Chapter 33: and They all Come Crashing Down
I'm lying here in his bed – which is even more comfortable than my bed – and he doesn't see me watching him. He's getting dressed for work. His white shirt is on, but unbuttoned. His pants are on, but the belt is undone. His tie is through the collar, but it's just hanging there. What a mess. What a fucking beautiful mess. He fastens his belt and starts buttoning up his shirt, but pauses. He's looking around and starts padding his pockets. I smile and roll to my side. I pick up his cell phone from the nightstand and roll back over. I hold my hand out, but he's still looking. In the bathroom now.
I laugh to myself and lay so that I'm sideways. My cheek rests on my arm and I keep holding the phone out. He comes walking back in and stops suddenly when he sees me. Then looks to the phone. He smiles and takes a seat on the bed.
"Thank you." He takes the phone from my hand. I just rest my head down and watch as he puts on his socks. "Esme should be by soon. I'll be gone first…but Bree should stay asleep until then."
"I seriously doubt in between me leaving and her arriving that something will happen, but if it does, just call me and I'll come home."
He starts tying his shoes. "She can make her own breakfast, too. She's not allowed to have that shit you call cereal, though."
I sit up, resting on my legs. "You have serious issues, you know that, Edward?"
He looks at me. "She's supposed to be in my care and I'm about to leave her with someone her parents don't even know."
I roll my eyes. "I'm not gonna teach her how to turn tricks or some shit. Jesus."
His hand cups my cheek. "That's not what I mean."
"I know, but you worry way too fucking much. It's like…not even eight in the morning."
He smiles and goes back to tying his shoes. "I need you to do me a favor, today."
"Blow job before work?" I tease.
His shoes are officially tied. He puts one leg on the bed and faces me. "As nice as that sounds, no. I need you to take a suit to the dry-cleaners. I left it downstairs. There's cab money on top of it. Make sure you get a ticket and keep it, please."
"What's it for?"
"So I can pick it up."
I shake my head. "The suit. Where are you wearing it to?"
"Oh, this thing they do every year at the Palm. It's like an honors benefit or something. Basically, it's a bunch of doctors who like to have their dick's stroked. I mean, egos."
I smile. "And you're not one of the doctors who likes to have your dick stroked…I mean…ego?"
He smiles back. "Not at the benefit, no."
And like this it's easy and normal and fuck, he's cute.
His fingers touch my cheek. "I've gotta get going. I'm late as usual."
"Alright." He leans in and kisses my forehead. "Wait." I slide towards him before he gets up. As usual, his tie is fucked up. I fix it and I can feel his eyes watching me. When I'm done, I'm right, he's looking at me.
"You're very beautiful in the morning, you know that, Bella?"
"And you're a mess. A disaster even."
He ignores my deflection bullshit and takes my face in his hands. He puts his face to mine. "I'm gonna kiss the shit out of you unless you say no."
I smile and close my eyes. My toes tingle and it's not from sitting on them. My lips part and he fills up the space with his own. This kiss is a little different. It's a little hotter. A little faster. His tie is still in my hand.
I pull him towards me. He follows. My back is on the bed and he's lying in between my legs. He keeps his hands on my face. His thumbs are soft and stroking my cheeks. It's so good. I lift my head and kiss him harder. He presses into me and pushes me back into the mattress. There's a lot of noise downstairs, suddenly. He pulls away.
"Now, I'm really late. Fuck, Esme is here." We sit up and he rights his clothes.
"I'd say I was sorry…but I'm not."
He looks at me and leans in. "You're a very bad girl, Bella Swan."
I shrug. "I tried to warn you."
His eyes scan over my face. He kisses me lightly and sighs. "I have to go." I wonder who he is telling. He kisses my forehead and gets up. "See you later, Bella."
I wait until everyone is gone before I go downstairs. I don't want Esme to see me coming from his bedroom and I'm sure he doesn't either. I find the suit in the laundry room. He'd look sexy as shit in this. I sigh and go back upstairs to get dressed. Once my clothes are on, I grab the suit and the money and call a cab. I could walk, but I don't want to fight over it.
When I get to the cleaners I make sure to grab the ticket, like he asked. I put it in my bag, in the zipper part and keep reminding myself it's there. I don't want to lose it. The cab doesn't wait for me and I don't ask him to. I have some time to kill. It's only Monday and there is only linens and stuff to wash. It won't take me long. I haven't been to this part of the city in a while and I'd like to look around.
I stop into one of the stores and buy a pre-paid cell phone. It's cheap, but fuck, it's not like anyone is calling me, anyhow. I just want it. I stop into another store and pick out some soaps. They smell flowery and I like it. I grab a snack and walk along the street. It's nice around here. The streets are cobblestone. The cars sound like horsing clopping along as they drive by. I take a seat on the bench and dial for the cab. I'm not thieving the money he gave me by not getting a ride home. They say the wait will be about forty minutes. It sucks. I could walk home faster.
Finally the stupid cab gets here and I'm home. I start the laundry and place the ticket in the candy drawer. It's safe there and even if I forget, he'll find it. I'm putting the sheets back on Edward's bed when I hear him and Bree come home. I keep going, tucking the sheets under the mattress and making sure they're pulled tight. I dress the bed with the comforter and fluff the pillows. I reach into the basket and find the towels. I take them into his bathroom and start fixing them on the bar. One has an unruly corner that won't stay tucked in place. It bugs the shit out of me. Not because I'm one of those crazy OCD people, but because it looks like someone who has been making out with her boss, doesn't give a shit what his towels look like.
I glare at it. "Fucker."
"I hope you're talking to the towels." Edward walks in and opens the closet door.
"Can you like cough or something when you enter a room?"
He looks at me and smiles. "Sorry. I wasn't trying to scare you."
I step next to him as he looks for a shirt from the stack. "You didn't scare me, but when I'm having a fight with my co-workers, I'd appreciate some privacy."
His lips curl and he pulls out a shirt. "I'll keep that in mind, Bella." He faces me. "You are in my room, though."
I look him in the eye. "I'm not breaking any rules here, Cullen." And the electricity is back. And he doesn't look away. And my insides coil. They beg to spring when he looks at me like this.
"And if you were, I'd have to punish you, Bella."
Oh really. "Don't talk shit you can't back up, Edward."
He takes a step and then another, until my back touches the shelf in his closet and I have no where to run. He presses himself against me. I'm bound so tight and just waiting to fucking spring.
"What makes you think I can't?"
Because you haven't so far. But let us pray. I raise my eyebrows in challenge. He lowers his face and our lips are going to touch. I'm going to devour him if he lets him. He'd never recollect the memory of a boring fuck from the past. I feel his warm breath on my face and his hands on my hips.
"Eddddward!" And fuck. No. Bree is coming and he's pulling away. I want to sink to the floor in defeat. Fucking kids. He walks out and finds her. Wonderful. I give the towels the finger and grab the basket before I leave his room. He's downstairs with her and I am in my room, looking for new underwear. Fucking. Wonderful.
Later on in the evening I am cleaning up dinner. He's watching something on TV with Bree. They laugh and I peek at them as I make my way to the steps. He's laid out on the couch and she's tucked into his side. It's too familiar. For too many reasons. I run the tub in my bathroom. I squirt some of the soap I bought into it. It foams and bubbles up. The room smells pleasant. Flowery. I strip off my clothes. I dip my toes in and then slowly sink down. It feels like Heaven. I close my eyes and enjoy the steam and the quiet. A knock at my door. It's unlocked.
"Bella?" He calls out.
The bathroom door is cracked. My voice echoes against the tile wall. "I'm in here."
He pushes the door wider, but pauses. He looks to the floor. "Sorry. You should have told me to go away or something."
I laugh. "I have a bubble blanket going on here. Trust me, you can't see shit. And even if you could, I'm not exactly shy, Cullen."
He comes in. He closes the lid on the toilet and sits. He picks up the bottle of soap and toys with it. "I wanted to ask you something before, but we sort of…got off track. Um…Kate was supposed to accompany me to the benefit this week…obviously that isn't going to happen…so…I was…"
And I need to stop him before he goes there. "Cullen?" He's nervous when he looks at me. How do I say this? "Don't."
"It's not like a date…I wasn't taking Kate as my date. Just a friend, Bella. It's just a dinner thing…"
I sit forward, taking the bubbles with me. My arms lean on the edge of the tub. "No it isn't."
He sighs in irritation. "Are we seriously back to this, again?"
I keep my voice calm. Soft. I'm not trying to be a bitch. He's just in the dark. "This isn't about me being difficult, Edward. This about you and your amazing naiveté."
He closes his eyes. He's still annoyed. "What exactly am I being blind to this time, Bella?"
"You said this was for Doctors, right? That's who's going?" He nods. I lower my voice. "I didn't fuck guys who worked at McDonald's, Cullen."
His eyes open. Understand what I am.
"Lawyers, architects, business men, doctors. That's who were my clients were, Edward. You probably know some of them."
He looks away.
"I'm not trying to hurt you, but you have to understand that we're not the same. Chances are, some of those doctors being honored are the same doctors I've fucked for money. If you walk in with me, what do you think they'll think, Edward? I don't give a shit what they think of me, they already know me…truth be told, most people in this town with any amount of success knows who and what I am…but they also have a perception of you and what happens to it when they wonder how Edward Cullen, the Pediatrician, knows Bella Swan, the town whore?"
And he knows I'm right. It's the truth and you can't deny the truth.
"You're burning them."
I glare at her, spatula in hand. "Give me a break. I've never done this before."
She giggles and pushes the stool next to me. She climbs on it and looks down into the pan. "Yup, that one's burnt, too."
I think she finds joy in my failure. I really do. I chuck the fucking thing into the trash and start over.
"You have to wash it out or you'll just get burnt pancakes again." I look up and Edward is walking into the kitchen. "Don't look at me like that, Bella. I'm just trying to help." He smiles.
"Yeah well, you're here now…so you can make your favorite person in the whole world pancakes so she'll leave me alone." I toss the spatula on the counter and turn towards the sink.
He turns his attention to her. "Bree, go get your things ready for when Esme comes. And please don't stand on the stool. You're going to fall and break your neck and I don't happen to have extra one of those to give you."
I hear her leave. Hands on my hips. He moves me back over to the stove. I don't want to be here. He stands behind me and kneels down. He finds a new pan and then moves the burnt one away. He stays behind me and turns on the burner. He kisses my shoulder.
"Put your hand over it, like this." He hovers his hand over the pan and then holds mine. "When it feels warm you can pour the batter, but if it's too hot to keep your hand there, you'll just burn whatever you put in it."
Edward puts his hands back on my hips. "Pour some batter in the middle."
I don't really give a shit about the pancakes. I don't even want to eat pancakes. I reach for the goddamn ladle and pour a little in the center, like he said.
"Now you have to wait for bubbles." He takes the ladle from my hand and drops it back into the batter. His arms snake around my waist and he rests his chin on my shoulder. Alright, so maybe making fucking pancakes isn't so bad. "See, bubbles. Now flip."
He doesn't move except to kiss the crook of my neck while I do it. Amazingly, I don't burn down his house and the stupid thing is golden brown when it's on its other side.
Another kiss. "Not so hard, right?"
I shake my head.
"Good. I'll take three, please." I look over my shoulder and glare at him. He's amused by this whole thing. I want to hit him with the spatula. He senses this and wraps his arms around mine, taking it from my hands.
"Be good, Bella." He's laughing and I don't find it funny. His tightens his hold and moves his mouth back to my neck.
A high pitched voice. "I told you, soooooo."
Edward freezes and Bree giggles. He lets me go. He takes the pan and slides the pancake onto a plate.
"Sit down and eat your breakfast." He gives her the food and I am forced to do this all over again.
He keeps going. "And this is the last day of eating pancakes. Don't think just because Bella is here she's going to give in to your begging."
"Geeeze, you're grumpy, today." She complains. Okay, that's funny. "You're just mad because I was right and you were wrong, Uncle E."
He sits on the stool next to her. "Don't call me Uncle E. It's rude."
She rolls her eyes and pokes at her food. "Just admit that I was right."
He sighs. "Brianna, you're ten. You don't know what romance is. Drop it, already."
"Kissing someone making breakfast is romantic. Mom says so. She makes crepes on Saturdays and Dad always does what you just did to Bella and she says on the phone to Aunt Heidi that it makes her weak in the knees and then she has to play with rabbits afterwards."
Edward palms his face. I try desperately not to laugh. Desperately. He's talking into his hand. "Please just eat your pancake."
She looks at me. "Do you want to play with rabbits after Edward kisses you?"
"Brianna." He's being serious now. "Either eat or go wait in your room for Esme. Pick one."
"Such-A-grump." She stabs her pancake and takes bite, rolling her eyes.
I sit a plate in front of Edward. Three, just like he asked for.
We are grocery shopping. In a different store. This one has a lot of organic shit. Edward looks happy. The kid is riding on the front of the cart, even though he's told her not to about ten times. So far, it looks like having one of these things is way too much trouble. After the one inside of me is born, I'm asking them to gut me like a fish. She complains about everything he picks out and he finds it amusing. I can't see how.
When we are done shopping we stop to pick up his suit before the dry-cleaning place closes. There are a few people ahead of us. Last minute customers. Like us. The place is about to close. I remembered the ticket. It's in my hand. There's a smile on my face. Bree is sitting in a chair by the window as we wait. The woman at the counter pays and takes her garment. She turns and my whole body freezes. She stuffs her receipt in her bag and when she looks up, her eyes meet mine.
It's like she appeared out of thin air. A hallucination. But I'm not drunk. I'm not high. And she's real. Renee is standing two feet from me and she is real. She takes a step closer. I can't move.
"Next," the man at the counter calls. Edward looks at me. I have the ticket, but my arm won't move to hand to him. The man looks past us. He's irritated. "Next."
Renee looks me up and down and then Edward. "Well…at least he's not too shabby. Dresses nice. What are you? A lawyer?"
I can't look at Edward. I can't tell her to shut the fuck up. He speaks for me. "I'm sorry, I don't believe we've met before?"
Renee rolls her eyes. "Of course not. My daughter hasn't come around in years. Though the rumors…" Renee looks at me. "The rumors come around all the time."
Bree tugs on Edward's hand. "Can we go, yet? This is boring!"
Renee looks at her and laughs. It's not humorous. She's like….scoffing.
"Well that makes sense. I should have known you got knocked up." She looks back to Edward. "Were you the boy who used to sneak in her window? Or does this belong to someone else?"
Edward takes Bree's hand. His other one is around my wrist. "Let's go."
Only my lips will move. Barely. "You need your suit."
"I can get it tomorrow." He tugs me along and I can't help but to look over my shoulder.
She stands on the sidewalk as we exit. A cigarette goes to her mouth. Her head shakes. The look on her face hasn't changed at all. I remember it. The disappointment. The let down. The inner anger. Edward opens the car door for me and I sit inside. I don't know why she's here. It doesn't even matter. The street goes by in a blur. Blue mixing with black mixing with golden and the brown of the trees. I close my eyes and press my head to the window.
Bree is talking to Edward, but it's like being under water. I hear the noise, but it's just noise. It doesn't stop until the car does. I hear one door close, but not two. Edward is still here. I can't move or open my eyes. I just want to stay here. If I move, I'm scared. I'm afraid of what I'll see. This is just Edward's house and I know she's not here, but I'm stuck to my seat and cannot fucking move. I know he wants to know why. I know what he wants to know. Maybe that's why I'm scared. She's twenty miles away, but sitting right here next to us. Her words are in his ears and mine.
"Your mother is a cunt."
And I must have heard wrong. My eyes find freedom and open. I look at him. He's head is resting against the seat. His hands are in his lap. He looks pissed off. He looks at me and he's serious.
"She's a fucking cunt," he repeats it and I heard right. Edward doesn't use words like that. They came from his lips though. He means them. I see it. His eyes are honest. Angry. Fierce.
I nod. He reaches for my hand and holds the back of it against his lips. His eyes close. He's trying to not be pissed off. Bree. He doesn't want her to see. He protects her. He protects me. He's not asking anything. He deserves to know. She shit on him and he has a right to know that's it's my fault, not his. It's her fault not his.
"No one used to sneak in my window. I don't know where she gets that from. I never snuck boys in my room. I never even…I never even kissed anyone until…the other night." His eyes stay closed, but his lips move against my hand.
He needs to know. I wasn't always this girl.
"There was this guy. Tyler. He was one of my regulars. When I was just dancing. He never looked at the other girls. He was good looking. Younger. Most of the guys were old. He liked private dances. He said the other girls ruined it for him when I danced.
"We were in one of the private rooms one night and he...he wanted to touch. You're not supposed to touch. I mean, we fucking touch, like lap dances and stuff, but you know, he wanted to touch-touch. The kind of shit Emmett would kill someone for doing. He offered me more money. I let him. I was giving him a dance. On his lap.
"He always brought me stuff. Flowers, jewelry. I loved it. He was sweet. It made the other girls jealous. I was on his lap and he started touching me. He put his fingers…there…and he said, 'I knew it.'
"I had no idea what he meant. He came in the next week. He brought me this pretty outfit. White and lacey. Like a nightgown. He asked me if I'd wear it and it was pretty, so I did.
"I danced for him and he asked me to sit on the couch in the private room. They were leather and I hated them. Five hundred dollars. He had five hundred dollars. He wanted me to wear the outfit. I kept it on. He told me he loved me, the whole time. It didn't hurt like they say it hurts. He just kept saying it over and over. I love you, angel. I love you, angel. Pretty angel. Such a beautiful angel. There was five hundred dollars on the couch. He never came back the next week. Or the week after.
"One of the girls asked me, 'where's your angel-lover?' while I was in the dressing room. She laughed with these other two girls. I didn't know why. She leaned over me. She was a bitch. 'He only fucks virgins, didn't you know, little girl?' I didn't know. It was just so long since someone…"
And I can't say it. I won't say it. My tears run over. I look towards the window. My hand is still in Edward's. His laces his fingers with mine. Our hands rest on his leg.
"I was with Bree in a store the other day. She was looking for a book or something. This journal. Another child came over and shoved her out of the way. You know, Bree has two parents who love her. They afford her the privilege to attend a wonderful private school.
"She has a good home. Anything she could ever need. This little girl in the store…she made her feel inferior. It blew my mind. Bree can articulate in such detail her favorite pieces of art. Some of the books she reads I never read until I was in college. And this little bratty girl made her feel like she was less. Like she wasn't even good enough to stand next to.
"If I wasn't there, holding her hand, she would have left without something she wanted. She would have given in. I know it's a stupid fucking journal. It's just a stupid fucking journal…but I just never knew how delicate a child could be. How sensitive they are to their feelings and surroundings. And if Bree can be so easily led to believe that she is less than others, when she has so many people to tell her otherwise…what happens to a child who doesn't? How can you win when you are set up to fail, Bella?
"So you know…fuck your mother. Just fuck her. And fuck that other asshole, too. Neither of those people deserved to love you, even if they could have. They didn't deserve you then and they don't deserve you now…so fuck them."
He kisses my hand and when he does it, I feel it crumble. I feel the exterior and the scared and the bullshit all just crumble. Like picking up an Etch-A-Sketch and shaking it. The picture disappears. It's left blank and void. It's new and untouched. You can start over.
You can create a new picture.