Chapter 15: They Call Me Lullaby
Edward's guests leave and I am grateful. The house is quiet, until more people arrive. I stare at the door like it's my own person Hell. All I want is to be left alone. His sister and Emmett's wife are here. What is wrong with him? Did he not hear how fucked up it was to be around them? Did I not decline to attend church because Emmett would be there? Is he trying to piss me off?
There is a mop in my hand. Emmett pauses as he steps inside. I look away, then back to him. He looks around. The girls are laughing and sitting bags down in the living room. I don't see Edward. Emmett nods towards the kitchen. I follow. He stops by the fridge and pulls out a drink. A quick glance around and he gets down to business.
"We don't know each other. I'm here to put up lights and decorate shit. That is it." I nod. He takes several swallows of his drink and wipes his mouth to his hand. "Why the fuck are you cleaning his house anyhow?"
"He hired me. I didn't know."
"But why…" He pauses and opens the fridge again. The girls are coming in the kitchen. "I don't see mineral water. Where is it?" He looks at me and Rosalie is staring.
"Um….on the second shelf."
"Oh." He reaches in and pulls out a bottle. "Here, baby." He hands it to Rosalie and I look away.
"Thanks." She plants a kiss on his cheek. "We're ready when you are." She goes to turn, but stops. "Oh, we should get Bella to help. I don't want you bellowing from the outside that you need someone to hand you an extension cord, not to mention, I'm not making fifty trips inside and out."
He nods and they go back to whatever the fuck they were doing. There is cheery holiday music playing and I follow Emmett outside. He doesn't look happy to have me there, but doesn't say anything about it. I can see Rosalie and Alice through the window, dancing and laughing as they decorate the inside of the house.
"You'll be seriously loving them when you are vacuuming up piles of fake fucking snow everyday."
I look up to Emmett and he holds out his hand for the first string of lights; balancing on a ladder. I don't say anything and he climbs higher. I hear the staple gun and hand him shit when he asks for it. I still don't see Edward. He must be working. I stare in the window and watch the girls twirl and laugh and decorate each other with tinsel. My mind changes the vision and there is a little girl and a mother. I can feel the scratchiness on my skin and the musty way it smelled from being locked up in the attic. Staple gun. Staple gun. Emmett is Charlie and Renee is yelling for him to be careful.
The tree is hideous and tacky, but I love it. There is way too much shit on it and I roll my eyes at Charlie when he makes note. He readies the cups of hot chocolate and we are halfway done when the phone rings. Renee's face falls and the mood is dim. We all know what a ringing phone means in our house. Charlie's mug isn't empty. I wash it anyhow. I wait and sleep on the floor, by the tree. I swear the lights will keep my eyes open. They do for a while, but then they fall. When I hear clatter by the door, I sit up in my sleepy haze. I hear his boots and a more naive child would assume Santa has come early.
The water turns on and I walk towards the kitchen. I stop in the doorway and watch as the dirt slides from his hands. His boots are muddy and my young eyes meet his. His face is dirty too and I assume they were out looking for that kid everyone has been talking about. The water turns off and he reaches for the dishrag.
"Go to sleep, Bella."
"Did you find him?"
He turns and faces me. His mouth says nothing. His face says everything. There is a red stain in the laundry water when Renee washes out his coat the next day. Not everyone gets a Merry Christmas.
"Bella, the extension cord." I blink and everything is day again. Emmett is snapping his fingers and I scramble to find the orange cord. "What the hell is wrong with you? You taking that shit again?"
I shake my head no. "Sorry."
"I asked you a question. You didn't answer me."
I look up and wait. He groans. I must not have heard him. "I asked how the fuck you got this gig. Working for Edward. I mean, was I like not getting you enough jobs or something?"
"Oh…no. It's um….I can't do that shit anymore. I…I fucked up. I was careful, but I fucked up."
"Newton? Nobody's cares about that shit, Bella. I can get you new Johns. There's this cat I know, he just came back in town, willing to pay big money. If you're down, just say it and it's yours."
He's wrong, but we can't get into this in the yard. I just play along.
"More than what Edward's paying you to sweep the floors and fold his damn underwear." Just as he's saying this, Edward's car pulls in. Emmett climbs down from the ladder. The car door closes. "Just tell me before I leave."
I hear him in the garage with Edward. I look back towards the house and see two pairs of eyes staring back at me. Fuck. I start to collect all the boxes from the lights. I take them to the garage and Edward looks my way and smiles, but then continues his conversation with Emmett. His hands are full of stuff. A briefcase. Papers. Coat. I walk by and offer to take them; holding out my hands.
"Thank you, Bella."
I nod and bring them in. I'm sure he wants them in his room, but I'm not going in there unless I have to. I sit them on the kitchen counter. There are crumbs and shit all over from stuff the girls were eating and I start to clean up, so Edward won't think I was fucking off all day. I'm sweeping the floor when his sister comes into the kitchen. She pauses by the doorway and her face is contemplative.
"Did you need something?" I'm trying to be nice, but it sounds rude. "Like a drink or something? I can get it…."
She holds up a hand and takes a seat on one of the stools. "Let's get right to it, Bella, because I'm not really one to beat around the bush. What are you doing here?"
Her words leave me stumped.
"Allow me to clarify; are you really here to just clean and keep shit tidy, or do you have other motives? I know what your previous employment used to be. I don't want to be a bitch, but I love my brother and I don't want to see him hurt. He's had enough of that for one lifetime."
I squeeze the broom handle. "I'm just doing what he tells me to."
She nods. "Good, but just so you know; the same goes for Rosalie's husband."
"I was just…"
"Yeah I know, helping with lights," she smiles.
Normally I'd tell her to go fuck herself, but this is Emmett's deal and I am fucking up his shit if I don't say something. I set the broom aside.
"Listen…I know you don't know me, and what you do know isn't exactly flattering, but I…."
I what? I'm sorry? I'm a terrible person? Jesus.
"I'm trying to change."
Really? Am I?
"And um…I'm grateful that I have that chance, so…"
Wow, really pulling this out of my ass.
"I'm not going to screw it up. Okay?"
I screw up everything. I am such a good liar.
She eyes me for a moment. "Yeah...okay. We'll see." There is a commotion by the garage. The guys are coming in. Alice slides down from her stool "For both of your sakes, Bella…I hope that your being honest."
I smile and nod and she buys it. Good girl. Now, go away. Edward comes in the kitchen and he is alone. I'm not going back outside with Emmett. I'm just not. That shit needs to die.
"Mary Alice Cullen, what are you bothering Bella about?" Edward walks to the fridge and Alice smiles.
"Oh, nothing. Just girl talk. Right, Bella?"
I nod and she disappears back into the other room with Rosalie. Edward faces me as he pops the lid on his drink. He takes a sip and stares at me. He doesn't believe her. He wants me to rat her out. That shit is not happening. He sees it. He sets his drink down and walks to the pantry. I dump the crumbs from the dustpan into the trash.
"Bella?" I turn as he is sitting out cans of tomatoes. "Care to help me make dinner?"
"I told you I can't cook."
He is still pulling shit out. "It's just spaghetti and meatballs. It's not that hard. I'll show you, if you'd like to learn."
It's just noodles, Bella. Get over it. You can't have a nervous breakdown every time you see fucking noodles. Or candy. I shrug and he tells me to get out a couple of pots. He sets everything up and I watch. The cheery ass holiday music is back on, full blast. Edward makes a noise that surprises me. Apparently, he doesn't like it either. I'm in charge of opening cans and he is mixing what I assume will be meatballs. It looks fucking gross.
"What now?" I ask.
He looks up; hands still in the bowl. "Add those seasonings I set aside. About the size of your palm for each one."
I unscrew the lids and do as he said. He's forming little balls and putting them in a pan. I watch him as he rolls them around and then adds them into my sauce. He washes his hands and takes the spoon away from me. I watch.
"Why do you know so much about cooking?" My mouth asks without permission.
He keeps stirring. "I don't really. Just the simple stuff."
"Well, who taught you the simple stuff?"
This time he taps the spoon to the pot and covers it. The heat is adjusted and he looks over. "My mother I guess." He is lying, but I don't call him on it. He changes the subject. "How was your day?"
"Peachy." I'm hoping my tone will say the words I cannot say right now. They do.
Edward leans in closer. His voice drops to a whisper. "I'm sorry about Emmett, but he hangs the lights every year and I didn't think he'd come until next week. I was going to tell you."
I match his tone. "Yeah well, now you have certain people thinking I'm trying to fuck him."
"I'm sorry," he repeats. "I'll smooth it over with Rosalie."
I shake my head. "You'll only make it worse. And it's not her, anyhow."
"Just leave it alone, Edward." My eyes shift to the pot. "Water is boiling."
He leans away and adds salt to the pot. I start setting the table and everyone begins filtering into the dining area. Rosalie is hanging on Emmett and they look happy. I'm happy for him.
"Someone watch the bread, please. Edward always burns it," Alice calls, laughing a little as she takes her seat.
"Don't start with me Mary Alice." He points the spoon at her.
I take the bowls to the table and set them in front of each person. He hands me one extra. Everyone is talking and it is loud with the music. His hand rests on my back, holding me in place.
"You can eat wherever you feel comfortable, but I would prefer if you ate at the table with us, Bella." I look up to him. "Please?"
I don't fucking want to, but it actually makes sense. If I run off and hide they might assume and gossip. Plus, Edward might say some shit he shouldn't. Fuck. I sit at the table. They don't giving me the evil glare. Actually, they don't even seem to notice. They keep talking and begin eating and I pick at my food. I try not to look at anyone, but it's hard.
"It's about time someone showed Edward how to cook." Rosalie tips her fork to me and smiles.
I shake my head. "I don't know how to cook. He did it all."
She keeps smiling. "So, have you found the candy stash, yet?"
Edward glares at her, but is slightly amused. I say nothing. She drops her fork and wipes her mouth. "No way! Where! Tell me." She points at him, laughing. "I knew it!"
Everyone is laughing and I don't get it. Edward rolls his eyes. "Rosalie, you know I eat candy. Why is that such a surprise to you?"
"Because I knew you were a junkie. Like, have an addiction. It's sick Edward. Just sick," she teases. Her eyes come back to me. "Where is it? Is it like stuffed full of Jolly Ranchers and M &M's? It is, isn't it? Come on, you can tell me, Bella."
I just smile and look down. I'm nobody's rat.
After dinner is done, I clear the table and start washing dishes. Rosalie takes a place next to me. Her hand goes out and she offers to dry the pot I am rinsing. She hums a little and keeps taking dishes from me.
"Don't you just love the holidays?"
I laugh a little. "Not really."
"Ugh, you too? Man, there is going to be so much bah-hum-bug in this house, Santa's sleigh might burst into flames as he passes by."
That shit made me smile.
"So, let me guess. Someone broke up with you or you never got shit as a kid or you just generally hate the idea of consumerism and blah, blah, blah."
I shut off the water and dry my hands. "I just don't like it."
She huffs. "How can you not like Christmas? It is the happiest time of year. The songs even say so."
I shrug. "Not for me."
Her face falls, growing more serious. "Please don't tell me you have a real sad story….like an Edward sad type of story, because then…I'm going to feel like real shit."
"I don't know what his story is."
She looks around and lowers her voice. "His wife died a couple of years ago. It was um…it was pretty bad."
Shut up. Shut up. Shut up. "How?"
There is resistance in her eyes. "It's a long story, but Tanya was sort of troubled…and…sometimes your past comes back to haunt you, no matter how hard you try to escape it."
Don't I fucking know it.
I nod. "Well, then yeah…I guess I have an Edward sad type of story."
Her hand goes to her chest. "Your husband?"
I shake my head. "My father."
There is sadness on her face, but it isn't pity. She takes a seat on the stool and scoots one out for me, like she expects us to sip coffee and cry together. This was my fucking pimp's wife for Christ sake. There is no coffee. There is no tears. There isn't even supposed to be what already has been. I need a fucking drink. They need to leave and I need a drink. She sees my hesitation.
"Maybe some other time." She stands. "Sorry, I wasn't trying to pry. I just see how hard it is on Edward and he never talks to anyone and I guess…." She smiles and scoots the stool in. "I guess I just wish I could help someone."
Emmett stands in the doorway. "It's late, Babe. We should go."
She nods. "Let me get my coat and say goodbye." Her hand touches my shoulder. "Thank you for dinner."
I have no words and she is too nice. I am using her husband to find men to fuck and she is just way too fucking nice. She exits and before Emmett follows, he raises an eye brow. He isn't inquiring about our time in the kitchen, though. He wants my answer. I nod and he slips me a piece of paper. He is gone and I am left with only what I know and only what I should know. I hear them all by the front door. I steal my swallow of clear and twist the cap back on before anyone is the wiser. The door closes and I head for the stairs.
Edward's eyes look expectant as I pass him, but I kill his hope that I might sit and talk and be good company for the rest of the evening. I feel like shit and I lay down in my bed trying not imagine what he is doing down there. I'm trying to block out how his wife died and stop coming up with scenarios.
My mind is being stupid and thinking about them cooking in the kitchen. They probably used to decorate this house and laugh and twirl and do all that stupid shit while they did it. She probably joined him for quality time in the living room and they fucking watched movies and held each other. Ate dessert. I don't fucking know, but I need to shut up and stop it.
The music from downstairs disappears and I am grateful. It is replaced by other sounds. Piano keys. It isn't merry, though. It's not about Santa Clause or Winter Wonderlands. It is low notes and slow. I close my eyes and there is muddy boots and red water. There is newspaper articles and Sam Uley's missing picture. There is a desk in Charlie's precinct that gets more time than me or Renee. There is a look on my father's face that harbors his failure.
There is a sadness in his heart no amount of my colorful pictures or cups of hot chocolate can heal, but I wait for him to come home, because someone waits for Sam to come home and he never will. Charlie will, though. If I wait by the tree, he comes home. He'd scoop me in his arms and carry me to bed and he'd come home.
The music is louder and each key matches the thumps of my heart. I feel callused hands on my face; gruff singing in my ear. He was out of tune, but tried. He always tried. I dreamed of Sam Uley's body every night. I looked around every time I got off the bus from school and made sure his murderers and kidnappers weren't watching me, though I didn't know their faces. No one ever knew their faces.
The lullaby rocks me to sleep. It did then. It does now. I don't know what it does for Edward, but maybe this is how he talks. Maybe this is how he communicates. If I am right, then Christmas here will be tolerable. It won't be Merry, but it will be tolerable.