Chapter 29: And
Another busy Monday morning. Tie undone. Piles of stuff under his arm. Has no idea where his phone is. I stand up straighter. He doesn't see me. He sets his things down and gets some juice. He plops down on one of the stools and gulps it as he reads the morning headline on today's newspaper. I push my hair over my shoulder. I step closer. His eyes are busy. Not on me. The glass is empty. I get one of my own and pour a cup. I'm not thirsty.
"Um, would you like more juice?"
He finally looks up. He's going to say something, but he pauses, appraising me with his eyes. I am dressed and it is not for cleaning. He looks back to the glass. "Yeah, sure. Thank you." I pour his juice and he's watching me again. "Um…are you going somewhere this morning, Bella?"
I put the cap back on and nod. "Alice invited me to have coffee this morning. Well, she asked me to have coffee, but I'll probably have something else." I shake my head. "I think the idea is to talk. Regardless of what the fuck we're drinking."
He half-smiles at my rambling. "She did?"
He nods and looks back to his paper. "That's good." His smile grows wider.
"Yeah, so, I'll do my list when I come back. That's okay, right?"
"No," he says seriously, shaking his head. "It's not alright, at all. How dare you neglect the laundry to go out for coffee…or whatever the fuck you'll be drinking."
I roll my eyes at him. "You're not funny, you know that? Like, you try to be funny, but you're not, Edward. Not one bit."
He knows I'm playing. I see it in his face. "I'll try to work on that."
My eyes lower. "And your tie is fucked up, again." I twirl and put the juice back in the fridge. I take my glass and head towards the steps.
"Bella?" He calls. "Tell Alice I said hello, please."
And I will.
Chai Tea? We are having something called Chai Tea. It tastes pretty fucking good. Alice sets down a tray of pastries. I choose a muffin. Apple crumb. That is pretty good too. There is gooey apple stuff in the middle. I should say something. I mean, that would only be polite. Right?
"These are really good."
She smiles. "Thanks. My mother's favorite sweet. Actually, apple pie is her favorite. That's why I came up with the recipe for those. They are supposed to taste like apple pie, but she can have them for breakfast this way."
I nod. "They do. Taste like apple pie. They taste like apple pie." I am a brainless fool this morning. Why does his sister make me nervous? I should have shoved paper towels under my arms. I take a bite of the muffin and chew. She's not eating. The awkwardness grows.
I look up.
"I owe you an apology. Um…I was rude to you and you didn't deserve that. I meant what I said, but it was still rude. Shit, I can't even say I'm sorry without insulting you."
I sit the muffin down. "It's alright. I get it. Really."
She sighs and picks at one of the pastries on the tray. "I was taking out my frustrations on you that are owed to Tanya and that whole situation. That's what I'm trying to say."
"No, you don't like me and like I said, it's okay. You don't have to."
Alice shakes her head. "No it isn't and the truth is that I don't know you, Bella. Maybe…maybe that's what scares me the most. I don't know." She rests her chin into her palm. Her finger still picks at the food.
I stare at my drink. "Edward wanted me to tell you he said 'Hi'…well actually he said 'Hello'…but," I shrug and she laughs a little.
"Did he say anything else?"
I shake my head. "No, but he smiled when he found out I was coming to see you." And my stupid lips smile, too.
So do hers. "I hate fighting with him. We hardly ever do, but it still sucks. Other than Rosalie, he's like my best friend. It sucks when your friends are mad at you."
Wouldn't know. I shrug. She shoves the tray of food at me. "Eat. You're too skinny. Plus, I think pregnant people are supposed to eat like pigs….horses….shit. What is wrong with me?"
I laugh. "He's going to be pissed now." I take a sip of my drink. Her eyes scrunch. "When I tell him you called me a pig. He's going to be pissed." She thinks I'm serious. I roll my eyes. "I'm just kidding."
Her face relaxes. "I'm already nervous enough, Bella. No need to add fuel to the fire."
I laugh. "You're nervous? Why?"
"Because I'm trying to say the right things and I keep word-vomiting all over the table."
I push the tray away. My hands rest on the table. "It takes a lot more than a slip of the tongue to offend me. My skin isn't as thin as most peoples. Trust me."
After my meeting with Alice, I find my feet traveling towards Edward's office. I open the door and step in. Rosalie is at the front desk. She sees me and smiles.
"I wanted to give these to Edward. They're from Alice." I show the wrapped tray and she points her thumb towards the direction I should go.
"He's in his office. Last door on the left. Knock first, please."
I nod and do as she says.
"Come in," he calls.
I'd be a liar if I said his eyes didn't light up a little when I walk in. He's sitting at his desk, pen in hand. Why his wife never fucked him here, I have no idea. As much as Kate is a bitch, maybe she is right about the 'limp noodle' thing. I am so going to Hell for thinking shit about his dead wife. Bit it is true. Any woman in her right mind would want to be bent over that desk. Thankfully, I am insane.
"Alice and I made these. She wanted me to bring you some." I set the tray down on his desk. It's a lie. She never asked me to.
He lifts the plastic and smiles. "You and Alice made cookies?"
I nod. "Yeah. Apparently drinking coffee – or tea – wasn't quite enough of a bonding experience," I quip.
Edward's eyes narrow. "So, I can expect home-made cookies when I get home from now on then?" His eyes are playful. Really green, too. Yeah, I'd bend over.
"Don't push your luck, Dr. Cullen. Plus…she wouldn't tell me what half of the ingredients were, so, it was kind of confusing."
He laughs. Bend me over the desk. In the chair. It really wouldn't matter. Just leave the stethoscope on. "Well, I suppose she's trying to work on her trust issues, at least. Some things, like secret recipes, will just have to wait their turn."
"She hates you not talking to her. She said you're her best friend…well other than Rosalie."
The smirk is back. "I'll call her later…or stop by the bakery. One or the other."
He's looking at me and I think I am supposed to say something, but I've run out of friendly conversation topics. Sarcasm takes over my nerves.
"Well, unless you're going to bend me over your desk, I think I better get home and start washing your dirty sheets."
He tries not to laugh. "I don't think that'll be happening, today."
Bella wants to play. I lean forward, angling my body along his desk. Ass in the air. "The laundry, or the bending me over your desk, Dr. Cullen?"
His face is still amused. His hands gently push me away, though. "Go wash my dirty sheets, Bella."
I smile. "Fine, be boring, Edward, but I'm taking one of your cookies with me."
And I do.
All of the laundry is done and I have taken up residency on the couch. I'm exhausted thanks to the Parasite. I lay here for what could be hours, or minutes. I'm not sure. I just stare towards the window. The sunlight is bright and warm. The snow has finally melted away. I hope it's done for the season. The vibration of the garage door alerts me to Edward coming home. I should move, but in truth, my work is done. I hear the door and his keys as he comes in. I close my eyes and my curiosity wants to know what he'll do, thinking I'm asleep. I don't know why.
There is noise in the kitchen. He's getting a drink probably. Yup, I hear the cap twisting, breaking the seal. I told you, this house fucking echoes and shit. His footsteps come nearer and I try not to laugh. I feel like an idiot. His fingers are on my cheek. Damn goose-bumps. They disappear. Silence and then a few keys. Not his car keys. I peek my eyes open. He's at the piano. Piano keys.
It stops and he reaches for his book. I close my eyes again. Silence and then keys again. This keeps repeating. He's….writing a song? He plays longer the next time. I open my eyes. He sees me. He smiles.
"You aren't fooling anyone, Bella."
Damn it. I roll my eyes. I lie. "I was trying to sleep, but you're making a lot of noise with your little toy over there."
He laughs. "Like I said, you're not fooling anyone." He goes back to what he was doing. His pen scribbles something down in the book and then he plays whatever he wrote. I sit up and then walk slowly towards the piano. He looks up from his book as I go to take a seat beside him.
"What are you writing?"
He shrugs. "Just something in my head."
I pick up the other book from the piano. I flip through it, even though I know it makes him uncomfortable. "Did you write all of these?"
He nods. "Yeah."
"Are they all about Tanya?"
"No. Some, but not all."
I hand him the book. "Which ones aren't?"
He takes it from my hand and turns to a page. He hands it back to me. He says nothing.
"What is this song about?"
"Someone that's very special to me," he replies.
"Can I hear it?"
He takes the book from my hands once again. It rests on the piano and he doesn't read it as he plays. It's like he has it memorized. As he plays the song, I remember it. I've heard it before. When I first came here. The night Rosalie and Alice decorated the tree. The night I left him alone. The song is a little dark, a little tormented. Complex. Holy shit.
He stops. "It's not really done."
My eyes stay on the keys. My heart is beating like it would like to leap from my chest. "Work in progress?"
"I suppose that would a good description." And he is staring holes into me when I look at him. Where the fuck is deflection? More importantly, where is the Bella who would grab this man and fuck him senseless, right now? Right by the tie around his neck. I look away.
It's quiet for a minute. I pray he can't hear my heart. Say something. "Why um….why do you like to play the piano?"
He shrugs. "I just do. It helps me clear my mind sometimes. Even when I was younger. Haven't you ever had a hobby or something you just did for fun?"
I think. That's a good question. "Um…we used to go apple picking when I was little. Does that count?"
He smiles. "Did you have fun doing it?" I nod. "Then I suppose it counts, Bella."
"You know the park where the birthday party was?"
"That's where we used to go. There used to be a lot more apple trees there, before they cut them down to build a soccer field and shit. There's still one. The one I was sitting under that day you saw me. I don't know if it still makes fruit though. I haven't been there since…since I was a kid. Not at harvest time."
His eyes are locked to mine. He's really listening to me ramble about stupid apples. "Why did it make you happy?"
I shrug. "I'm not sure. I think I just liked the way it smelled. The way the apples smelled."
"I've never been apple picking. What did you with them afterwards?"
I laugh. "We ate them."
He's amused. "I mean, did you make pie or something?"
"I told you Renee couldn't cook. She sure as fuck couldn't bake a pie. Although, we did make candy apples one year. Me and Charlie. Not Renee."
"That sounds like fun." And he's being honest. "Thanks for telling me. That's a good story, Bella."
I look back to his book. "Will you tell me one? Another one?" I amend.
And he does.
Same old, same old. Can't find the phone. Tie is fucked up. Rushing, rushing. This part of Edward drives me crazy. Why doesn't he just get up earlier? I go back to eating my cereal. Wheaties. Yum. Not. They are the kind without sugar. He pops some bread into the toaster and taps his fingers impatiently. I toss my spoon into my bowl. He faces me at the sound of it clanking.
"You're driving me crazy," I blurt out. He's face scrunches. "Why are you always so rushed in the morning? I mean, do you not set your alarm or something? Plus….you're a doctor and you never eat breakfast."
"I'm eating toast." He points.
"And that qualifies as good nutrition? Don't doctors constantly go on about how breakfast is the most important meal of the day? What kind of hypocritical bullshit is that?"
He stares at me and suddenly a smile appears on his face. "Wow. And I thought pregnancy hormones were just a myth." He spins back around and takes his toast. I glare at him and he is still smiling as he sits down. "You should increase your vitamin B intake. It could help with those."
"You should increase your pussy intake. It would help you to enjoy more than a dry, boring piece of toast in the morning. Doctor."
He laughs and takes a bite. His eyes stay on his newspaper. "But if I was getting pussy in the morning, wouldn't that make me even later, thus, pissing you off even more, Bella?"
"Depends whose pussy you're talking about."
He shakes his head. "You're definitely hormonal." He takes another bite and then stands. "Have you seen…"
"On the coffee table. Next to the remote." I glare at him, but he smiles at my knowledge of where his stupid cell phone is.
I go back to eating as he finds it. This shit is gross. I need to buy something else when were out. He comes back in and starts gathering his things. Papers under his arms. Cell phone in one hand and keys in the other. I roll my eyes.
"I'll see you later, Bella."
I hop down from the stool. "Wait." He pauses and I am so goddamn irritated. I walk over to him and he looks confused. My hands undo the messy knot he created and I re-loop and re-tie and now it is square and proper and professional looking.
"You're tie was fucked up."
I spend my day cleaning, as usual. I have a pretty good routine. It's really not that hard. Edward is a pretty clean person. I don't understand what the big deal was for his former housekeepers. Shit, the guy is never even home for the most part. Maybe that was the problem. Those left to their own devices couldn't hang. Be responsible. I want to laugh. This doesn't mean I'm responsible. It just means I'm not a twat who thieves him for my paycheck. The phone rings as I sweep in the kitchen.
I set the broom aside. I click the talk button. "Cullen residence."
"Bella?" It's Carlisle.
"Yes." Who else?
"I wanted to let you know Edward will be home a little late. Well, actually, he asked me to call and tell you."
"Oookay. Um, why didn't he just call and tell me himself?"
"Oh, I'm sorry. He wasn't feeling well this afternoon and I had him come in for some tests."
"Is he alright?"
"I'm sure it's nothing, just a common cold, but I just get nervous, maybe a little paranoid. He is my son." He laughs a little.
"Because he only has one kidney?"
"You know about that?"
"Well, yes. That's part of it. But like I said, I'm just being paranoid. Anyhow, he'll be home soon enough."
I hang up the phone and his words linger in my ears. Carlisle's voice is controlled and cool, but if he's pulling him into the hospital to poke and prod at shit, how not serious could it be? My heart is panicking and I feel stupid. Why does everyone always go away? God has to build Heaven somehow, Bella.
I shake my head and walk to the living room. I sit there, huddled in the corner of the couch. He doesn't come home until after six. My legs race to the kitchen and I stop when I see him putting his things down. He looks fine. He coughs, but he looks fine.
I smack him. "Don't ever do that!"
He's surprised. "Do what?" He coughs again. "Why are you hitting me?" He tries to laugh, but it makes another couch.
"Carlisle said you were dying." Such a liar.
"I just have the flu. Relax, Bella." He turns to the fridge. "Probably because someone wanted to play with moose in the snow on Christmas."
He's joking, but I can't help it. I cry. I fucking cry. He sees. He sucks his teeth.
"I'm just kidding. Don't cry." I can't stop. I'm a blubbering mess. He hugs me. "I'm sorry, that was a bad joke. I didn't think. You need to stop crying, though. I shouldn't be hugging you when I'm sick."
And I don't care. I hug him back and I don't care.
He rests upstairs for the remainder of the night. I want to do something, but I don't know what. He called out of work tomorrow and it will drive me crazy if I have to be here watching him and hearing him suffer without being able to help, somehow. I'm goddamn useless. I sit on my bed and can hear every time he coughs. Twenty two times in the past thirty minutes. That shit is going to hurt. And only get worse.
I sigh in frustration and grab the extra blanket off my bed. He said towel. Same thing. Same idea. I walk back downstairs and shove it in the dryer. I set the timer and go to the kitchen. I make a cup of tea and squeeze a shit load of honey and lemon in it. I grab some crackers and I am about to go up stairs, but the phone rings, again. It's Esme this time.
"Just wanted to check and see how my baby is." I love her calling him that.
"He's coughing a lot. I'm about to bring him some tea."
"Poor thing. I wish Carlisle would have told me earlier in the day. I could have made him some soup. I don't have time before the morning, though."
Soup. Of course.
"Oh! How about I just give you my recipe and you make it, Bella? Would that be alright?"
"Um….I don't really know how to cook, Esme. And I don't know what we have."
"It's easy, dear. Fool proof. I can drop off the ingredients before I head to his practice in the morning. Sound good?"
"Good. Tell Edward I love him and I'll check on him in the morning, okay?"
The buzzer goes off and I grab the blanket. I tuck it under my arm and grab the tea in my other hand. The crackers will have to wait. If he even wants them. I walk up the steps and knock softly on his door, but he doesn't say anything. I turn the knob and peek in. It's dark, except for the light from the TV. He's lying on his side. He's sleeping. I walk softly towards his bed. I set the tea on the nightstand and unwrap the blanket. He startles when I place it over him.
"Sorry. It's just me."
He settles back down and I tuck the blanket around him. "You remembered," he mumbles.
"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."
And I did.