Chapter 24: Enigma
The past few days have been a total nightmare and blessing all in the same. Work blocks out reality, but reality of late has become rather enjoyable. Or tolerable. Somewhere in between the two. There is an energy in the morning I didn't feel a few weeks ago. There is a desire to look forward to coming home, I didn't feel before. On the other hand, there is a guilt and an unnerving in my soul because of those things. Numbness has comfort. Dealing with things does not. And yet, it does.
My hand rubs my face and I'm lost in my own thoughts and confusion. It was funny at first, hearing my name mumbled from Bella's lips. The humor was lost in the reality. Bella is a beautiful woman, there is no doubt about this, but my objective isn't to objectify her. My motives aren't to win her heart or woo her into my bed, somehow. I don't want her dreaming about me. I don't want the crossed lines and confusion. And yet; I don't know what the hell I do want.
I try to be quiet as I make my way into the house. It's late and I hate leaving her here all night alone. She's safe – this is a safe neighborhood – but it just leaves an unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach. She has no friends as far as I know; no one to invite over and Emmett took away the only person who was taking interest in her. I don't know what she does when she's alone, but I pray the bottles in my liquor cabinet remain full, as they were her only friends before.
I close the door quietly and lock it. She left the light on in the laundry room and I reach to turn it off, but pause. My fist goes to my mouth and I have to look away so I don't laugh and disturb her. She's sleeping like a kitten, balled up in the basket, atop a comforter. I settle my things down on the floor and tread lightly as I walk towards her. I kneel down and she is just so sweet. Just so innocent and so sweet. My hand wants to touch her face. The blade of my finger begs to be run down her cheek. Light as a feather. Has anyone ever touched her like that? Light as a feather. Admiring her delicateness?
I gently slide my arm under her legs and then my other arm under her neck. I expect her to wake up and hit me, tell me not touch her, but she doesn't. I lift her in my arms and use my shoulder to flip off the light. My things are forgotten at the door. As I cross the kitchen and living room, Bella rolls into me. Her hand fists my shirt and her head rests in the crook of my neck I make my way up the stairs. Each step feels like I'm trekking through quicksand. She isn't heavy.
I reach her room and open the door with my foot. I walk to her bed and go to settle her down, but the mattress is bare. Shit, she was washing the linens. Well, hell. I can't make the bed and hold her at the same time and I am certainly not going to wake her up to do it, right now. I walk with her to my room and pause. No. I walk with her to the spare room and settle her down. I grab the extra blanket off my bed and bring it to where she is. I lay it over her and she mumbles something. My eyes linger on her face. My fingers still tingle and want to touch her. I give one light stroke to her cheek. She's warm. Her eyes flutter open. She looks at me with confusion. I can't help but to smile at her. I notice that happens a lot, lately.
I'm quiet. "You fell asleep downstairs."
She thinks for a moment and then sighs. "I was waiting for my sheets to dry. The stupid buzzer was supposed to wake me up."
I can't look away from her face. I kneel down. My fingers toy with the edge of the blanket. She stares back at me. The confusion I feel is beyond my understanding. I'm a smart man, but I have no clue why looking at this girl's face - being around her – causes me to feel this way. I sigh.
"You're an enigma, Bella."
Her face crinkles. "Is that a disease?"
There it is. The feeling. The smile I don't understand is on my face. I shake my head. "No, an enigma is like a puzzle; something you don't understand fully. A mystery of sorts."
Her voice is small. "Oh." She thinks it over. "Is that a good or bad thing?"
My eyes roam her face. "I'm not sure."
Our eyes stay attached and without permission my fingers are going to caress her cheek. She breaks our connection and shies away from my touch. I pull back and regret ever having tried. It is stupid, for so many, many reasons.
She says nothing and I leave her to her sleep and dreams. In the morning, I'm tired. The weight of the week is sitting on my shoulders. I try to allow the shower to wash it away, but it remains. I get dressed and count out Bella's pay for the week. I shove the envelope in my jacket pocket and head downstairs. She is sitting at the kitchen island. There is a bowl in front of her. Her feet are dangling – bare – and swinging back and forth as she eats. One at a time, slowly. She looks at me as I rest my things on the counter.
"How can you eat this stuff?"
I look at what she has. Oatmeal. I shrug. "It's good for you."
"It tastes like cardboard."
I remember her teasing, from the night with the salty noodles. "Well, Bella, that's because it's good for you."
She smiles a little and goes back to eating. "Add honey, it'll taste better." I pull the envelope from my pocket and set it on the counter. "Happy, Friday." I turn to find a mug and start making coffee.
"Tired?" She asks. I look over my shoulder. "You never drink coffee during the week."
I don't? No, I don't. I shrug. "Long week, I guess."
"Are you working late, tonight?"
I shake my head. She goes back to eating. "We should probably go grocery shopping later. I don't want to wait and get stuck with all the last minute holiday shoppers."
"I'll pick you up around two."
At my office, Rosalie dangles a shiny bag in front of my face. "Merry, merry, Dr. E." I smile and take it from her.
She shakes her head "No, thank you. That was quite a Christmas bonus. Feeling generous or guilty about something?" She teases.
Good question. "You just deserve it."
She smiles and hugs me. "Thank you. It's nice to be appreciated."
I nod and she sits back at her desk. "So, what are you all doing this year?"
"Just going to my parent's house. Same as usual."
"Yeah, us too." She starts typing and I leave her to it.
I drop off the bag in my office and lift the first chart off the wall. Jacob Black. Oh, joy to the world. I open the door and smile. He is already in a sour mood. The rubber gloves are all over the place and his mother is trying to get him to sit, but he is twisting in her arms and making this God awful screeching noise. Kill me now.
"How are we today?" I sit the chart on the counter and he is still squirming around.
"Hi, Dr. Cullen. Jacob, please." She loses her grip on him and he starts collecting the gloves from the floor. He throws them at me and laughs. He's just a kid, I tell myself. Just a bratty, loud, obnoxious little motherfu... "I'm sorry. I'll pick all of this up, I swear."
I wave my hand. "It's alright." I pull up the stool and take a seat. "So, it says here that your nose hurts. Why does your nose hurt, Jacob?"
He blows raspberries at my face and laughs. "Jacob!" His mother scolds.
"The girl hit me!" He exclaims.
"What girl?" I ask.
He takes a deep breath. "The girl at the park, dummy! She wouldn't let me kiss her, so I chased her. She hit my nose." He points and I want to high five whoever this girl is. No, no. Those are bad thoughts. He's only seven. I'm sure I was a prick when I was seven.
Hell, I'm a prick at twenty nine.
"How about we sit you on the table and check it out?" I stand and he starts throwing another temper tantrum. "I'll give you candy if you're good." And not put my foot in your ass.
The door opens. It's Rosalie. He smiles wide. She puts her hands on her hips. "Jacob Black, there is an awful lot of noise coming from this room. You're not giving my friend Dr. Cullen a hard time, are you?"
He shakes his head no.
"Didn't think so." She waits and he gives no protest when his mother puts him on the table. I wink at Rosalie and she winks back. I should have doubled her bonus this year.
I'm thirty minutes late when I arrive home. Bella is sitting on the couch with her things. She clicks off the television and I take the remote back from her. I plop myself down and she looks confused.
"Sorry, but I think I need like twenty minutes of mind numbing bullshit before I go out and deal with more bullshit." I flip to a channel and sink down into the couch.
I groan. "Some kid tore up my clinic and spit on me. Then proceeded to tell me how stupid he thinks I am."
Bella laughs. Her body shifts my way. "So, it was like spending the day with me."
My head lolls to the side and I look at her. She's biting her lip. The feeling is back. It burns. It feels incredible. "You haven't spit on me, yet."
She smiles. The feeling is stronger. "There's still a few hours left in the day."
I look back to the screen and try to block out whatever is trying to come alive inside of me. We leave after a few minutes and traffic is slow and hellish. Of course. She pushes the cart and I walk beside her. My hands stay in my pockets.
"What are we getting?" She asks.
I shrug. "Whatever we want, I suppose."
"You don't have a list? Your mother had a list." She seems nervous.
I smile a little. "She was also cooking for about thirty people. It's just you and me, Bella. Get whatever you want." Her lips twitch. I modify that sentence. "With the exception of over salted noodles in a foam cup or Vodka."
She rolls her eyes. "You're really no fun. You know this, Cullen?"
I'm stuck doing most of the shopping. She doesn't really pick out anything, other than some frozen food items and snacks. I don't say anything. She isn't picking on me and whatever I place in the cart. Fair is fair. I don't like it, but I'm not her keeper. I pay for our things and we load up the car. It's ridiculously cold out and I let the engine rev for a few minutes, trying to warm it up.
"Edward?" Her voice in tiny. I look over. She's looking ahead. "Do you think we can stop somewhere? Like a clothing store or something?" She sighs and looks over at me. "This thing is making me fat; since it makes me eat all the time."
I nod. "Yeah. Sure."
She rest into her seat. "Thanks."
I'm following her around as she looks for clothes. There is a sales lady who keeps giving me the eye. I ignore her and keep following Bella. She's flipping through a rack of pants and mumbling about how she has never been above a size two.
"You know there's a window right?"
She looks up as she keeps pushing pants along the rack. "What?"
"There's a window…" My voice drops. "For abortions."
She stops looking. Her face scrunches. "There's a window for abortions where?"
I shake my head. "I mean, you have a time limit. A window. If you wait too long, the window closes."
She looks down. "Oh." Her fingers flip through the rack, slower this time.
"Are you still considering it?"
She looks at me. "I don't know, Edward." She's scared.
"What are you scared of? I mean, if you have it? Before you said it was because of money; that's not an issue now. So why are you still scared?"
"Because I don't want it, Cullen." She looks away. "Wouldn't you feel like shit if…" she stops herself and I know what she was about to say. And yeah, I did feel like shit when my own mother decided she didn't want me. But…
"What Elizabeth did was shitty. I know. But it's not the same thing, Bella."
"Feels like it."
Again, the urge to touch her. Comfort her. I don't. Not with my hands. "Alice doesn't hate her mother, you know. They go shopping and shit. They hang out. They get along just fine. She doesn't resent her. Not at all."
She turns and faces me. "Do you?"
I lean on the clothing rack. "Resent her mother? No, why would I?"
"Your mother. Elizabeth."
"I told you it's not the same, Bella."
"I take that as a yes."
"I'm grateful for Esme. She needed a son and I needed a mother. It was a good solution to a bad situation." I sigh. "Anyhow, I shouldn't have brought it up here. I was just curious. Look for your clothes. I'll go find somewhere to sit and not cause trouble."
I turn to leave but she grabs my arm. "Those ladies think I'm going to shop lift. Just stay here. As long as you and your stupid tie are standing next to me, I'm good."
I laugh a little. "I'm sure they don't think that."
"Edward, I know they think that."
I stare at her. "Do I even want to know?"
She shakes her head. "No, probably not."
I ask anyhow. "You've stolen from here?"
"I left once without paying." She smiles. I shake my head. "I had money, but the John had a fantasy. I aim to please, what can I say?"
Jesus. My brain can't wrap around this shit. "You stole clothes because someone was paying you to?"
"No, I tried on clothes because someone was paying me to…while they watched…in the fitting room. Like a model, except he wanted me to pretend I was his girlfriend. He was a geeky motherfucker. But like I said, he paid well."
I shake my head and take a deep breath. "What does this have to do with shop lifting?"
"We got caught fucking in the dressing room. They were going to call the cops, so I hauled ass. I was still wearing the skirt."
I laugh, but there is no humor. It is just disbelief. She shrugs like it's nothing and goes back to her search for pants. I don't get it. I can't understand any of it. I watch her and she smiles as she moves onto the next rack. Not at me, to the ladies behind the desk. They glare and she laughs as she looks at clothes. Bella. Bella Swan. An enigma. A mystery. And for every new found piece of information, another question arises. The real question I have, however, is do I want to know?
Do I really want to know?