Chapter 20: Are You Alive?
"Knock, knock." I look up to see Bella entering my office. My face scrunches in confusion. What is she doing here? She holds up something familiar in her hands. "Apparently, you enjoy typing in the snow when you're drunk."
I half smile and she looks like a little girl. A little girl who did something good. I smile wider. Then I realize what she just said….and frown. She settles it on my desk and stands beside me. "I'm not sure if it works. I didn't turn it on or anything."
I nod and ignore it for now. "Thank you, Bella. You didn't have to bring it all the way down here, though."
"I was in the neighborhood," she shrugs and here eyes are looking around. "Is this what you do all day? Paperwork?"
"No. Not until Esme gets here, anyhow."
"Hmm." She turns and sits on the edge of my desk.
"So, why exactly are you in this part of town, today?"
She smiles coy and slides back further on my desk. She is wrinkling my papers and causing a mess. She shimmies her long skirt up to her thighs.
"Your mother said something about dressing up for Thanksgiving and some other shit I wasn't paying attention to. Anyhow, if I have to parade myself around tomorrow looking like a lady, I figured I might as well go all out. I was getting my legs waxed."
Her leg swings over my head and she leans back a little. Her feet are now on the arms of my chair; smooth legs spread just enough to see everything. "And I had to do some pantie shopping, too."
I look to the side. "I'm guessing you didn't find any."
She laughs and sits forward. "Wanted to drop off your laptop, first."
I'm still looking away and can only feel her as she slides into my lap. Her legs are crushed on the outside of my thighs and her hand pulls the stethoscope from my neck. I look at her and she smiles a little. She places the end to my chest and listens.
"How many times should your heart beat in a minute?" She asks.
"If someone is healthy?"
She nods. "Yours."
"About a hundred and sixty or so."
Her eyes lift to the clock on the wall behind me. After a minute passes, she removes the stethoscope and lets it hang on her neck. "Hmm. Funny."
"Not a hundred and sixty?"
"No, it is. According to this thing, you're normal." She puts the stethoscope back around my neck. "Now, do me."
"Bella, I use this on children. It's not a sex toy."
She laughs. "Then I suggest you use it the way it's intended." She unbuttons the top portion of her coat and juts her chest out, There is a look in here eye that is not matching her words. I should push her away and get back to work. Instead, I sigh and press the damn thing to her chest.
"Minute is over." She announces, eyeing the clock.
"Perfectly normal." I take the ear piece out and allow it to hang around my neck, again. "Is there anything else? Perhaps you would like to play with the blood pressure machine?"
"Don't get feisty. I was just making sure."
She doesn't answer. She rocks forward and I lean back. Her hips swivel in my lap. I try to hold her still, but she only pushes my hands down and sits her legs on top of them. Her voice lowers. "Ever fucked someone here?"
"Ever wanted to?" Her lap grinds against mine. "A nurse, maybe?"
She keeps grinding and rubs her face along my neck. Her chest is in my face and she is practically giving me a lap dance in my office.
"That's fucking gross and wrong on so many different levels, Bella."
She laughs darkly.
Her fingers slide along the back of my head and she puts her mouth next to my ear. She whispers and her breath tickles. "A housekeeper?"
I close my eyes and she waits, but I say nothing. If I say no, I'll hurt her feelings…and at this point, she would obviously know I'm lying. It's fucking obvious. I feel her lips on my cheek. It's a sweet kiss. She leans back and I can't look at her face. She slides from my lap and stands. She rights her clothing and I finally look at her. She looks at my crotch and her eyebrow bounces.
"Glad to know you're still alive, Dr. Cullen."
Thursday AKA Thanksgiving
My house is full of people. I know most of them, but there are some that I cannot place a name to. I assume they are Alice's friends, due to their age. My parents have a few guests of their own as well; co-workers from the hospital who didn't have anywhere to go for the holiday. I don't mind. I just want to be done with it.
"Edward!" Kate waves me over. She is standing with a group of women in my living room. I recognize most of them. There is one with her back turned to me that I don't. I try to be a gentleman and not ogle her, but there is something about her shape and form that is alluring. She's curvy and her legs are long. I reach them and I want to stab myself.
Bella looks over her shoulder and smiles. The legs and the curves were hers. Of course. She looks so much different right now. She is standing up straight. Her hair is smooth and glossy. Her clothing looks expensive. There is a French manicure on her fingernails and her lips are slick with cherry gloss. She is definitely a lady.
Kate grabs hold of me with her free arm. "I was looking all over for you." She is still hugging and her lips kiss my neck. I'm sure she meant my cheek. She pulls back. "Don't you look handsome." Her eyes roam over me and she takes a sip of her wine.
"Thank you. You look lovely as well." I nod to the others in the group and greet them.
"I was just asking your friend…"she looks at Bella. She's trying to remember her name.
"Bella," I say for her.
"Yeah, Bella. I was just asking her if…" Kate leans in and lowers her voice. Her breath smells like alcohol and her eyes are a little glassy. She's drunk. "She has ever had a man use a… you know…on her. We're trying to convince Emmett to buy one for Rosalie. You know, for when he goes away on those little camping trips of his."
The other girls giggle and I think it's time for a drink. Kate looks back at Bella.
"So? Have you?"
Bella glances at me and there is serious amusement in her face. She looks back to Kate. "Actually, I think dildos are kind of lame. I mean, who doesn't own one? You know what I really think is hot?"
The girls are all ears.
"Butt-plugs. I mean, you just slide it in and it's there all day. It's sort of like wearing sexy underwear. You know it's there and you feel dirty about it, but no one else would have any idea." Bella shifts a little, wiggling her hips and I see one girl's mouth drop. "I think I saw someone bring in brownies, earlier. Excuse me, ladies."
It takes me about ten minutes to excuse myself and find Bella. She is sitting across the room, eating a brownie and sipping something. I take a seat on the bench with her and hold my hand over her glass. She makes a face.
"Chill, Freak. It's just 7-Up." I raise a brow to challenge her. She hands it over. I smell it and she is being honest. "Half of your fucking family knows I'm knocked up. I'm not stupid enough to get drunk in front of them."
"I'm sorry." I hand it back and finishes her food.
"Plus," she licks her finger to free it of chocolate, "When I'm drunk I get bitchy and I'm sure that mixed with pregnancy hormones, would ensure that I'd tell your little twat friends over there to go fuck themselves – which would completely ruin your little happy holiday celebration you have going on here."
I look at her. "I thought you were hanging out with them?"
"I was looking for that goddamn bowl of peanuts I saw someone with. They are like all over the floor and I was seriously contemplating murder in your home."
I laugh at her words. "I see."
"I ended up bumping into your little twat friend and she started asking me about sex stuff. I was then going to hunt you down and murder you instead of the peanut motherfucker, but then I realized she was talking about getting Rosalie a dildo and not about me being a huge whore, so I decided to play along." Bella gulps her drink and sets it aside. "Plus, She was talking about how much she wants to fuck you and well, I definitely was RSVPing to that little convo."
My eyes bulge. "What?"
"Oh, please, Cullen. That girl wants to fuck you like I want a goddamn drink."
I shake my head. "She's drunk. She's just rambling."
"And when she mentioned it last time she was here? Was she drunk then, too?"
I stare at her. "Bella, Kate is Tanya's cousin."
Her lips make a 'pfft.' sound.
"I'm serious. It's not like that. At all."
She crosses her legs and faces me. "Newsflash, Mr. Naïve, nine out of every ten cases of adultery occur with a member of their spouse's family. Just because you wouldn't fuck someone in Tanya's, doesn't mean someone in hers wouldn't want to fuck you. Not everyone is all…" she waves her hand at me… "You know, Saintly."
I stare at Bella a moment and then glance to Kate. She is looking my way and she winks when our eyes meet. Her body language is correct with what Bella is saying and pisses me off. Tanya was her family for crying out loud. I look back at Bella.
"I'm an idiot, aren't I?"
A small smile appears on her face. She scoots closer. "No, you just trust too easily." She looks back at Kate then to me. "You know what would piss her off?"
I shake my head.
"If she saw you go up the steps with me right now. To your bedroom." Bella's leg goes over my lap and she leans in to my ear. "It's all in fun, promise."
I lean in to whisper in her ear. "And how do I know to trust you, Bella?"
"You don't." She leans away. "But at least now you're on your toes. Won't be as easy to trick you, now will it?"
The corner of my mouth lifts. I push her leg down and stand. My hand goes for hers and for the first time, she accepts. She follows me up the steps and I open my door for her, allowing her entry first. She steps in and tugs me by the waistband. I shut the door and Bella giggles, before landing on my bed. She lays back and sighs, a small chuckle escaping her mouth. She rolls to her side and pats the space next to her. I'm still at the door.
"I'm not gonna bite, Edward. Unless…."
I roll my eyes and take a seat on the edge of the mattress. Bella sits up and kicks off her heels. She folds her legs under her and places a pillow in her lap.
"Now what?" I ask.
She shrugs. "We could make disgusting animal noises. I could fake an orgasm. Call out your name so loud your neighbors hear it…." I cup my hand over her mouth. She pulls away. "I'm kidding. We just wait. How long can you usually go for? Add thirty minutes if it's bad. I don't want her to think you didn't like it."
"Can we talk about something other than sex, please?"
She scoots closer to me. "Why does it make you so uncomfortable?"
"Why are you able to be so free about it?" I counter.
She shrugs. "It's just sex."
I have nothing else to add and it falls silent. I'm at a loss for words and Bella is just rubbing her hands over the pillow in her lap. A few minutes pass and she finally speaks up.
"So…do you guys have a Thanksgiving like this every year?"
I nod. "Yeah, pretty much." I look at her. "Are you having fun?"
Her shoulder bobs and she says nothing.
"When was the last time you went home for Christmas?"
She looks up. "Um…when I left home, I guess."
Her head shakes. "A long time ago."
"Why did you leave?"
She's getting angry. "Because everything was just so happy and delightful, Edward. Jesus."
My voice drops. "Was it after your father died?"
She looks back down to the pillow. After a moment, her head nods.
"Why did your mother move to Phoenix?"
"Why do you have so many goddamn pillows on your bed? I don't fucking know, Edward. She just did."
I ignore her anger. "Ask me something."
She looks at me. "What?"
"You can ask me something. Anything. I'll trade you."
She stares at me a minute. "When was the last time you fucked someone?"
"A long time ago," I reply.
"Was it Tanya?"
"Yes," I nod.
"Holy shit. Your balls must be ready to explode."
I laugh a little and fall to my back. I rub my palms over my face and look at her. "Pretty much."
"Why haven't you fucked anyone?"
"I just…I don't know. I'm not into one night stands and I don't feel like dating anyone. Makes getting to the sex part rather difficult."
Bella shakes her head. "You poor bastard."
I laugh and roll to my side. "Can I have one of my pillows you have serious distaste for?"
She tosses one to me and I tuck it under my head. "Alright, my turn; how old were you the first time you worked in a strip club?"
"Isn't that a little young? And underage?"
She rolls her eyes. "You really are that naïve, Cullen. It's called a fake fucking ID."
"What made you do it? Start working there?"
"I needed money."
"Why not get a regular job?"
She turns herself towards me. "I was seventeen. I dropped out of school. I wasn't exactly at the top of hiring chain, Edward."
My shoulder bobs. "Tom Cruise didn't graduate high school. He made out just fine," I tease.
"Yeah well, I'm pretty sure Tom Cruise has sucked his fair share of dick, too. Nothing comes easy, Cullen. No pun intended." She sighs. "My turn."
I tense for what she might ask. "Alright."
"Have you ever looked for your real mom?"
Not too bad. "Once, when I was fifteen."
Bella's eyes are intrigued. "Did you find her?"
I nod. "There's an Elizabeth Mason listed in Virginia, but I've never gone to check it out."
"She went back to her maiden name, I assume. After she divorced my father."
Bella nods in understanding. "Why didn't you go?"
"What am I gonna do? Knock on her door and say, 'Hi, remember me? I'm the son you ditched when I was three."
Her face falls. "I guess."
"Besides, if she really wanted to know me, she'd find me."
Bella nods. "Esme told me about Alice's mother. Is it true? Was she really sixteen?"
"Yeah. I met her once. In the grocery store. She let me have the last bag of apples. She was really nice."
I hear someone calling my name from the other side of the door. It's faint and I assume they are heading up the stairs. I look at Bella.
"Looks like playtime is over. How did we do?"
She looks at the alarm clock on my dresser. "Thirty four minutes. Not bad for a random party fucking. Good Job, Cullen."
I smile and let her get off the bed first. As we exit my room, I see that it is my father calling my name. He eyes Bella and I, there is a curiosity there. I can understand why. We are leaving my bedroom together. I expect Bella to keep walking, but she pauses when I do. I look over the railing and see Kate still staring in our direction. Bella waves.
"What's up?" I ask Carlisle.
"Carmen called. They got snowed in. They won't be able to make it this year."
My whole body feels deflated. "Are they alright?"
"They're stuck in the airport, but should be able to make it home in the morning. Hopefully."
"Yes, Edward. I told Carmen to make sure Bree stays bundled and not let her play in the snow. No matter how much she begs." He smiles and I nod. Bella is smiling too. It's the most I've ever seen her smile and it feels wonderful.
"Good. Thank you."
"No problem. You should come back downstairs. Your mother was looking for you." He is still eyeing us curiously, so of course, Bella makes it worse and takes my hand, leading me down the stairs. We run smack dab into my sister and she notes our joined hands.
"Having fun?" She is asking me and I let go of Bella's hand. I feel like an asshole, but she was only doing it to get a rise out of someone. By the look in Alice's eyes; mission accomplished.
"Loads. Have they put out the pie, yet?" I ask.
"Mom has them in the oven, right now. Maybe you should go help her."
And feed Bella to the wolves? Alice being the pack leader? I don't think so.
"Actually, I was going to ask Bella if she'd like to watch some TV in the living room."
"Mom could really use a hand, Edward." She crosses her arms and I smile.
"Mom told me if I go in the kitchen for anything other than eating, I was going to beaten within an inch of my life. I think I'll take TV watching on couch with, Bella."
Alice glares at me and then Bella and thankfully retreats to the kitchen. I laugh and Bella looks at me. "She doesn't like me very much."
"She's just protective."
We take a seat in the living room. I see Emmett and Rosalie in the corner. They spent dinner time with Rosalie's family. I guess they got here when I was upstairs. Bella reverts back into her 'mouse mode'. It bugs the shit out of me. She has a right to be here. They both do.
I see the infamous bowl of peanuts on the coffee table. I reach for them and offer some to Bella. She glares at me and I laugh, placing it back on the table. She crosses her legs and clasps her hands. She sits up straight and I see Kate once again. She's giving me the evil eye and a part of me wonders how much of it is due to what Bella said earlier, about Kate wanting to be with me and how much it has to do with the thought that she assumes I was with anyone other than Tanya. There is a remorse for my actions I cannot explain, even though, I really wasn't doing anything.
A man sits down in the chair adjacent to us. He is older, and I recognize him from the hospital. He works the shift before mine, usually. I don't know his name, though. I smile and nod to greet him. He reaches for the peanuts and I watch Bella's hand twitch.
"Your Mama sure can cook." He rubs his stomach that is round and fat.
"Thank you, Sir. And I agree."
I watch him look at Bella. His face scrunches and he looks her over. She notices and looks down. She's uncomfortable and I pray it isn't for the reason I am thinking. He taps his finger towards her.
"I know you from somewhere."
Jesus. Not here.
She shakes her head. "I don't think so."
He leans forward. "Your face. I've seen you before."
Bella bites her lip. She doesn't know him, I think. But, perhaps he has seen her at the club? Shit. It's possible.
"What's your name?" He squints.
Her voice is low. "Bella."
"Nah. Your last name."
She looks up and debates for a minute. "Swan."
He snaps his fingers. "I knew it! You're Chief Swan's little girl. Aren't you?"
She nods slowly.
He sits back. "I might be old, but I'd remember that pretty face anywhere. You used to eat at the Forks Diner with him when you were little, right?"
She looks like she's on autopilot. "They had a steak and cobbler special on Thursdays."
He laughs and nods. "Sure did! Pretty damn good cobbler too, I must say."
She mumbles, looking at her hands. "It was his favorite."
"Damn shame what happened to your old man, Girl. He was a damn fine, Police Chief. Best Forks ever had." He tips his glass to her and she is still. If I nudge her, she might fall over. "To this day I can't step foot in that General Store without thinking of good old Charlie Swan."
I see her hands tremble. "I need to use the restroom. Excuse me." She stands and my heart breaks. She makes her way out of the room and I see her climb the stairs.
"Sorry. Didn't mean to upset your girlfriend."
I look back to him. My hand waves him off. "Bella works for me. And you didn't mean any harm. It's alright."
"It was such a long time ago; I figured the wound had closed enough."
I debate and feel like shit when my mouth asks the question. "What happened?"
He takes a swallow of his Scotch and then sets the glass down. "Her daddy was shot by these punks holding up the General Store one evening. Right in the heart. Died instantly." He leans forward and reaches for his glass, again. "Worst part is, he wasn't even on damn duty that night."
"How old was Bella?"
He thinks for a minute. "Probably thirteen? Maybe fourteen? I'm not really sure."
I nod and my whole body feels ill. She was just a kid. I look at the man. "Excuse me, please."
I exit the room and climb the stairs. I knock on her door, but there is no answer. I try the knob and it's unlocked. I open the door and the bathroom light is on. It's an odd wave of déjà vu rolling over me. I press my fingertips to the door and push, gently. She is on the floor, against the wall. She is hugging her knees and sobbing. Her body rocks back and forth and she doesn't see me. Her head is down. I grab the towel from the rack and slowly sit down next to her. My body lightly brushes hers and she jerks away.
My voice is soft. "It's just me. It's alright."
Her body crumples back down and all her beauty and perfection and black eyes and rosy cheeks have run together. I'm not really sure what to do. She doesn't like me touching her. Not like this. I stand and turn the faucet to warm. I let the end of towel soak and then return to the floor. Her sobbing is hiccups and I sit in front of her. I can only see one side of her face. I slowly bring the towel there and wipe gently at her smeared make-up and tears. She doesn't flinch and I chance moving her hair.
She lets me push it back and clean more of her cheek. I push my fingers under her chin and raise her face from her knees. Her eyes are closed and I am able to clean her face without protest. Her breathing slows as I get close to finishing and she opens her eyes. She says nothing, but watches me all the same. I turn the towel to the other end. I dry her face and she is bare and pale and Bella.
I move to her side and sit next to her. I keep my hands to myself; in my lap. It's quiet and her tears are gone. I feel her head slump to my arm and she sighs. There is a relief and a happiness inside of me that I cannot explain. I feel like maybe she trusts me. Maybe I've done something right, after all. Maybe…there is hope for Bella.
"Do you like pumpkin pie?" I ask.
She nods against my arm.
"Would you mind if we ate some in your room?"
She pulls away and to my surprise, there is playfulness in her eyes. She sniffles. "Going for round two, Cullen?"
I smile. "What can I say; I have a serious fetish for girls crying their eyes out in the bathroom. Call me sick, I don't care, Bella."
She laughs and it sounds wonderful. Her head rests against wall and she closes her eyes. "Yeah sure. Pie in my room. Whatever floats your fucking boat, Edward."
I debate for a moment and it finally hits me about yesterday in my office. I get it. I lean in and press my head to her temple. My mouth by her ear.
"Glad to know you're still alive, Bella."