Chapter 18: Mama Esme


Ugh. I want my Mommy. I wake up on the couch and my head is a world full of hurt. The house is quiet, except for the washing machine. I pat down my pockets and curse when I don't feel my phone. I don't see Bella. My body is stiff as I head towards the stairs. It feels like I will never reach the top. Thankfully, I do. My phone is sitting on my nightstand and I slump into bed. I dial my mother and tell her I need a sick day. She doesn't ask too many questions and says she'll stop by later. Great, now I have to fake a 'real' sickness. I hear Bella on the steps and call to her.

"Yeah?" She's on the other side of the door. She won't come in on her own; not after what I did to her.

"You can come in, Bella." I roll to my side and so does the world. She opens the door, slowly, and peeks her head in. "What are you washing?"

"Linens and towels. It's Monday. The paper said Monday to do those things. Plus, I missed Saturday…so…your shirts and stuff."

"Are the towels dry?"

She nods.

"Have you folded them, yet?"

She shakes her head. "They just finished. I was dropping off the clothes I forgot I washed." Her voice drops. "My clothes."

"Good. Can I have a towel from the dryer? You'll make me the happiest person in the world if it's still warm when it gets here."

The corners of her mouth twitch. She nods and waits.

"That's all. I just need a towel."

I close my eyes and hear the door shut. I don't hear her when she brings the towel. The clock tells me I fell back to sleep and it's now the afternoon. I find the towel on the foot of my bed. It's folded and wrapped up tight. The warmth has gone, but it smells fresh. I take a long shower and don't put much effort into dressing. Sick people hang around in sweatpants and old footballs tee-shirts. That is what I'm wearing. I am now a liar and look like a bum. Perfect.

I go back downstairs and hang out on the couch. I should probably call Rosalie and check in – see how things are going at the office – but I don't. I watch Bella carrying a basket full of stuff up the steps and wonder why the hell she doesn't just use the ironing room down here to fold and well, iron, but I keep my words to myself. She's already self-conscious enough and I'm not that much of a control freak. The doorbell rings as I'm flipping through channels and I groan, knowing it's my mother. She smiles and has bags of stuff as she enters. I follow her to the kitchen.

"I brought you some soup." She starts unpacking all of the items and then turns to face me. "Open." Her hands cup my chin and I laugh at her.

"I'm not five, Mom."

"Open," she insists. I roll my eyes and let her check my throat. "Hmm, seems a little red, but nothing too bad." Her hands continue and she feels my glands and I just play along. When she's satisfied, she goes back to the food and digs out a pot. The soup is heating on the stove and I take a seat on the stool. I pick at the bread she brought from Alice's and she talks.

"You've been working too much. You're wearing yourself out. I told your father it was too much. He's going to find a replacement soon."

"I'm fine, really. I just needed a day off."

"You missed church yesterday, too. There are two things my son doesn't do; miss church and miss work. You've successfully missed both back-to-back."

"I also work in places where there are sick people. Chances are, I am going to catch what they have from time to time."

She ladles the soup into a bowl. "Edward, I know you and you're not sick. You're tired and in need of some sleep. Have you looked at your eyes lately? You have bags the size of Texas."

"Thank you. I feel so much better now."

She sits the bowl in front of me. I get a spoon and I swear, her finger twitches and wants to tuck the napkin into my shirt. I start to eat and she sits down. She just watches me and it doesn't feel weird, it actually feels comforting. She might not be blood, but she is my mother and she feels like my mother in every aspect. Especially right now. Bella is walking quickly until she sees us sitting here. Her footsteps slow and she looks down as she passes, making her way to the laundry room.

"How is she doing?" Esme whispers.

"Fine." I keep eating.

Esme looks around. "The house looks good. The floors are shiny."

I nod.

"Most women wouldn't want to be doing so much work in her condition. Not that I know about that from experience, but I've heard." Her face falls and I stop eating. She tucks her arms close to her chest and smiles, but it is put on. I rest my spoon into the bowl and push it aside.

"Do you ever regret adopting Alice?"

"Edward," she scolds.

I suck my teeth. "I don't mean it like that. Jesus. I just mean…if you had to do it again, would you?"

"There isn't anything I love more than being your and Alice's mother, Edward. Nothing."

I nod. I debate for a moment whether or not to say this, but she is the only person other than Alice who would understand and I can't ask Alice. She's still too skeptical of Bella.

My voice is low. "She doesn't want it."

Esme leans in. "The baby?"

I nod. "She's considering adoption…but she's also considering other things."

I'm telling this to a woman who would give anything to be able to bare children and cannot. Her face expresses everything that a person in her position should feel. I hate hurting her, but I need her help. Bella. Bella needs her help.

"I think you should talk to her, Mom. Maybe if she heard how happy being able to adopt us made you, she'll understand."

Her head shakes. "I don't even know what I would say. I mean, I barely know her. This is a very big decision for a young woman to make, Edward."

"Which is why I need you to talk to her. I'm not asking you to convince her adoption is better, or right. I'm just asking you to tell her how it made you feel. How it changed your life. I want her to know she has options and what the outcome of each could be."

Esme nods. "I'll see what I can do." She reaches for my bowl and slides it back in front of me. "Eat, please."

A give her a half smile and do as she asks. "Have I ever told you how handsome you are?"

Her words make me laugh and laughing with soup in your mouth is not a good thing. I wipe my mouth and the counter. She finds humor in this.

"I thought you said I had bags?"

"You do," she shrugs. "But you're still handsome." Her hand cups my cheek and I smile despite myself.

Bella is walking through the kitchen again, faster than the last time. I shake my head as she exits. It will never cease to amaze me that she can take off her clothes for strangers, yet feels shy walking around members of my family and myself - fully clothed - doing normal activities.

"Can I ask you something, Son?"

"No," I tease; knowing it won't be good.

She ignores me. "Why do you care about this girl, Bella, so much?"

I keep my eyes on the bowl. I shrug. "She just needs help."

"And you think you can help her?"

"I don't know, Mom."

"Edward," Esme stands and here it comes. She hugs her arms around me and puts her chin on my shoulder. "You can't bring Tanya back. I know you miss her and what happened is just….it's unfathomable, but saving Bella won't change that."

"I know. I'm not stupid. Just drop it, please."

"I can't." Her arms hug tighter. "You're my baby and you have such a wonderful heart." She kisses my head. "A huge heart and it scares me to think that if something goes wrong with this girl…if she lets you down or doesn't work out the way you hope, what's left of that good heart won't be reparable."

She kisses my head again. "I'm not telling you not to help her, but just be careful. Not everyone is as good as you are." She leans away and smoothes her hand to the back of my head. I don't miss when she wipes her eyes and the soup is cold and I'm done eating.

She smoothes out her expression. "Your father is going to come have dinner this evening. I told him he needs to do something about the bags under his eyes as well. I'm making pot roast and I don't want to hear shit about how red meat is bad for you."

I smile at her curse word. She smiles back.

While she works in the kitchen preparing dinner, I am told to rest and she won't let me help. Bella is cleaning the living room and I end up back up stairs. I sit on my bed and try to read a book I started months ago. I'm only on the first chapter, still. I don't even remember what it is about. My door creeks open and I look up.

"Oh, sorry." Bella goes to close it, but I stop her.

"It's alright. I'm just grounded," I laugh.

Her face scrunches. I toss the book aside. "My mother has banned me from my own kitchen."

"Oh." She takes a step in and the awkwardness is back. Her head is down and she is balancing the basket on her hip. "Um, I just need to put these in here." She points to my dresser and I nod. She sits the basket down and opens the drawer as though I am sleeping and she might wake me. She handles my socks like they are bombs in her hands and I can't take it.

I toss a pillow from the bed at her.

She jumps and her head turns to look back. "Lighten up, Bella. If I didn't want you touching my shit, I wouldn't hire someone to touch my shit."

She looks down at the pillow, then back to me. "Glad to know that's not your idea of foreplay. I'm all into the maid fantasy if that's what you want, but throwing pillows isn't gonna get me wet. Just so you know."

She turns back around and I smile. My head rests on the pillows. "I pray my mother is still downstairs. That sentence taken out of context would be horrible," I laugh. "Shit, that sentence within the context is horrible."

She finishes putting my socks away and picks up the basket. "You asked for it."

I stare at her a second and she turns to leave. "Bella?" She faces me. "Come here a second," I pat the bed and she smiles wide. She walks over and plops down. She is way wrong.

"Freaky maid fantasy, Edward? I knew it." She curls her legs under her and leans towards me. I put my hand on her hip and stop her.

"Down girl. No. No freaky maid fantasy. I just want to see how you are."

"How I am?"

"How you feel. My mother pointed out that perhaps I'm asking you to do much work around here. Is that true?"

She sighs. "Because of the thing?"

"It can take its toll. Just tell me if you're too tired or feel sick, please. It would seriously ruin my reputation if someone – particularly in my family – found out I was cracking the whip on a pregnant woman."

Bella's eyebrow raises. "Now that sounds like a freaky sex fantasy."

I push her away. "Get off my bed with all your evil desires. You're tainting it."

Her smile is real this time and she scoots down. I watch her as she walks to the basket and picks it up, again. She leaves the room, but the smile on my face stays.