Chapter 34: Dear Tanya
"So, yeah, like, I wanted to be a surgeon, but you know, it just didn't work out, I guess."
A girl…I think her name is Jessica…is sitting to my left. She shoves a cracker in her mouth. They put some type of pate on it. With some other stuff. I don't know. It's not my thing. She now has black specks in her teeth. It's the only entertaining portion of this….conversation?
"Well, at least you found something you enjoy doing." I smile and try to be polite.
"Ugh, right. Like dealing with brats all day is fun." She rolls her eyes and hits up the server for more crackers.
"Dr. Cullen." Someone touches my shoulder. I turn to face them.
"Ah, Peter. So nice to see you." I shake his hand.
"You as well. How are things?"
"Good. How are you and Charlotte?"
"Just fine. Her practice is doing exceptionally well." He smiles and takes a sip of his drink. Something brown. I'm sticking with water.
"I guess I don't have to ask about yours." It's a complement. Peter is a successful surgeon. Highly accomplished. He knows. I like him, but he knows it and doesn't try to hard to hide it. Like most of the others in this room tonight.
He smiles and looks past me. He swirls the brown in his glass. "I see Jessica was talking to you." She's across the room now. Free champagne. "Shit, what I wouldn't give…"
My face must show the shock. He laughs into his drink. "Oh, don't be so modest, Edward. We all think the same things about Jessica Stanley."
I shake my head. "I don't believe I do." I look back to my water.
He steps closer. His hand rests on my shoulder. "The key to keeping a happy marriage is keeping yourself happy, Edward."
And I feel like I'm supposed to understand the meaning of those words, but I see Bella in her tub filled with bubbles and Peter's hand on my shoulder feels it's been somewhere it shouldn't have.
"I'm not sure what that means, but I'll take your word." I sip my water.
"She's watching you. You should capitalize on that." He pats me on the shoulder. "And Cullen, get yourself a real drink." The corner of his mouth lifts and he tips his glass to me. He makes his way back over to Charlotte.
I scan the room for Alice. She came with me, tonight. My parents are here somewhere, but I haven't seen them. I spot her, but she's already next to Jasper and Jasper is now talking to Peter and Charlotte. Great. Dr. Stanley is still looking my way. I avoid her eyes. It's hot in here and I wish the damn thing would just be over.
I step outside and call to check on Rose and Bree. Bella. But I don't ask for her. Just mention her casually. They are having a girl's night. Whatever that is. I assume it involves toe-painting and boy bashing. I'm also sure that Emmett is probably pissed off that I asked Rose to watch Bree. Too bad.
I go back inside and they are asking everyone to take their seats. I find my table and I am next to Stanley again. Alice is to my other side, but she is paying all her attention to Jasper, who swapped tables with someone else. They start the awards and the dick stroking begins. Can't you just be happy to be alive? Is this really even necessary? Someone tell me why I even came here. My father is given something. My mother looks over the top.
In truth, there are no losers here. Everyone gets this silly little award. It's just a pin. Not even real gold. It's just stupid. If you clip that on your coat in the morning, you have serious issues. My father has about five of them he dons daily. I laugh at the idea. I pray he only does it to make Esme happy. Bree has all of mine. She uses them to hang pictures on her cork-board at home. It's much more useful.
"We would like to take a moment this year to honor the loss of a close…."
And this is why I am here. I don't want to be. I feel Alice shifting her attention to me and I don't want it for the first time tonight. Her hand is over mine. If I looked at her, there would be a pitiful expression on her face. Much like the rest of the room that is sure to greet me afterward. I don't pay attention the picture on the screen. I already know the dates plastered under it. They all know she was my wife. They don't know her. They just know me. Her picture is only there because of me.
No one gives a shit about a nurse. They are a dime a dozen. My dick is being stroked with a picture and a moment of silence and our prayers are with the Cullen family. Oh really? Funny. I never even speak to these people throughout most of the year. Unless we are golfing. Or at one of these events. Why would I or Tanya cross their minds? If she were Tanya Denali, she wouldn't be mentioned. She's Tanya Cullen, so yeah…show her picture. She's fucking beautiful, right?
Hands. Everyone offers hands and those same sad smiles. Peter was right. I should be drinking something else. It's getting late and the dinner portion has ended. I'm ready to go. My parents are talking with someone. I want to say goodbye before I leave. I wait by the bar. I still have water. Stanley is officially trashed. She's being loud with some of the other girls. What a fool. A room full of goddamn professionals who were just praised and 'honored' and Stanley is hanging out of her dress and laughing like a hyena. There is nothing funny here. Nothing but the actual event itself.
"We are definitely hitting 'Pop's after this shit. I want to just kick back and have one of those big-titted freaks in my face. Jesus…" the man to my right tosses back his shot. "…This shit gets more boring every year."
My hands tighten around my glass. I don't know them, but I know them.
"I pray that hot little brunette is there."
"The chick with the…" He makes a gesture.
"Fuck yeah. I'd slide that ass a hundred and let her blow me. No problem."
"Maybe she offers a group discount." They laugh.
One of them stands up and raises his hand. He's louder. "Maybe I can offer her my shiny pin and just say 'I'm a doctor and I am here to give you an exam, darling."
They all think he's funny. He's not fucking funny. He's drunk and a goddamn brown stain to his profession. I leave a tip on the bar and forget about talking to my parents. Stanley grabs my arm.
"Edward! Wait!" She trips over herself. Again, everything here is funny. "I didn't get a chance to say how sorry…"
I hold up my hand. "It's fine. Thank you."
"Yeah…sooo….where are you going?" Thank the God's above she isn't a surgeon.
"I'm going home. It was nice seeing you, again. Have a goodnight."
"No, no, no. Waaaait." She stands in front of me. "We are all going out. You should come. I mean…" She steps closer. "Don't you want to come?"
Can anyone here just say what the hell they mean? I know what she means. I know what her glassy eyes are trying to say. But they are just that. Glassy and void and empty. It's probably not even her real eye color. She's not pretty. She's not even cute. Nothing happens to me when she flirts.
"I'm tired, but you all have fun."
I've never been so happy to be in my car. The drive home feels too long. I lean my elbow on the door and rest my chin into my hand. I'm almost to my exit, but I take the one after it. I'm sitting parked and I don't know why. Okay that's a lie. I do. I can see the bench from where I am. Through the windshield. I hate that I am here. I hate that I can't even be happy to just be happy. It's the flashing light I'm trying to ignore. An impossible thing.
I can't escape seeing her. I can't escape the memories of how strawberry hair smelled under the sunlight sitting there. But strawberries have a different meaning all of a sudden and Bella is back in her tub. The label said freesia, but I smell strawberries. It's her own sweetness. Fuck. I rub my eyes and hate myself for evening bringing that shit here. For even thinking it. But how could I not? I put the car in reverse and take the right exit this time.
I turn the radio louder and try to drown out what's in my head. I never should have gone. I could have just stayed home with Bree. Bella. Jesus. It doesn't go away. I'm sorry and it just won't go away.
The house is still in girl night mode when I get home. They are huddled in the living room. My furniture is pushed to the corners and there is a campsite going on. I wave to Rose. She smiles. Bella is watching the movie. She looks over her shoulder and gives a slight smile. She faces the movie again. Her head rests on her knees. Her arms hug around her legs. Bree is passed out. I go to the kitchen and grab a drink from the fridge. Bella comes around the corner.
Her fingers are nervous. "Hey."
"Hi, Bella." I take a sip of my drink and close the fridge.
She leans her shoulder against it. "So…how was it?"
"Amazing. I've never been so entertained."
She smiles. "No good dick stroking this year, Dr. Cullen?"
And when she plays, it is fun. There is depth in her eyes. There is a happiness in my heart. There is a boy who is a man who wants to be that boy and just play. I pull the pin from my pocket.
"On the contrary; they went all out." She picks it up from my hand. She looks at it and hands it back. "I know; you're extremely jealous."
"Not at all. I happen to have countless pins for my achievements. They'd put you to shame. Really, Edward."
I smile at her and reach for something else. "They had chocolate cake that had pregnant Bella written all over it. Tell Bree I gave this to you and I will never speak to you again." I hand her the paper box.
Her eyes watch me. They stay on mine and then trail down my body, then back up. "You look really handsome. I'm sorry I couldn't go with you."
I take the box from her hands and set it on the counter. Her face is in my palms and yeah strawberries. I taste them on her lips. My fingers curl into her hair and touch them. Her back is against the fridge and I am pressing her there. I hear rose laughing at the movie. I don't move anything but my face. My forehead against her cheek.
"You were there, Bella." I kiss the strawberries on her chin. "I thought about you all night."
She moves my face back to hers. She lets me kiss her. She lets my tongue slide over hers. She lets me live. She lets me be happy to have her in my hands. She lets me claim one small piece of peace. I feel myself grow against her and I need to stop. Bree. Rose. Nothing is happening. Bella is special. Nothing is happening. I don't want to let her go. I pull back and smooth my hands over her face.
"Let's go to bed." I kiss her and she smiles.
"I'm supposed to suffer sleeping on the floor, tonight. Apparently, painting my toes electric blue and forcing me to watch cheesy romance movies isn't enough."
I laugh against her face and kiss her again. "I guess I'll just have to dream about you, then."
Another shower and masturbation session. Wonderful. I can't get comfortable worth a damn. I toss. I turn. Two hours later I fall into a sleep of sorts. I'm sleeping, but my mind is busy. I feel the bed move. I blink my eyes open, though it is too dark to see. My bathroom door is closed. No nightlight. Strawberries and soft skin find me. I lay on my side and draw her to me. I wrap my arms around her and plant kisses to her head. I smooth my hands over face and hair.
"No more sleepovers."
Her laughter is light against my chest.
"No more sleepovers," she agrees. She snuggles into my neck. "What were you dreaming about?"
I tighten my hold. "This."
Alice wants to take Bree to the spa with her and my mother. She invites Bella and although I prefer her here, I push her to go. She hates me. She'd rather be cleaning my house. She is indeed an enigma. I smile as she walks out the door. The house is quiet when she's gone. Still. Odd. I'm not sure what to do with myself. I haven't really been here alone since she started living here. If Sophia was still my housekeeper and I was here alone, I'd be cleaning. Funny, right? Not really.
I sit at the piano and start to play around with the piece in my book. I write a little at a time. The book under it is the elephant in the room. It has eyes and ears. It glares at me and protests. It has strawberry hair, but there is no sweet fragrance. It has eyes deep enough to fall into. But I only stumble and trip. It has skin that is soft and cruel. It lies and burns when my hands run over it. It feels like Peter's hand on my shoulder. It's been too many places it shouldn't have been.
I abandon my song. I pick up the book. My fingers grip the leather exterior. There are chords inside. Her name. My eyes don't want to see it. All they recall is wondering where his hands went. Not when he hit her.
"It's not fair. You're not even here. It's not fair. I was loyal to you. It's not fair."
And I hate myself for even thinking she could have been with someone else. I don't know for a fact. I only know what my mind wants to tell me. I only have logic and a wandering goddamn mind. That is all. How dare anyone judge me for simply…..whatever it is I am doing. It's just a song. Bella didn't do anything to deserve not having one.
"You can't have it both ways. You just can't have it both goddamn ways. If you hate me then fine, you hate me. I'm sorry. Hate me. Just fucking hate me. It was your goddamn fault anyhow. I wanted you. I loved you and you just…"
And I need to stop before I say shit I can't take back. There's a sob in my chest but no tears. It stings and burns. It flares and rolls into a ball of resentment. Why has it taken me so long to see it? How long did I just walk around with the fucking blinders on and everyone saw it but me? How long was I a fool and everyone just laughed behind my back? How long was I the 'Charlotte' of our marriage who didn't know what the other person was really like? How motherfucking long did I just…
And the book is ripped and torn and I am just shredding it. And I hate it. And I love it. Destruction never felt so good. I never hated myself so much and felt more free. They weren't all her songs, but it's all the same. I know the others. They stay in my mind. I don't need this goddamn book. I'm keeping it because I can't crawl out from under her. Gold bands and fucking leather-bound books hold my wrists and ankles. They are just objects. Just objects that I wear and display and I am so fucking stupid thinking no one sees it and doesn't know. That they see these things and believe my lies.
"Bella didn't ruin my goddamn life. You did. So fuck you. So just fuck you. Don't you dare judge me when you did this. You did this."
And my chest burns and feels relieved. There's a light in this house that's never been here before. And it only gets brighter when Bella is home.
"I got you something. Well, I guess you could say you got you something, since it's your money." She smiles.
"Bella, it's your money. That would be like saying my patients own my home and car. You earned it. It's yours."
She laughs lightly. "Okay fine. I bought you something. Here, Freak."
It's a blue shirt. "Thank you."
"Yeah so…I figured maybe since you were taking to cursing and potty humor these days, you could expand your horizons and give me something else to wash besides boring white button-downs."
The corner of my mouth finds her adorable. Funny. "I didn't know they bothered you."
"They don't. I'm just saying." She shrugs. "And I really like busting your balls."
Bree plops down on the couch. I pull her into my lap. "What did you get, Half-pint?"
"Ugh. I hate that nickname. Seriously, it went out of style like five years ago, Uncle Edward."
I snort. "Well excuse me."
"Alice let me get foils."
My face scrunches. "Foils?"
She points to her hair. I still don't get it. "They put in highlights. See?"
No. "Oh, of course. It looks nice."
She rolls her eyes. "Mom's right. Boys never notice these things."
"You know why?" I ask.
She shakes her head. I pinch the outside of her mouth in between my thumb and pointer finger. "Because we are too busy looking at your face and admiring how pretty you are. Girls just don't notice that."
She giggles and leans the back of her head to my shoulder. "Do you look at Bella's face?" She knows she's being bad when she asks. The smirk says it all. Bella is sitting here, but it's a reasonable question to answer.
"All the time."
Bree's smirk grows. "Is she pretty?"
"I already answered that question last time you asked. The answer hasn't changed, Bree."
"Uhhh…..I forgot what you said."
She is a liar. "It's not polite to lie, but on the off chance you have suffered amnesia in the last few months…yes, I still think Bella is pretty."
She looks at Bella. "Told you." Bree hops down from my lap and I try to swat her, but she escapes, running to her room.
I look at Bella. "I take it she was bothering you today." I slide in closer to her.
She shrugs. "It's okay."
I look at my watch. "I have to take her to the airport in an a few hours. This week went by so fast."
"Are you sad she's leaving?"
I slide a finger through her hair, tucking it behind her ear. "I'm not happy about it, but she'll be back soon."
Her fingers pick at my shirt. "She talks about you a lot, you know? Not just the teasing stuff, but just saying things about you. She looks…proud when she talks about you. She really loves you, Cullen."
"I love her, too, Bella." My mind pauses at I stare at her. I rethink the words in my head. They sound so funny. They sound so close. Shit. I sink down into the couch. I take Bella with me. "What do you want for dinner?"
She doesn't answer that question. Her hand picks up mine. "You took it off?"
"It didn't belong there."
She lifts her head and looks at me. "Are you alright?"
I nod. "Never better."
She keeps her eyes on mine. She's looking for the lie, but truth is just that. I told her I'd never lie and I do my damndest to stick to my words. It's called honor. That's what honor is. Not silly pins. Not false awards. Not pats on the back. Not healing one person and then destroying another in a drunken wave of lust. I know who I am. And I know what I stand for.
I hug Bree in my arms and don't want to let her go. She hugs me back. They call for her to board and I have no other choice.
"Give me a kiss, Sweetheart." It's planted on my cheek and I kiss hers. "Call me when you get there and don't get off the plane without the stuartist. Okay?"
"Okay. I will."
"Alright. I love you. Be safe." I kiss her again.
"Love you, too." She looks up to Bella, then back to me. She scoots over to her. Her hand waves her down. Bella looks at me and then back to Bree. She bends over and Bree cups her hand to her ear. Bella smiles and nods. I raise a brow to Bree.
"Bye." She takes the attendants hand and walks to the gate.
I drop my keys on the counter once we are home. There's a weird feeling in my chest. All week long Bella stayed in my room. Bree is gone. She has no real reason to, now. If I ask her to, won't she wonder? Will she think that I was using Bree as an excuse to get her there? No, she came on her own more than once. Still, it's weird. I slide my hand into hers. She pauses.
"Um…are you tired?"
She nods. "Are you?"
"It's been a long day. Yeah. Um…I was thinking about watching a movie."
"Oh…" Her eyes are confused. "I thought you were tired? You don't have to entertain me you, know. You can go to bed if you want."
My nerves bundle. I can only look at our hands. "That's kind of where I was going…if you'd like to go, too?" I chance a peek at her. She understands. She looks equally as nervous. We are such idiots.
She's on my chest and my hand is strumming through her hair. There is a movie on, but my eyes are closed. I just want to feel Bella. I want to take in the strawberries and the warmth and the comfort. It's like lying in a hammock on a summer day. Serenity. Peace. Just…where I want to be. She sighs and I feel her curl closer. I open my eyes and she is watching me. Her expression doesn't change. Her eyes don't move.
My voice is soft. "What?" She shakes her head. She keeps watching me. I laugh a little. "Are you spying on me?"
A smile spreads on her lips. She nods. She's so beautiful…with eyes so deep and they are real. Brown and the depths are endless. So many stories hidden there. Whether they are good or bad, they are interesting and they are Bella. Dr. Stanley could have been a surgeon. She could have been a goddamn astronaut for all I care. She'd never have eyes like this. My heart would never beat this way under her ear. A simple smile would never be so easy, so desired, so goddamn beautiful. So beautiful and pure and honest that it could take away everything else.
I roll into her and hug her to me. My arms are tight and she is secure. She is security. She scares the shit out of me, but this is where I feel safest. I don't know how. She pushes me away and this is where I feel the most desired. I don't know how. Her lips press into my neck and I want to fucking cry. It's so small. So light, but it's everything. I hold her tighter. Her face pressing into my neck, tucked under my chin.
My lips whisper desperately against her hair. "Please don't make me fall in love with you, Bella. I don't want to. I don't want to."
I feel her tears against my neck. "I don't want you to either."
I kiss her forehead. My palms are flushed. I pass them over her hair. I kiss her again. It's unlocking from me and I can't stop it. It's right there. In my palm. In my lips. I'm giving it to her and I can't stop it.
"It's just too easy, Bella. I'm sorry."
I keep giving it to her. I want to stop. The heat under my skin could burn holes. So could the feelings unlocking from within. My lips brush against her face. Her nose. The corner of her eye. Her cheek. It erupts and I can't recall it once her lips touch mine. It's official. It's there. It won't go back. And I give it all away.
She's holding onto me like I'm something. She's meeting my desire like I'm something to be desired. She's opening her mouth and letting me in. I can have whatever I want here. She's tilting her head and I want what I find. My fingers are knotted and curled into her hair. My need is there. I'm pulling softly and clawing. I'm kneading my fingertips into her scalp. My thumb is being gentle and on her forehead.
Desire leaves her lips. In short breaths. In soft sighs. In a strumming heart. It's against me. It's begging me. It's taunting me. It's telling me its okay. It lies and I need to stop.
"I want you to push me away, Bella. Make me stop."
I kiss her harder and drag my lips to her neck. She pulls me back to her mouth. She's incredibly selfish. For all the times to not push me away. She's chasing me. I'd chase her. Her fingers move from my face down my chest. They fight between us and I'm not moving. That's not what she wants. I need to be against her. I need to pull away. I don't stop her and when I feel my skin touching her skin there is no turning back. There's no waiting and no need to. I don't even need my hand.
My body knows how to enter on its own. Her body knows how to accept me. I don't stop. I'm gentle. I will not hurt her. But I don't pause and wait. I don't go inch by inch. I'm inside and I fill her. She loves it. I pull back and slide inside again and again and again. I give her all of it every time. Everything. She gets everything. She deserves everything. I want her to have it.
I can't say it. I can't get it out of my mouth. I don't think I have to. I can just show her. I can tell her like this. Her clawing and feet pressing into me lets me know she feels it. The natural slickness between her legs, around my cock tells me she feels it. I don't need a bottle of false lubrication and false words and broken promises.
I can just show her.