair and, at the last minute, popped in my lucky hair comb, for moral support. Before I left the house, I looked myself over in the full-length mirror in my bedroom. The outside shell looked fine, well put-together; tough, even. But I knew that with one hit against the countertop, just like the eggs I'd scrambled that morning, I would crush and crumble and the baby chick inside would spill out into the frying pan.
I took a deep breath. "You can do this," I said to myself, aloud.
My phone rang again, for the umpteenth time that morning. He had also sent me several text messages.
7:00am – Hey, where'd you go? And why aren't you answering your phone?
7:30am – I have to leave for work, B. Please call me or text me.
8:00am – I'm at work. Please come see me when you get in. I'm worried about you.
8:15am – WTF, B? You're not here and I am really getting worried now.
8:30am – OK, Carlisle says you're sick and gonna be late. Are you OK?
9:30am – Fuck, this meeting is boring without you!
9:45am – I just listened to jack go on for like ten minutes about how good his department is doing in cleaning up their compliance messes.
9:46am – Oh how I wish you were here to put him in his place.
At about 10:15, I walked into my office and called Jessica in so we could prepare for our conference call, which was to begin at 10:30.
"Sorry I'm late Jessica."
"It's fine," she said as she sat down in front of me. "Are you okay?"
She actually looked concerned and I was grateful. I was hoping we'd gotten beyond our little Edward-related tension, but I had no idea what she felt about it because we'd rarely spoken since, except about business matters.
"I'm okay, yes. I might leave again after our call, though." I shrugged. "We'll see how it plays out."
I closed my office door before we started our call and asked Janice, who sat directly in front of it, to keep anyone from interrupting us.
Our call lasted more than half an hour and by that time I was going stir crazy and really needed to get the hell out of Dodge. My mind wasn't on the call and Jessica had to remind me several times about important, key factors related to the topic at hand. I just couldn't get in the game and I found myself apologizing more than once for my obvious absent-mindedness.
When we'd hung up, Jessica looked at me over the desk, her face again masked with concern.
"Maybe you really should go home, Bell."
I sighed. "Yeah, I will. Sorry, Jess. I wasn't much help to you." I chuckled. "At least you have your head together."
"Everyone is entitled to an off-day, Bella. And you're sick. We should have just postponed."
I sighed and knew she was right, but I was already pissed. Everything I had feared would happen if I dated someone from work was happening. We were the subject of embarrassing gossip, my reputation had been harmed and now my issues with him were taking my mind off of work. I never should have gotten myself into the mess to begin with.
As Jessica left my office, I started the process of shutting down my laptop and gathering my things, intent on going home and taking a long, hot bubble bath. I was going to drink tea and listen to Joni Mitchell and cry. A lot. And maybe think a little, but mainly I knew I would be crying and wallowing in a pool of self-pity for most of the day. I decided to stop by the store for some Ben and Jerry's on my way home.
And then I heard it. He cleared his throat and I looked up to see Edward walking through my door, toward me. He shut the door behind him and approached my desk. His hands were spread in front of him, palms up.
"What was with the disappearing act this morning? And why aren't you answering your phone?"
I ground my teeth together as I stood from my chair. My heart pounded in my chest and I felt my face flush with rage and I was thankful that was the emotion that came to the surface, first. How dare he come in here and act so innocent?
"Are you fucking kidding me with this?" I muttered. I was seething as I watched his jaw drop open slightly.
"Huh?"
I moved toward my door. "This is neither the time nor the place to discuss this Edward. We are at work. Please leave my office." I turned when I got to the door and stood next to it.
He almost stalked toward me, his face betraying his forming anger. He stopped when he reached me and spoke quietly. His hand was on the door so that I wouldn't be able to open it. 
"Bella, what the fuck?"
My heart was in my throat and I wasn't sure I'd be able to speak again. I had never felt such anger before; possibly not even when I saw a young college coed doing a topless bull-ride on top of the man who was supposed to be my husband. I crossed my arms in front of my chest—to keep him at a distance, but also in an attempt to literally hold myself together. I glared at him for several moments before I was finally able to speak. 
"Did you listen to your phone messages this morning, Edward?"
His face slackened and rapidly began to pale. I watched his chest rise and fall and his breathing rate increased.
"Shit," he said, softly. "I knew that was it ... Bella..."
I looked down at the floor as I felt tears begin to prick the back of my eyes. He had to get out of my office or I was going to totally lose it in front of him. And I'd be damned if I'd let that happen.
"Bella," he said again. "You have to let me explain."
I steeled myself and made sure I was wearing no expression before I looked up to again meet his eyes. They were wide and pleading.
"Get out of my office, Edward."
"Bella, please–"
It was becoming more and more difficult not to betray my true feelings, despite my best efforts. When I spoke, my voice was low, but I could hear myself the almost deadly edge to it.
"You think you can walk in here and act all innocent, hoping that by some miracle I didn't hear your little — whatever the hell she is to you — leave her message this morning?" I swallowed. "Fuck you, Edward."
"Let me explain, Bella."
I put up a hand, to ward him off. "I really think you should have explained long before now, don't you?"
"Bella, adults talk these things through, they don't just make assumptions."
I almost laughed in his face. "You're mister emotional-maturity all of a sudden? If you behaved like an adult, Edward, there would be nothing for me to make assumptions about."
"How do you know what's going on if you don't give me the chance to explain? Fuck, how do you even know that wasn't a wrong number?"
I paused for a moment, taken aback by what he'd said. A wrong number? Could that possibly have been what happened? And then I knew, of course, that he was full of shit. If it had been a wrong number, he would have told me in his first message, rather than playing this stupid game, waiting to see if I'd actually heard her call and what my reaction was going to be. This was all just more dishonesty from the man who was apparently the King of Lies.
"Get the fuck out of my office, Edward." I reached for the door handle, intent on breaking his arm to get it open, if I had to.
"Bella, I love you."
I was shocked at how even my voice sounded; how nonplussed, when inside I felt as if a volcano were erupting. Edward was about to become one of those ashen reliefs of what used to be living, breathing people in Pompeii.
"Edward, you need to listen to me, because this is the last time we are having this conversation. If and when we discuss ... that message—it will not be today and it will not be at our place of work. Whatever relationship we had or have will not affect my job, do you understand me?"
He paused and took a deep breath. He looked intently into my face and his hand slowly dropped from the door and moved into his pants pocket.
"Yes. Yes, of course I do. I'm sorry, Bella. We'll talk when we're not at work."
I opened my door and motioned for him to leave. "Don't call me, Edward."
He stopped, one foot out of my office. "Bella, that's not–"
"I'll call you," I cut him off. I made the mistake of looking into his eyes and I almost lost it. I almost pulled him back in my office and made him explain; made him tell me that I'd misunderstood what I'd heard, that he loved me and only me and there had been some terrible misunderstanding. But I knew that wasn't true.
"If I want to talk to you, I'll call you." I clarified.
"Bella–"
I shut the door in his face.
I made it to my desk before I essentially fell apart. I started crying and I couldn't get hold of myself. I sat at my desk for a long time, a box of tissues beside me. I knew I couldn't leave my office and walk to my car in that state, but I needed to get out of there urgently. The air around me was stifling and I thought I might vomit.
I didn't know how much time had passed before I heard a timid knock on my door. Jessica opened it a crack and stuck her head in.
"Bella? Is everything–" She gasped when she saw me and rushed through the door, closing it behind her.
"My God—Bella! What's wrong? Are you okay?"
I almost laughed at the question. Did I look okay?
"Not really, no."  I shook my head. I was the queen of the understatement.
I felt her hand at my back as I blew my nose.
"What's going on? Can I do anything? Get you something?" 
I felt bad when I heard the alarm in her voice. She had of course never seen me in such a state before and it must have been disconcerting to watch one's boss break down like a five year-old after her security blanket is taken away from her.
"No," I said. I made concerted effort to hold back my tears, but my body shook from the effort. "I'll be okay. I just need to get out of here."
"Do you ... do you want to talk about it?"
I looked up at her through my wet eyes and shook my head. "It's just ... Edward. We're having a problem. A rather big problem," I added as I started to bawl again.
"I'm ... I'm sorry, Bella."
She took a step back and leaned against my desk. She watched me for several moments as I blew my nose again and dried my eyes.
"I guess..." She looked at the floor as she continued. "I guess you must really care for him, though. I mean, if he's got you this upset."
I took a deep, stuttering breath. "It would appear so, yes."
"Bella ... I know this is probably not the right time to get into this, but ... Well, I've been wanting to talk to you for a while now."
I blew my nose again and looked up at her.
"I just wanted to apologize. For the way I acted before, I mean. I was just ... I was jealous, I guess. And I was embarrassed that I talked that way about him to you and I thought ... Well, I thought you might have kind of played me. You know, milked me for information or whatever, ‘cause you were after him." She shrugged in embarrassment.
I took another deep breath, thankful that the tears had stopped for the time-being. I shook my head. "That wasn't it, Jess."
"I know. I mean, I knew that after I calmed down and just thought about it for a while ... I think," she ran her hands along her pants. "I think I like you so much that sometimes I just think of you as a friend, you know? I forget that you're my boss and ... well, I'm sorry I put you in that position."
"Jess, I just didn't know yet that Edward and were going to ... well, that we were going to start–" I couldn't even find the words, since I didn't know what we were anymore.
"I know," she interjected, thankfully. "I know that now. I'm very sorry, Bella."
"Me too, Jess. I'm sorry all of that happened to begin with."
I stood up and hugged her and she smiled as she pulled away.
"Thanks, Bella. I hope everything works out. I mean, I think you two actually make a really great couple."
I smiled, but the tears were starting to fall again.
"I'm gonna go, Jess."
"Of course." She moved away from my desk. "I'll take care of everything here. Just go home and listen to PJ Harvey or something."
I chuckled. "Good idea."
I sent an emergency text to Rose and Alice when I got home, asking them to come over for a Girls' Night and to bring junk food. I had plenty of wine in the house, but I needed my girls with me.
I took a hot bath, I took a long nap and by the time I got out of bed and slipped into a pair of sweatpants, Alice and Rose were pulling up in front of my house in Alice's yellow Porsche. I opened the door before they even got out of the car and as they made their way up the walk to my house, I took one look at their faces and promptly burst into tears.
"Oh my God!" Alice almost screamed as they rushed me back into the house. Rose shut the door as she held me close in a hug.
"Sweet tits!" Rose said as she turned to me. "What in holy hell has happened to you?"
I think that was the only time I felt comforted by her nickname, rather than annoyed.
"Edward's an asshole!" I really could not think of a more succinct way to put it.
Alice and I sat on the sofa and Rose sat on the floor while she poured us all a glass of wine and I told them what had happened. I started with our wonderful trip to San Francisco, with all the fun we'd shared.
"How did the lingerie go over?" Rose asked, her eyes alight.
I glared at her over the tissue at my nose. "That's hardly the point of this conversation, Rose." 
She took a healthy drink of wine, her eyes not leaving mine and I had to grin just a little. 
"It was a tremendous hit."
She chuckled and motioned her hand in the air. "Okay, continue."
I did. I explained our plane ride home and his saying he'd never been in love before telling me that night — just the prior night, though it already felt like eons ago — that he was in love with me.
Alice gasped at the news. "Bella ... do you love him?"
"Let me finish this story before I answer that, okay?"
She nodded and poured us all another glass of wine as I continued, filling them in on the Phone Message from Satan.
Alice gasped again and Rose muttered an amazed "No..." before they both threw their arms around me.
"What? The fuck?" Rose stood. "I will rip his balls from his person."
Alice was more reasonable. "How can this be, Bella? It just doesn't sound ... I mean, why would he say he's in love with you if he's not? What would that get him? You already ... you know..."
It never ceased to amaze me that she could do it, but she couldn't talk about it.
I shrugged and blew my nose, since the tears were flowing again.
"I don't know, Alice."
She put her hand at my back again. "Well, don't you think he does love you? It sure ... I mean, it sounds like he does, doesn't it?"
Rose interjected. "Whether he loves her or not, he's a lying son-of-a-bitch, right?" She finished off another glass of wine in one big gulp. "What did he have to say for himself?"
"Well ... I haven't actually talked to him about it, yet." I sniffled.
They both stared at me for a few beats before Rose asked the pertinent question. "Huh?"
"I just couldn't, you guys. Not yet. I had to ... stop crying all the time, for one." I started to bawl again and Alice's hand ran soothingly over my back.
Rose took her place again on the floor and we sat like that for a few minutes, Alice patting my back while I got hold of myself. Or at least got to the point where I could speak coherently.
Finally, Rose spoke up again. "You do know that you have to talk to him, right? I don't know what in the world he could possibly say to excuse this mess, but ... well you do love him, right?"
I glared at her through my tears. "If you tell me that the adult thing to do is confront him, I'm gonna throw you out of my house."
She splayed her hands in front of her in an innocent gesture.
"I know.” I sighed. “I will talk to him. I just need to get my head on straight, first."
We sat there for a few minutes, in silence. Rose opened a second bottle of wine and I took a sip before I began talking again.
"Let's change the subject," I said. "I want to know about you and..." I eyed Alice, not sure what all she knew at this point. "Your mystery man."
"Yeah..." Alice turned her attention to Rose, as well. "What the heck is going on with you and Emmett?"
Rosalie sighed and took another big drink of wine. "Okay, well ... you know he's the mayor."
Alice and I were apparently on the same page.
"Things are just a little ... complicated," Rose continued.
"You said that before," I reminded her. "Complicated how?"
She took a deep breath. "Well ... he's ... well, technically, he's married."
"Rose!" Alice looked aghast.
"He's separated!" Rose was quick to defend herself. "He lives alone and they're getting a divorce. Believe me, I checked all of that out before I agreed to go out with him."
"So what's the big deal, then?" I asked. "Why are you guys so hush-hush?"
"Well..." Rose stretched her legs out in front of her, on the floor. "We're officially coming out of the closet on Saturday."
"He plays softball?" Alice asked.
Rosalie rolled her eyes. "What doesn't he play? The guy is a huge jock. He went to college on a football scholarship, but he played baseball, too.”
Alice's eyes lit up. "Wow."
"Anyway," Rose continued. "With his being Mayor and ... well, he's gonna run for Governor next year."
"What?" Alice and I exclaimed in unison. Alice shifted in her seat, leaning excitedly toward Rosalie.
"Yeah, so ... you know, we didn't want there to be any grey areas. We didn't want anyone saying he cheated on his wife or anything. So ... we kept it quiet for a while, until he had established himself as separated and on his way toward divorce."
"Wow," I said. "That's friggin' exciting. You could soon be living in the state capital, Rose."
"Rosalie Hale," Alice said, clapping her hands together. "First Lady of California."
Rose put a hand up to stop our blustering. "Okay, let's not get ahead of ourselves."
"Still," I said. "Exciting."
Rose grinned and looked at me over the rim of her wine glass. "It is, actually."
The gals stayed for another couple of hours. We ordered pizza, although I wasn't able to eat any since the mere smell of it reminded me of the night Edward came over and got sick. Rose and I shared a third bottle of wine (Alice demurred as she was driving). We danced to old Ramones and Sex Pistols songs and we toyed with the idea of calling a Voodoo practitioner and asking if there was anything we could accomplish with the DNA Edward had left on his toothbrush in my bathroom.
By the time they left, I didn't exactly feel better about my situation, but I definitely felt it was something I could handle. I was also definitely tipsy and exhausted and ready for bed.
I had shut out the lights in the sun room and was on my way to the bedroom when my front doorbell rang. I assumed one of them had forgotten something and so just flipped on a light and opened the door without checking to see who was there first.
Stupid move, that.
"What are you doing here, Edward?"
"You said I couldn't call you."
I glared at him. Was he intentionally being an idiot or just stubborn? "I didn't realize I had to qualify that statement. I also don't want you just dropping by my house, without an invitation."
He ran a hand through his hair as he looked up at me from the bottom step of my porch.
"I came over right after work, but I saw the girls were here. I waited until they left so I could come talk to you."
I could not believe the nerve of the guy. "Oh, great. More stalking? Yet another delightful little character trait of yours I will so not miss."
He sighed in exasperation. "I'm not stalking you, Bella. I just ... We need to talk about this. I need to explain to you what's going on."
I sighed, also, and leaned against the door jam. My arms went around me in an effort to keep away the chill that had permeated the outside air.
"I know we need to talk, Edward ... I just ... I can't, yet. I need to get my head together. And if you can't wait until I'm ready, well ... that's just tough."
He sighed again and I noticed he was wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt, even though it was like fifty degrees outside. Of course, he was used to spending autumn in Chicago. Fifty probably felt like a heat wave to him.
"Bella, I leave tomorrow morning for Canada and I won't be back until very late Thursday night. I can't leave this like ... this."
I laughed. "Oh yes. And Lord knows we can't talk this weekend, now can we? Not with your girlfriend in your apartment."
"She's not my girlfriend."
"Huh. Does she know that?"
"Please, Bella. Can I please come in and try to explain?"
I looked at him for a moment before responding. He looked pathetic and for a tall guy, he appeared very small. I wanted to tell him to take a hike, but I did not want to go the entire week without hearing what he had to say for himself. With a sigh of resignation, I stepped aside and let him walk past me, into the house.
We stood, staring at each other, in the sun room. My arms were still crossed in front of me and Edward's hands were shoved in his pockets. After several moments, I shrugged my shoulders.
"So?"
"Can I sit down?" he asked. 
I shrugged again and followed him as he sat down on the sofa. I sat away from him, in an arm chair, my legs crossed.
I almost felt sorry for him. He looked so sad and his hair looked like he'd been running his hands though it for hours. His shoulders were hunched and, after he wiped his hands on his jeans, he rested his forearms on his knees. His eyes darted around the room before he finally looked at me. His eyes were pleading.
"Bella, when I said I love you ... I do love you, Bella. I didn't know I could love somebody like this."
I didn't say anything. I couldn't say anything. I felt like I might throw up at any minute.
He hung his head. "I didn't expect this, you know? I didn't expect to meet someone like you and I certainly didn't expect to fall in love with you."
I cleared my throat and he looked up at me. 
"Who is she, Edward?"
"She's just—someone I was seeing before I moved out here."
When I didn't say anything in response, he continued.
"Bella ... you have to understand—when I first met you ... I mean, I didn't know I was gonna fall for you. I just thought, 'My God, she's a beautiful woman. I wonder...'" He raised his eyebrows meaningfully. I watched as he swallowed noticeably hard. "But even after talking to you that first night, Bella, I knew; I knew you were special—that this would be special. The first time I kissed you..." His hand ran through his hair and let out a gust of air. "But by then it was already too late. What was I gonna say to you at work on Monday? 'Oh, by the way, I know I molested you in the parking lot the other night, but I actually kind of have this girl back in Chicago...?' Bella ... I already liked you. I mean, I already..." He stopped speaking and took a deep breath before he continued.
"When I took that first sales trip, I decided to go back to Chicago, remember?" I nodded and he continued. "It was totally last minute and I honestly didn't even mean to tell you about it at all. I went back there to break things off with her—with Heidi. She wasn't really my girlfriend to begin with, but I knew she thought she was. Or she wanted to be. Anyway, I knew it was the right thing to do. I thought I'd just tell her I'd found someone new and you'd never know and everything would be okay. She didn't mean anything to me anyway, Bella, not even close to what you mean to me. You have to know that I totally intended to break things off with her."
I sat there for a while, waiting for him to continue. After several moments, when it became obvious that he was not going to, I raised my eyebrows.
"And what?" I asked. "She put your dick in her mouth and you forgot all about breaking up with her?"
He let out a lung full of air and ran a hand through his hair. "Bella ... Bella, that's not fair."
I laughed. It was dark and ugly and I didn't recognize it as my laughter, but it did come from me.
"Oh, I'm not being fair? Forgive me, but I've had practice dealing with men like you. I think I know what's fair."
He looked up at me, his elbows resting on his knees as he hung his head. He wore a lost, puppy-dog expression on his face which I might have found heartbreaking under any other circumstances.
"I'm not Jacob, Bella."
I chuckled, bitterly. "Well what, Edward? I mean, she's coming to visit for the weekend, right? So whatever happened, you obviously did not break up with her."
"Bella, Heidi's pregnant."
He said it so quickly that the words had barely registered in my mind before he continued, words pouring out of his mouth in a torrent.
"I went to her house to tell her and she fucking panicked. She told me she was pregnant, that she had been waiting to see me in person to tell me. She was cried and begged me not to leave her alone. And after she gave me that news ... I mean, she was so pathetic and what was I supposed to do Bella? I couldn't just abandon her. I mean, leave her all on her own to take care of this? Even if I don't wanna be with her, I have to help her with the baby, right?"
I didn't know what to say. A million things ran through my head at once and none of them made any sense. The bottom line, though, was that some other woman was going to have Edward's baby. Something I could never do.
I nodded.
"I'm not with her, Bella. I'm just gonna ... you know, be a father to my kid. I'm gonna help her, financially. I'm gonna help her as much as I can, considering I live all the way across the country now."
I took a deep breath and when I felt tears welling in my eyes again I looked down in my lap, not anxious for him to see them. He was right, of course. He had to do the responsible thing.
But he had still lied too me for weeks. And as I reminded myself of that fact, the anger returned.
"What was that this morning, Edward? Coming into my office like that, just pretending she never called, that I never heard ... that?"
He sighed again, deeply, and looked at the floor. "I don't know, Bells. I was just ... desperate. When I came out and you were gone ... I just hoped you had to get to work or something. I hoped like hell that you didn't hear it, ‘cause I knew ... I knew it would have torn you up and you'd jump to all kinds of conclusions." He returned his anguished eyes to mine. "I know how that message must have sounded to you, especially after our weekend together ... I'm not perfect, Bella, I know. But I'm really trying to make this right."
"I don't expect you to be perfect, Edward. I expect you to be honest." I almost smiled, I was so glad to have my anger back. Anything was better than the pit of anguish in my stomach. "And what if I hadn't heard that message this morning? You were just going to continue lying to me, for how long? Until we were going to Chicago for your kid's high school graduation?"
"Fuck! I don't know, Bella! You think I have this planned out? I'm flying by the seat of my fucking pants, here. I just want ... I want you. God, I want you so much, Bella." Tears sprang to his eyes as his hand tore at his hair. The sight made me want to move to his side and hold him to me, to comfort him.
He took a deep breath and calmed a bit. "But I have to be a father, too."
We sat in silence for several minutes and I was happy for it. I needed the time to stifle the pain I felt and the empathy I had for him and to grab hold of my righteous indignation.
"Are we done here, then?" I asked, finally.
He looked up at me, surprised. "What do you mean, 'are we done?'"
"I mean, are you finished talking? There's not much for me to say, after all. This Heidi person is coming for the weekend and it's more than apparent that she's coming for a very specific reason. Sorry, but you can't have both of us, so I hope you're happy with your choice."
"No, that's not...” He shook his head. “I told you, Bella—I'm not with her. I'm not gonna be." He took another deep breath. "I know what that message sounded like, Bella. But you have to know that under no circumstances am I going to sleep with her."
I couldn't help it. I chuckled. Was he hoping that I'd somehow become stupid, over night? "So why is she coming here, Edward?"
"She's coming here because—well, fuck, because she wanted to come here and what am I supposed to do? Say no? That the woman carrying my baby can't come to visit me?"
"Uh—sure, why not?"
"Bella—she called last week and just told me she'd bought the ticket! I didn't even have a say in it!"
I laughed, but without humor. "I see ... so rather than have me think of you as a lying cheater, you'd rather I think of you as a lying pussy."
"Jesus, Bella..."
"Edward, I'm not na├»ve. I heard the message, remember? She's not coming here as your friend. She's not coming here for moral support. She's not coming here to see fucking Hollywood and Vine. She obviously knows of your penchant for sexy lingerie. And she–"
He looked up as I cut off my thoughts in mid-sentence. I swallowed the lump in my throat and continued.
"She said she loves you, Edward."
"Christ," he said, his hand running again through his hair. "I'm so sorry, Bella. I know what it must have been like for you to hear that."
I just started at him. He was shaking his head, looking at me with wide eyes.
"Bella, I don't love her. Not even close. I've never once given her any indication that what I felt was anything more than just ... fuck, I was just having fun with her! We were just dating! It was no big deal at all. We weren't even exclusive for Christ's sake! And then, all of a sudden, when I told her I was moving out here, she started getting really ... fucking clingy. I was really glad I was moving cuz I just didn't even want to deal with her anymore."
I laughed again, bitterly. "So you didn't. You just left."
He sighed. His eyes were on the floor, his hand pulling at his hair.
"Yeah. I just left. I figured that was the easiest way to end things. I knew that once I was gone, she'd move on."
"Except she didn't."
He shrugged, slightly, still not looking up from the floor. "No, I guess she didn't. She called me a lot, kept asking when I was coming home or when she could come out here. Most of the time, I didn't even answer her calls. I mean, I really don't know why she didn't get the point."
"Maybe because she was carrying your baby." I whispered the words, not even wanting to hear them myself. Every time I thought about it the knot in my stomach twisted just a little bit tighter.
"Yeah ... Yeah, I guess that explains all of it. Why she didn't want me to move in the first place, why she kept after me..."
He sat back on the couch with a muffled sob. I watched as his face contorted with emotion and I tried like hell to keep all of mine in check.
"I know I fucked this up, Bella. But I can fix it." He looked at me, earnestly. "Give me the chance to fix it."
I sighed slowly and deeply and looked at him a long while. He looked so tired.
"You're right, Edward. You did fuck this up. And honestly, I don't know if you can fix it. You're having a baby with this woman—a woman who obviously loves you and for some reason you can't seem to cut the ties with her or even stand up to her, so you must feel something to."
He started to object and I held up a hand to stop him.
"At the very least, you need to be a father, Edward. And what am I supposed to do, here?"
"Can't I be a father to my child and still be with you? I love you, Bella. People do this kind of thing all the time."
I nodded, slowly. He was right about that. "They do. But Edward, you have been lying to me for—how long now? I mean, how much of what you said was true and how much of it was just to cover this shit up? I don't even know how much of what you're telling me now is the truth."
He looked up, anger flashing briefly over his features before the grief settled back in its place.
"I guess I deserve that," he sighed in resignation.
"I can't deal with being lied to anymore, Edward. I can't be constantly questioning myself and wondering if what I'm being told today is a lie or the truth. I can't and I won't. That's not love."
He just looked at me and after a moment I had to drop my eyes. I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't look into his eyes and pretend that he hadn't ripped my heart out; pretend that I didn't still love him, in spite of everything.
"I want you to leave now, Edward." I spoke softly to my lap, but he heard me and, after a moment, he stood to leave.
As he passed my chair, I rose to follow him so I could lock my door. He turned as he stepped over the threshold.
"I want you to know Bella that I didn't sleep with her when I went back to Chicago. I wouldn't. She wanted to. She tried. But I couldn't. Bella, I haven't been with anyone else since we met. Fuck, I haven't wanted anyone else. I really do love you. More than anything. And I'm more sorry than you will ever know."
I finally looked up at him one last time. His eyes were big and deeply green and filled with pain and I ached for him; I ached because of him.
"I want to believe you, Edward." I heard my voice break as the tears threatened. "I just don't know if I can."

3 comments:

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    1. Hey! You're my first commenter here, Tashia! :) I wish I had some sort of prize to give you...

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  2. oh total heartbreak! I can't say that I blame her. She feels betrayed, I get that. He needs to man up here....and who says that the baby is his? I mean he said that they weren't exclusive, so maybe Heidi is lying, trying to hold on to him with this situation....My heart just breaks for Bella....what a fucked up situation!!

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