Chapter 10: New
In Church, Emmett doesn't look at me. He holds Joshua in his lap and Rosalie takes a seat at his side. To everyone else; things are just fine. I don't want disrupt service, I don't want to disrupt his life, but I need to know the truth. I wait until the service is over and take a place beside him at the refreshment table. He takes a sip of his juice and the thickness of the air tells me he knows what is about to come.
"I heard you know Bella." It is the only way I can think to start. It doesn't sound like I am accusing him of anything, other than sharing a mutual…friend? Acquaintance?
"I've seen her around," he mumbles into his cup.
He sets his cup down and faces me. Something tells me I am supposed to intimated, but I am not.
"How do you know her?" He asks.
"I treated her at the hospital." His face is a little surprised. He looks down to the bowl of fruit punch. "I don't buy women, Emmett." I pour myself a cup of hot water and reach for a tea bag. "Now that we're clear on where I stand, perhaps you can tell me how you know her."
He's annoyed. His voice is angry, but controlled; hushed. "You don't get it, man. Everyone in your family is something. Doctors, lawyers. Same with Rose. I just want to be able to give her things."
"She's not that shallow."
He huffs and looks at me. "How would you have felt, as a man, if all of Tanya's friends, her family, showed off all their shiny shit and toys and all these things to her, all the while, you couldn't give any of that stuff to Tanya? You had to look at her face light up and fall every time and you couldn't do shit about it?"
"I wouldn't have lied to her."
He's leaning in towards my face. His hand is on my shoulder and his mouth goes by my ear. "I don't fuck other women. I don't do drugs and I don't hang around with those people or bring them near my family. Don't make me into the bad guy, Edward."
"I know, Bella told me."
He pulls back. "Told you what?"
"That you just work security. That you don't touch the girls."
He is surprised. I am surprised. What did he think she would say?
"She told you that?"
I nod and he is staring back at the punch again. "I still don't understand how Rosalie doesn't know. She's a smart girl. Clearly, she can't think that all of the things you guys own comes from owning a landscaping company."
"I might fudge our books and she might be happier living in denial than knowing the truth."
I shake my head. "And your random disappearing acts when your working?"
"What can I say; we both join a lot of social groups. She has book club on Wednesday, yoga on Thursday and I happen to really enjoy camping and hiking trips on the weekend."
"Christmas cards with perfect pictures of their perfect family so everyone can talk about how fucking perfect they are, eventhough, most of them are fucked up when you really get to know them."
Bella knows more about my family than I do. Suddenly, I am questioning everyone I see around me and wondering what dirty secrets they have to hide. From the most innocent looking couples to the ones I think I know best.
Is anything real?
It seems that the only thing that is, is Bella Swan's pain. I see it clearly when she comes to visit me at my office on Thursday and tells me about her life on Friday. Yes, her pain is real and so far, it seems she is proving to be one of the most honest people I know.
I am up two hours earlier than normal and pacing the halls of my house. My conversation with Alice is present in my mind and I can't shake the thought that she is right, but again, Bella has been honest with me. There is no reason that I shouldn't trust her in my home. No reason except the actual truths she has told, perhaps.
It feels wrong, but I have removed the items from the common areas I deem precious. They aren't all expensive, but some things cannot be replaced. I don't expect her to steal anything, but I need to be prepared for let down. I shower and change clothes and prepare my breakfast. I make sure there are clean linens in the guest room and the bathroom is stocked of toiletries. It's been a long time since someone has used this room. Sophia never lived here. It looks pleasant and I hope she'll find it comforting. It looks comforting.
When the doorbell rings, I am anxious, but relieved. I take a breath before opening the door and smile when I see her. Bella's face looks confused, then angry, then terrified. She is scared and my tricking her into coming here, without telling her this was my home, has backfired. She already didn't trust me and just when she was attempting to, I tricked her.
She takes a few steps back and she is truly terrified of me. A pain jabs at my heart. She turns and begins to take off, so of course, I follow her and make matters worse.
"Bella, wait! Wait."
"Get away from me!"
"You wouldn't have come if you knew it was my house."
She pauses, spinning around. We are on the sidewalk and my neighbor is cutting his grass across the street. He glances over and I try to ignore his nosiness.
"So you trick me? What the hell kind of sick pervert are you? I told you, if you wanted to fuck me you could just pay me and fuck me."
He is really intrigued by our conversation, now. I step closer to her, but she backs away. "I have neighbors, do you mind keeping it down?"
"No! And if you try and kidnap my ass so you can take me in your house and rape me or chain me to something, I'll show you just how fucking loud I can really be!"
My hand is rubbing my face and the lawnmower dies.
"Everything alright, Dr. Cullen?" He calls.
I give a wave. "Yes, everything is fine, Ben. Sorry about the noise."
Bella starts taking off. I follow behind her and she walks faster. "I'm not going to chase you, Bella. Jesus Christ, you have to be the most difficult person I know."
"You don't know me, so go fuck yourself, Freak."
"Bella, I'm going back home before all my neighbors think I have grown insane. The door will be unlocked until I leave for work in thirty minutes. Feel free to stop by or feel free to go back to your life of nothing. Choice is yours."
I turn around and don't look back to see if she is following me. I'm tired of games. I'm tired of helping of people who don't want it. There is an entire clinic full of real children who need real help. I'm done wasting my time on lost causes.
I leave the door cracked and grab my things. I open the garage and settle my laptop bag and papers in the passenger seat of my car. I eye the time and pour coffee into a stainless steel mug, tightening the lid. I have had enough irritations this morning. On my trip towards the stairs to grab a change of clothes and hospital ID, I see a silhouette through the glass of the front door. I want to feel relieved, but in truth, I am running late and don't want anymore frustrations.
She taps quietly on the door and it creaks open. She looks scared but steps in tentatively. The better part of me can't be cruel and tell her to leave. Bella sees me and chews her lip. Her fingers are curled and she looks like a child caught doing something wrong.
"It was open," she points at the door and her voice is shaky.
"I told you it would be. Take a seat. I'm short on time." I wave towards the living room and she smoothes her hands over her clothing before taking a step.
She waits for me to choose a spot first. She looks at the chair across from me and sits as though she might break it. Her hands are still balled and I reach for my list of questions I'd ask anyone interviewing for this position; skipping over the things I already know. She answers them honestly and without hassle. I wish all of our interactions were so simple and smooth.
"Let me show you around, quickly." I stand and she follows. I eye my watch and I am definitely late. "I'll go over the things on the list later; it's too late this morning, but I'll show you which rooms are which. You're smart enough to recognize common areas, so let's move onto upstairs."
I walk quickly up the steps and she keeps up. I poke into the first room. "Just a spare." I open the next door. "This is my room. I don't want to ever find you in here unless you are cleaning or putting clothes away." I continue on. "This is your room. It has its own bathroom and I filled supplies for you, but obviously you're free to use your own. The linens are clean and there are more down stairs. I'll have to show you that later, however."
I wave for her to enter and she steps in, slowly. "Um, there's a list of things for you to do on the fridge. All of the supplies are in the laundry room downstairs. I don't care how many breaks you take during the day, as long as your list gets done. Do you have any questions?"
She shakes her head no and I take a step back. "I need to go. I'll see you later."
I turn to leave and she asks, "What time will you be back?"
I smile and grab the doorknob. "Your guess is as good as mine, Bella. Anything else?"
"Call me if you need me. Have a good day."
I eat lunch with Alice and she is seriously on my nerves. I'm trying to ignore her and just tell myself she is being protective, but I don't like or appreciate her impeding on my judgment. Or, butting into my business.
"What if she steals all your shit? You just left her there? All day long? Unsupervised? You don't even have cameras in your house, Edward!"
I roll my eyes. "What is she going to do, Alice? Load up my flatscreen and furniture into her make-believe van? She doesn't even have a car. Relax."
"Well, maybe she has a friend with one. Did you ever think of that?"
"Alice, If I get home and all of my shit is gone, it would seriously suck and be highly disappointing, but other than it being an extremely expensive lesson learned, it wouldn't be the end of the world."
I take a spoonful of vegetable soup and point at the sourdough bread bowl she served it in. "You should offer soup here more often. This tastes incredible."
"Flattery is not going to make me change the subject. I am serious, Edward."
"So am I. I haven't has soup this good in awhile." I take another spoonful and she is highly annoyed. "I should bring some home to Bella. I'm sure she won't like anything I have to eat. Shit," I drop my spoon. "I didn't even tell her she could help herself to food." I reach for my cellphone, but pause. "Or that she could answer the phone if someone called."
"Well I'm sure you won't feel so bad when you get home and find your collection of autographed baseballs stolen."
"She can't steal them, Alice. I locked them in my safe."
"Ah-ha! You do think she is gonna steal!"
"I didn't say I didn't think so. I just said it wouldn't ruin my life."
To make my day even better, my mother is sitting her tray down at the table. "What's this were discussing?" She starts unfolding her silverware and I curse Alice in my head.
"Edward hired a hooker to clean his house."
My mother is holding her hand over her mouth so that she doesn't spit sweet tea on me. I glare at Alice and she smiles.
"Bella isn't a hooker." I extend a napkin to Esme and she wipes herself clean.
"Bella? The girl from the park?"
Esme's face is confused. "I never would have known." She shakes her head and then looks at me, wide-eyed and there must be some sort of way to perform a violent act upon my sister that does not put me in handcuffs. There must be. "Edward, you're dating a…"
"No. Jesus Christ. Does everyone question my judgment and sanity in this family?"
"Yes," Alice quips.
"Don't take the lord's name in vein," my mother scolds.
"I treated her at the hospital. That is how I know her. She is pregnant and homeless and I am just trying to help her out. Alright?" I look back to Alice and I am pissed and irritated. "I need a soup to-go, if that's not too much trouble for you." A few dollars are thrown her way and she is sorry, but doesn't say it.
I take an extended lunch period and drive home to drop off food for Bella. My house is still standing and I hear the washing machine running.
"Bella?" I call out, unsure of where she is. I also don't want to scare her. I walk to the laundry room, but nothing. I hear foot steps over head and climb the steps. My door is open and she is sitting on the floor, folding bath towels. She looks up at me and I can tell she is worried.
She pushes the hair out of her face and climbs quickly to her feet. "I was just folding these. Your list said to wash all the dark ones. You had dark ones."
I smile and try not to laugh. I don't want her to think I'm making fun, but her face is just too flustered and…innocent? I hold up the bag.
"I forgot to tell you about food and the phone. Come down stairs and have lunch. The dark ones can wait." She follows me to the kitchen and I show her where the silverware and plates are. I also tell her she can eat whatever she pleases and clear off some shelves for things she might buy later on.
She sits on one of the bar stools and stirs the soup, blowing on it before it is brought to her lips. She is eating without argument and I imagine she was starving if she is doing so. I need to be more mindful of her needs.
"I need to get back to the hospital before they think I quit. Remember what I said about the food. And if the phone rings, answer it and just take a message. I need to be able to reach you without coming home."
She nods and wipes her mouth. I grab a bottle of water from the fridge and start to head toward the garage, but pause when I pass the laundry area this time. I wasn't paying much attention when I first entered. There are neat stacks of clothes on the ironing board and shirts perfectly pressed on the rack. All of my socks are folded and when I glance over the items again, I realize they are colorized.
Even my socks.
I look back to Bella and she is finishing her last bite of soup. She hops down from the stool and walks to the sink and washes her bowl and silverware. She dries it, she puts it away and there are no crumbs or traces of her left behind when leaves. She is back upstairs, folding my towels and doing her job. There is no TV on and I am leaving my house less stressed than when I entered.
Well, this is new.