Chapter 28: The Definition of a Man
I wake up in a fog. I remember watching him play the piano last night. That bitch, Kate, talking about me like she fucking knows me. I'm cold. There's no fire on downstairs and I realize when I look at the clock, why. Edward is gone. The cemetery. Yeah, it's colder when he's not here. No fire, no warmth and nothing. Just nothing. I hug my arms around myself and wander, but have no path. I'm floating from room to room and going no where.
I pause in the living room and see the book I gave him on the piano. It's closed. I'm not looking through it. A car pulls into the drive. It's not Edward's, but looks pretty close. There's a red bow on the antenna that gives it away. Edward has no red bow. I watch through the curtains. A man – who also looks like Edward – gets out. Carlisle.
He knocks on the door. Shit. I don't want to answer it. I wait until he knocks a second time and then fumble with the lock. He smiles sweetly. He looks kind. He's bundled with a scarf and a long heavy coat. He looks handsome. He looks like Edward. A gentlemen. The cold air rushes in and I shiver.
"Good morning, Bella. Is Edward awake?"
I shake my head. "No. He's at the cemetery."
His father looks surprised. "The cemetery?"
"Yeah, he goes every Ss…Sunday." Fuck it's cold.
Realization dons on his face. "Oh. I see. Well, I wanted to invite him out to breakfast, but I suppose my chance has past." He waits and I don't know what to say.
"Uh…he usually doesn't stay long. He'll probably be back soon."
He smiles. "Would you mind if I waited for him?" His hand waves. "Inside?"
I back up. "No. Sure. I mean, yeah, come in."
He steps through the door and I lock up behind him. He takes a seat in the living room. It's weird. I don't really know his father. He notices me standing here.
"I can sit somewhere else, if you are busy in here…" he goes to get up.
"No, it's fine. Um…do you want something to drink?" That's a normal thing to ask, right?
"Coffee would be wonderful if you have some. Thank you, Bella." Again with the nice smile.
I go to the kitchen and thankfully there is already coffee in the pot. Edward's Sunday coffee. I pour some into a mug and reheat it in the microwave. I have no idea if he wants sugar or milk. Why did I ask him if he wants something to drink? I should have just gone to my room. I take the stupid coffee and bring it into the living room. I go back and get the milk and sugar and a spoon. I leave them on the table beside his chair.
"Oh, I just take it black, but thank you." He takes a sip. Carlisle's face sours a bit. "He likes it strong, doesn't he?"
"I don't know. Never had it…cause of the…you know." I wave my hand over my stomach.
"Yes, of course. How are you and the baby doing?" He's asking so casually. He knows I'm a whore, doesn't he? He knows that I'm a whore living in his son's house, doesn't he?
"Um, fine I guess."
"That's good." He sets his mug down. "Bella, would you sit with me for a moment?" He waves to the couch across from him.
"Please?" He asks again.
Against my better judgment, I do. He shifts towards me. His hands clasp in his lap. "I realize this puts you in an awkward position, but I'm going to ask because I know Edward won't tell me. I'm a little worried about him. He puts on a good show, but I have to tell you, after hearing he had a fight with his sister, I'm a bit concerned, Bella."
Why is he asking me? I shrug. "Siblings fight."
He nods. "But not like Edward and Alice had. She cried all night to my wife. I've never seen her so upset," He sighs.
"Are you asking me to tattle on Edward?"
"No. I'm not putting blame on either one of them. I understand both sides perfectly and I love them equally. I just want to know how my son is. How he really is."
"Like I said, I know it puts you in an awkward position, but I'm only asking out of concern, not noisiness."
I shake my head. "He's fine, I guess. I don't know." That's a lie. Why am I lying?
Carlisle picks up his coffee. "I suppose he hides it better than I thought." He takes a sip.
"Not really." Great, now my mouth is speaking without my permission. He looks at me. Say something, stupid. "I…I just mean…obviously he isn't okay. How could anyone who has lost someone like that be alright?"
His eyes squint. "That's why I wish he would talk about it. To me, to his mother…someone. It's no good keeping it locked up. Edward was always like that; even as a boy, when Elizabeth left us. He consoled me. Imagine that. This tiny child, telling his grown father everything was fine." Carlisle smiles, but his eyes are sad. "Maybe I just feel guilty. Hell, I don't know anymore to be honest." He rests his mug back down.
Yeah, he looks like Edward. Tired, confused, yet kind.
I shrug. "It made him stronger."
Carlisle's eyes lift to my face. There's a curiosity there I don't understand. "You know, my colleagues, people who know of our family, they always look at me and say how lucky I am to have a son who is so successful. That he followed in my and his mother's footsteps with becoming a doctor. I never really felt that way. I always felt like both of my children were a success, simply because they overcame whatever was handed to them in life.
"I'm proud of Alice for being such a smart business woman and I'm proud of Edward for being a respected doctor, but them…I am proud of them. I'm proud to simply call them my children."
And with that, in walks one of the two. Edward slowly closes the door. He eyes me and then Carlisle.
"Hi," he says softly.
"Good morning, Son. I hope you mind me waiting for you. I was going to invite you to breakfast, this morning. Bella said you'd be home shortly."
His head shakes. He looks confused. "Aren't you going to church?"
"I think the Lord will spare me one day, considering I'm trying to spend it with my child," Carlisle smiles.
Edward looks nervous. It's Sunday and Carlisle doesn't understand what he feels like on Sundays. He rubs his face. He's stalling. He's trying to come up with an excuse. My heart burns. It's like watching a fish out of water. Flopping around, gasping for air. I should have never opened my damn mouth and invited Carlisle in.
"I'm not really hungry, Dad. I'm kind of tired, actually."
His father hides disappointment well. I wonder if that's where Edward got his mask from.
"I understand," he nods. "It's partially my fault. I have been giving you too many shifts at the hospital." Carlisle stands. "Thank you for the coffee, Bella. And the company."
I just nod. He gives Edward a hug. His arms are tight around him, but Edward's are loose. It's forced. Carlisle says something, but I can't hear. He gives one last smile before he exits and we are alone. The air is tense. I haven't spoken to him since the day of grocery store shit. My mouth speaks without taking my brain with it.
"He doesn't like your coffee. He said it's too strong."
Edward eyes me. He takes a seat and sets his keys aside. "Oh, yeah? What else did he say?" He's tugging at his shoes, taking them off.
"That he's worried about you."
Edward laughs, but it's not a happy laugh. It's a laugh of disbelief. "Aren't they all."
"He said you made Alice cry."
He looks at me. His shoe falls to the floor. "He did?"
"Fuck." He takes off the other one. He leans back. His hand goes over his face. "Fuck."
My voice feels like a kid's. "I'm screwing up your life…aren't I?"
He looks over. "It doesn't have anything to do with you, Bella."
"I heard you guys fighting. And I heard what Kate said."
"Kate doesn't matter and what happened between Alice and I happened because I'm a shitty communicator and she's a shitty listener." He picks up the remote and I am assuming that he wants to end this conversation.
Say it. Just say it. "I think I should leave. Things would be better. Easier."
He tosses the remote to the coffee table. It lands hard. He sits up and sighs irritably. "If you're unhappy and want to leave, then leave Bella. But don't put it on me that you're doing it. Don't say it's for my benefit. I asked you to be here and if I wanted you gone, I'd ask you to leave. The words haven't come out of my mouth, so please don't put them there."
"A housekeeper can't be that hard to find. Certainly someone else would come with less problems, Edward."
He rubs his hands over his face and through his hair. His elbows lean on his knees. His hands come to rest under his chin. "I already told you how I feel. Do whatever you want to, Bella."
He reaches for the remote and turns on the TV. That's it. That's all he has to say. What did you expect him to say? I have no idea. I get up and find the stairs.
It was stupid to have unpacked. This is only more work. Where are we going? I have no idea. But it's nice here. Warm. Too bad. I shove my clothes into my bag. Edward is here. Too bad. I shove my toiletries into my bag. One last look around the room. My key stays on the dresser. B for Bella. Too bad. I grip the handle to the door and move as quickly as I can down the steps. My feet halt as I get to the bottom. He's sitting on the floor, back against the front door.
"Sit down." He points. I stare. "Sit, Bella."
Defense triumphs flattery. "Now you're holding me hostage?"
"Now, I'm going to not make the same mistakes I made a year ago. Sit."
I drop my bag and sit my ass down. He plays with his hands, but then looks at me. "I'm sorry you heard Alice and I fighting. And I'm sorry that Kate was talking about what happened in the store. She had no right to tell Alice that. She had no right to say the things she did about you." He wraps his arms around his knees. A heavy sigh leaves his chest. His head leans against the door.
"Everyone keeps asking me why I want to help you. Why I care about what happens to you…and I never have an answer. As pissed off as I am at Kate, she helped me figure it out. When she said that shit about you, it was like she was saying about it me. Everything that happened to you in the grocery store…that's how I feel everyday, but no one sees it and if they do…they leave me alone about it." He shrugs. "For the most part."
"It sucks, Bella. It fucking sucks feeling this way." He's looking at me and it might as well be like looking in a mirror. I'm in his eyes. The tired on his face. The tears that are just barely kept behind the barrier.
"I'm trying to help you and I don't even know how to help myself. That's why they don't get it. And it's not about you, anyhow. It's about my life before you. It's about the mistakes I made before I even knew you. I'm sorry if it hurts you, but please don't leave because of that. I've already seen how that story ends and you deserve better than that."
My voice is scratchy. "So do you."
He shakes his head. "You make my life easier, not harder. The only reason it's hard it's because of me. Because of the things I don't want to deal with."
I open my mouth but he already has an answer for my excuse.
"I can't even go to breakfast with my own father on a Sunday, Bella. How fucked up is that? My own father I can't talk to….but you….I can sit here and say all this shit to you. Like it's nothing. They don't even know I go to the cemetery."
He's letting you in, Bella. He's trying to tell you. Look at him. I am. He's waiting. I look down to my fingers.
"Sorry I fucked up our shopping day." Why does this make me want to cry? All of the things I have not cried over and now I want to ball like a baby over a stupid trip to the store. I wipe my nose on my sleeve.
"I'm sorry for whatever I did to upset you, Bella."
Carlisle's right. He looks like a little kid. A little kid who is afraid he pissed off Mommy. The Mommy who left. And here I am, trying to walk out on him, too. Trying to leave and he doesn't know why. And it burns. It fucking burns. I wipe my face on my sleeve, again. Story for story. Fine. Let's go. Round one. Ding-fucking-ding.
"My dad was going to retire after he found Sam. He was too young by the standard, but my mother begged him to. I don't think she's why he agreed. There was a light in his eyes that just…went out? I don't fucking know. He just never looked the same after Sam was found. I think it was the failure.
"He had three months to go and then that would be it. He bought all of this fishing equipment and painted the boat in our shed. He said he was going to take me in the summer. He even named the stupid thing."
"Daddy, that is embarrassing. What if someone from school sees?"
Charlie applies another coat of white paint. "Then I guess they'll know this boat belongs to Bella." He smiles and I roll my eyes. He twirls the brush through the B…then the E…then the L, L, A. Fish hook. It's mine.
"Let's just hope it doesn't sink." He winks and I laugh.
"There's this thing about cops. It's like it's in their DNA. It's probably the same for you, as a doctor. If you were driving somewhere and saw an accident, you'd stop and help, right? 'Cause you're a doctor and you'd want to help where others couldn't, right?"
"I mean, they have to. It's part of their duty, even off duty. They have to stop and help…but still. If it weren't, he would still stop. It was just…Charlie. He was only going to pick up supplies to finish the boat, but two hours passed and dinner was cold and Renee was pissed.
"He called from the station…I knew he was there because I could hear Billy in the background. One of the other cops. I was whining to him about the food Renee cooked. Or over cooked. He thought it was funny. He laughed."
My mind drifts there. I can hear it. It's right there. It's in my ear, just as clear as the phone pressed against it.
"I'll be home soon, Baby. I'll bring you a little treat, alright?"
"The kind with almonds?"
"Sure thing, Kid."
Warmth runs down my cheeks, dripping onto my sleeves. "He was trying to make up for being late. He was trying to apologize for what he was. For being a cop. But, I didn't care. I liked that he was a cop. I liked how people looked at him. He was powerful. People looked up to him. Everyone looked up to him. Except Renee. She hated it."
Broken dishes. "I knew it! I knew he was going to get killed! I knew it! I told him!" I shrink into the corner. "You had to tell him he looked handsome in his uniform! Didn't you! You had to make him wear that stupid thing to your recital and fill his head with this idea that he was some type of damn hero! Well are you happy now, Isabella! ? Your fucking hero Daddy is dead! He's dead and it's all your damn fault!"
"He stopped to buy me a candy bar. He promised on the phone he'd bring me home one to make up for Renee's shitty food." My hands tremble. "When they survey a crime scene, they keep records of all the items surrounding it. The evidence. Even the stupidest things. I remember a lady got slapped at the Dairy Queen one night. My father had to bag the burger she was eating and hold onto it as part of the case. Him and Billy joked about it; saying it was the point of impact or something."
I take a breath.
"There was fifty dollars and sixty-two cents in the register missing. Charlie could shoot a beer bottle off a fence post with one eye closed. I saw him wrestle a kid from the high school football team to the ground when a fight broke out at the Diner one night. He had an Almond Joy in his hand. A bullet in his heart. His gun was at home.
"The guys who robbed the store were stopped forty miles away. They had fifty dollars and sixty two cents stuffed in a plastic bag. A forty five in the glove box. A shot gun in the bed of the truck. They went to my school. Their mom used to make deviled eggs for the community fair every year."
I hug my knees and allow the silence to live. Edward's voice is gentle, reserved. "It's not your fault, Bella. You were just a little kid."
The tears find my cheeks again. "I made him feel guilty. Just like Renee. He was just trying to help those people in the accident and all I could do was whine about over-cooked fucking pasta. He stopped to buy the damn thing because he felt guilty for not being home."
Edward slowly gets up and moves to the steps. He sits beside me, mimicking my position. "He stopped because he loved you. It's the same reason I buy things for Bree. I like seeing her happy. More than that, when you're an adult and you have a job that weighs you down, like a cop, or a doctor, Bella….you lose track of the little things sometimes. Hell, you don't even have to be a doctor or a cop. People….people just get caught up in life. You end up thinking all of your problems and frustrations are so valid and so horrible.
"And one little thing, one little silly thing; like a quarter to get a plastic ring from a machine, or a fake note someone spends their lunch break writing - pretending to be Santa Clause, or a candy bar…to a child that one small act of kindness is the whole world. And none of your shit matters. None of your bullshit matters, anymore. You're father would have stopped to buy you something regardless."
I shake my head as the tears flow.
"He would have, Bella. Bree never calls me and asks for anything. I don't need her to. I know her. I know what makes her happy. I know what makes me happy."
"Renee even knows it's my fault. It is, Edward. It's my fault."
He's quiet for a moment. His head rests on his arms, folded over his knees. He stares towards the door.
"You know what I said earlier? About not letting you leave; making the same mistakes?"
"I let Tanya leave. We we're fighting, like usual, over my family's shit. I was tired of the pull. My family pulling me one way, her pulling me the other. I was tired of being lied to and I was tired of trying to make everyone happy. She said she was telling me the truth, but it's hard to believe someone when there's so much evidence tell you otherwise. When your own family looks at you like you're crazy. Any other time, any other night, I would have let it go.
"I would have just gone off on my own and let the shit roll off my back until the next time. We would have made up in the morning and everything would have gone back to normal. Whatever the hell normal was," He shrugs.
He takes a minute. His eyes are trained on the door and I imagine he is seeing what he is telling me. It still lives in him, like my memories live in me. "I pushed her away. She begged me to believe her and I pushed her away. I didn't want to touch her and I didn't want her to touch me. She told me she loved me and I told her it was a lie. I never said it back. I never said that I loved her that night. I called her a liar and a cheater and told her she was ruining my life…and she left. She walked out the door and she never came back."
Edward lifts his head and rubs his hands over his face. "I really hate that you're pregnant, Bella." I stare at him. He keeps his eyes forward. "'Cause fuck me if this shit doesn't require heavy drinking."
I want to laugh, but I don't. He's right and he's serious. "That doesn't sound like you."
He moves his eyes from the door. He puts them on me. "And who am I, exactly?"
"You're the guy with a father who talks about how proud he is to call you his son. Making sure to point out that it's not because you're a doctor, or successful in your career…but just because of who you are. Because you're strong and nothing like your shit mother. The first one."
He thinks over my words for a moment. He tucks his fingers into his palm and uses the back of his sleeve to wipe my face.
"Neither are you, Bella."
"Pfft. The only way I could be any more like Renee is if we were born twins."
He shakes his head. "I don't believe that."
"I can't cook. I can't even go grocery shopping for you. You work all day and you come home to an empty fridge and no food on the table; just like Charlie. I have this thing inside of me that I detest and when it's born, it's going to know it. It's going to look at its new parent's and know that I didn't want it. She married her new husband trying to replace my father because he loved sports. We both pretend. We drink ourselves stupid and under our hazy reality, we pretend we are fine. We both killed my father by filling him with guilt. We both made him feel like he was failing, even though we are the real failures."
Edward purses his lips while he thinks. "My family thinks I trust people too easily. Alice tells me all the time. You even told me, once. But the truth is that I don't. Not at all. When you started working here, I hid all of my shit of value in my safe. I didn't trust you. I try to be as fair as I can, Bella. I try my hardest to trust people and when I can't I fake it…because I don't want to be a product of what Elizabeth created. I want to believe that people are trust worthy, but I have to work on it everyday.
"It's no different with my father. He was never the type to be working on cars or doing the stuff that most boys grew up learning from their fathers. I was twenty two before I even knew where you put oil in. I was jealous of all the guys I knew, because I felt like I was cheated a little in that arena. So, I spent a summer helping Rosalie's brother rebuild a car in his garage. I don't know everything there is to know, but I know enough to where I don't get ripped off when I bring mine to the mechanic.
"It's empowering when you better yourself. When you take something that makes you weak, or makes you feel inferior and conquer it. Even the small things, Bella. If you don't want to be like Renee, then don't fucking be like Renee."
His hand graces my face, my cheek; pushes my hair away.
"I happen to think you're quite lovely as Bella. I think you'd agree; if you could actually see yourself in the proper light."