Chapter 36: Thick as Thieves
"Goooooood Morning, Ladies."
Rosalie pops her head up.
"How is everyone, today?" I set down a box of cookies from the bakery on the desk. More heads pop up. What? Am I usually not nice or something?
Rosalie swivels her chair to look at me. "You're early."
"On time, actually."
She shakes her head. "Early is your on time-time."
I smile and shrug. "Traffic was light."
And Bella made pancakes. And tied my tie. And had all my stuff in the car waiting for me. I had nothing to do.
Rosalie is not believing me. Time to head to the office. I hear her shoes following me. I sit down at my desk before the Spanish Inquisition begins.
Her voice is playful. Nice. "Are you seeing someone?"
I suck in my cheeks so I can't smile. I shake my head and rifle through my papers.
"You're different this week. Actually, you've been different for awhile, but this week especially."
I glance at her. "What do you mean?"
She shrugs one of her shoulders. "Oh, I don't know. Blue shirt on Monday. Being on time, today. Walking in with a smile and cookies and…" she grins, "You smell like a flower."
A raise a brow.
"Like, women's perfume," she clarifies.
I look back to my papers. My fingers play with an edge of the folder. "So what if I was."
"Then…I'd be happy for you?"
I look up to her. "You would?"
She snorts. "Why wouldn't I, Dr. E.?"
I'm not sure. She sits forward in her seat. She's excited. "So…do we get to meet her?"
I debate. I can't keep my mouth shut. "Maybe…you've already met her."
She's trying to figure it out. Her face sours. I knew it. Here it comes. "Oh, please do not tell me you're seeing Kate. Please, Dr. E."
I laugh. "I'm not that messed up, Rosalie."
"Thank God. I was going to have a heart attack. That would just be…" she shakes her head at the thought.
"Sorry to scare you."
She waves me off. "I don't know who else it would be, though. I haven't met anyone new except for…" and light bulb. Her mouth falls open a bit. "Bella?"
I look back to my papers. The smile can't hide itself this time. It's attached to her name and her name is attached to a vision I see whenever I hear it. It's her making breakfast and looking proud when she doesn't burn it. It's her pressed against me and yeah flowers. It's her bare and clean in the morning. Her face sleepy and hair a little disheveled from being bunched against my chest as I held her while we slept. It's just….her.
"Well…that's great. That's really great. Bella seems nice."
I simply nod and avoid her eyes. It's still too strange and I still feel too protective.
"Rosalie…please don't say anything to Alice."
She sounds confused. "Oh…alright."
"I'm just not ready for that conversation, yet. And it's not like Bella is my girlfriend…were just….I don't know what we are….so….I'd appreciate some privacy on the matter."
She smiles in understanding. "No worries." She stands up. "Well, as happy as I am to see you happy, I'm afraid I have to spoil it a little."
I look at her. She hands over my first chart. "Jacob Black is in room one."
I groan. "Wasn't he just here a few weeks ago?"
"Punched in the nose again."
"That's too bad."
She nods. "I know, poor kid.
I stand up. "No, I mean it's too bad that's what wrong with him, because that was going to be my cure."
She tries not to smile. "Be nice."
I take the chart and walk to room one. I pause outside the door and wait until Rosalie walks passed me. I give my shirt sleeve a sniff and yeah….flowers.
"Time to get up, Sleeping Beauty."
Edward is in a towel, looking for something in one of his dresser drawers. Underwear. Socks. Both should banned. I groan and roll over. I'm tired and I am way too comfortable. I smell him before I feel him. Fresh. Edward. Then lips on my shoulder. I glance back. Still in the towel. Okay. I roll over.
"Your family plans picnics way too early."
He smiles. "It's almost 11:30, Bella. I haven't seen you sleep this long, before."
I sigh in irritation and shove down the covers. I'm showing him the Parasite. My stomach is bare. I'm only wearing panties and a tank top. Oh, right, like you'd wear something else. Please.
"It's sucking the life out of me."
He lays over me sideways, resting on his elbow. Fingers caress my exposed skin. Lips kiss between areas that want attention.
"You need to eat more." Lips go back to kissing.
"If you're trying to make me feel better, you're not, Cullen."
He smiles against my skin. Green eyes look at me. Chin resting on my ribs. "It takes a lot of energy to grow a baby. If you eat more, you'll have more energy."
He sighs. He leans back a little. "Please tell me where this so-called fat is, Bella. I see nothing."
"That's because you're staring at my tits."
He shakes his head. "I'm looking right at you." His thumb presses between my brows. "Right here."
And that's when my nerves tingle. That's when my stomach feels tight. That's when I can't breathe, though I've never felt lighter. No pressure. And my fingers, they beg me. They beg me for a little touch. There is a wayward lock of hair begging me. It talks to my fingers. And this is when I'm scared the most. Lips on my mouth and I'm okay. Edward inside of me and I'm okay. Crying in his ear and I'm okay. Wayward hair is dangerous. It's somewhere fingers have never been.
I focus my attention there. He can't see my hand shake. He's still looking at me. Thumb on my face. Right there. Finger brushes wayward hair aside. Cheek rests on my ribs. Eyes close. Angel. Under sunlight of the rising afternoon sun. Through the window. Red highlighted angel. Bronze and beautiful and fingers know this. Fingers want this.
I let my fingers brush over and little of his skin. My hand flattens and my palm slides over his hair. Thumb moves from right there. He takes my other hand. He tastes fingers. Just the tips. It's more like kisses. He likes being pet. Touched. Softly. Like he touches me.
Fingers like it, too.
I'm in charge of the burgers. Not cooking them. Just bringing the plate to the table. I sit next to Edward. He isn't touching me. I'm glad. Emmett is here. On the soccer field. I'm not sure if he has spotted me yet. I tried to dress nice. Edward told me I look nice. Beautiful. His eyes weren't lying. I feel a little less dirty. Alice is sitting with Rose across the table. They are talking about Jasper. He's not here. Alice is bitching and moaning. Esme walks over and picks up Rosalie's son.
"You are just too precious, my boy." She kisses his face. She hugs him and rocks him and walks over to Edward. She sits next to him. "I want one of these."
Edward snorts. "I think you're a little too old, Mom. No offense."
She glares. "From you…" she looks at Alice. "Or you. I want to be a Grandma."
Edward pokes at his potato salad. "Don't look at me."
She holds the kid facing him. "Don't you want one of these? You'd be a wonderful father. You would be the best father." She shoves the kid closer to his face. The kid, nor Edward, look amused. "How could you not want one of these?"
Edward shakes his head. "I didn't say I didn't want one. I just said not to look at me. You know it takes more than just hoping and wishing to get one of those, right?" He shoves some food in his mouth.
"Well then I suggest you start doing something to fix that, son. I want one."
He waves his hand toward his sister. "Ask Alice. She's all Lovey-Dovey-Lucy these days."
"Jasper and I just started dating. Were not having a baby. Drop it." She thinks for a minute. "Although, Jasper's eyes on a baby would be amazing. Have you seen…" she turns back to Rosalie and rambles on.
Edward smirks at Esme. "See…you'll have a grandchild by the end of the year at the rate they're going. No worries, Mom."
She hugs the kid. "Your eyes would look nice on a baby, too, Edward. I'm serious."
He groans and looks at me. "Are you thirsty, Bella? You look thirsty." He ditches his fork and gets up.
Esme looks at me. "So stubborn, that one. I don't know how you live with him."
I smile and look down at my food. "He's not so bad."
Emmett takes a seat by Rosalie. He's a little sweaty. My nerves bundle. I keep my eyes down. I can't eat. I feel like everyone can see me when he's here. I feel like the food on display on the table. A cup is set in front of me. Edward is looking at Emmett as he sits. Emmett looks away, grabbing food and eats. His hand scratches the back of my head. I'm still looking down.
I look over when I hear him mumble. He's not looking at Emmett anymore. He's glaring at Alice. Esme stands up.
"Kate! So nice to see you, Dear." Esme hugs her and they stand off to the side talking.
Alice looks at Edward. "I'm sorry. Mom asked her to come. What was I supposed to do Edward? Tell Mom that Kate has been trying to do you and that Bella…." she pauses. "Just be cordial."
"Cordial? She insults Bella in my home, not mention me and you want me to be cordial?
My fists are balled. I want to scream. This is all getting too close. The lines are being mixed up and now he's fighting again with Alice over me.
"It would be worse to start trouble."
"What the hell are you guys talking about?" Rosalie asks. "Is she jealous of Bella? Oh my gosh. What a bitch. She'd rather be banging her late cousin's husband then letting him have happiness with someone…"
Edward glares at Rose.
"What are you talking about?" Alice asks and it's a good motherfucking question.
"What are all of you talking about?" Emmett asks. His eyes are ablaze when they shift to me.
Edward sighs. His hands rub his face. Elbows on the table. "All of you need to shut up. This isn't gossip hour."
The table quiets down. Kate and Esme come back over. Carlisle joins us. He sets more burgers on the table.
"Here honey, why don't you sit by Edward," Esme offers to Kate.
And fuck me. Fuck me and fuck this place and fuck me. Kate smiles.
He simply nods and looks back to Alice. They are having some type of silent conversation. It's angry. I want to just fade away.
Alice pipes up. "Actually, I was just getting up to call Jasper. She can have my seat."
Kate takes her place and Alice walks off, dialing her phone. Esme is oblivious to the giant elephant in the room.
"We've missed seeing you around, Kate. Where have you been hiding?"
She smiles, glancing once to me. "I've just been working. We're pretty busy, right now."
Esme hands her a plate. "That's wonderful. Alice's bakery is doing good, too. I suppose food and health services are recession proof," she smiles.
"Well you know; there are always services that people need, no matter how bad the economy is. My father used to joke that there are three things people cannot live without; food, sex and health. We have all three covered this table."
Esme's face scrunches. Kate looks at me. "Right, Bella?"
I can't speak. There's no way she could know that. She doesn't know that. No one told her. Alice wouldn't tell her. She doesn't like Kate.
Rosalie turns to her. "You just like being the gum on people's shoe. Don't you, Kate?"
No. No. No. She's going to defend something that doesn't need her defense. She doesn't understand what she fighting for. The knockout punch to Kate will be the same one to herself.
"I'm not the one you should be angry at, Rosalie. She's the one sleeping with your husband."
Emmett leans forward to see Kate. "What the hell did you just say?"
Kate is unphased by his anger. "I saw you all at the store that day and I know what Bella is. Don't play dumb."
Rosalie looks at me. Emmett. Edward. Me. "What the hell is going on?"
I can't speak. Edward speaks up. "Kate, you have no idea what you are talking about. Bella fainted in the grocery store. Emmett was there and helped me carry her to my car. Why you think that constitutes infidelity is beyond me, but if you…"
She cuts him off. "And her nights working at Lollipop's Lounge, Edward? How do explain those?" She looks at me. "Big party two years ago in Washington, Bella? William Banner's bachelor party? Yeah…he remembers you fondly."
She looks at Emmett. "Remembers a large man being with her, too. And the pictures….the pictures don't lie."
And fuck, fuck, fuck me. She does know. She's not lying. Who knows what the hell she saw. I was so fucked up that night. I could barely dance. I have no idea who I slept with. Four, maybe five. It was more than just Banner. I know that much. My body told me the next day. Emmett never let me do parties after that night.
"By the look on your face, I'd say you remember him too."
Edward speaks for me. "Shut the fuck up, Kate."
She glares at him. "Me? I didn't do anything, Edward. You're the one who lets a whore live in your house. The house you used to live in with my cousin. You trade Tanya for this? You disgrace our family by moving a whore into your home and then to top it off, allow her to be around Bree? You should be ashamed of yourself. Tanya….Tanya would be ashamed of you. She wouldn't even look at you, right now."
Daggers. Fucking daggers. I'm dying and she is stabbing and stabbing and stabbing.
"Is this all true?" Rosalie is looking between us all. "Goddamn it is this all true?"
Emmett puts his hand on her shoulder. "Babe…"
She shrugs him off. "Don't Babe, me! It's a yes or no?"
Kate speaks for him. "It's a yes. Bella is a whore and apparently preying on your husband isn't enough. She needs to prey on my dead cousin's husband, too."
A fist slams on the table. Carlisle. "Everyone stop this, right now." His controlled calm is eerie. "Edward is my son and I will not have you speaking to him with such disrespect. Especially not when so much disrespect has already been bestowed upon this family.
"Kate, your cousin, Edward's Tanya, was like a daughter to me. I treated her that way and I mourn for her that way, but you will not sit here and talk ill of Edward in lue of her.
"We all know what kind of husband Edward was to Tanya. They are no longer married. They are no longer together. You will not judge him for what he does with his life now. You will not bring more pain to this family and you will not bring hurt to another family who is innocent in all of this.
"My son is intelligent. I trust his judgment and if he wants Bella to be a part of our family then she will be a part of our family. In whichever way that might be. If you have a problem with that, than I suggest you find other plans for your afternoon."
She looks to Esme. "You're just going to let this piece of trash become a part of your family? Really?"
Esme stands. She steps behind me. Her hand is on my head. I'm looking at the table.
"This child is not trash. As for yourself and your behavior and at our table just now…" And I can feel the anger and steam rolling off Esme.
Kate pushes her plate and gets up. She looks at Edward. "Good luck seeing Bree. Our family doesn't associate ourselves with such classless garbage."
She almost walks into Alice as she turns to leave. The table is silent. Rosalie stands up next.
She's pissed. She looks at Esme. "Give me my son."
"Rosalie, sit down and talk with…"
"I said GIVE. ME. MY. SON."
Esme rocks him a few times. She steps forward and hands him to her. Rosalie looks at Emmett. "Give me the keys. You can find your own way home."
"Matter of fact, why don't you stay at Edwards."
Edward this time. "Rosalie."
"Give me the fucking keys, Emmett!"
He sulks. His face is crushed. He reaches for them and he hands them to her, but Alice stops her.
"I'll take you home. You're too upset. Come to my house."
Rosalie debates and then throws the keys back at Emmett. They hit him in the chest and fall to the floor.
"You better have all your shit gone when I get home."
She walks off. Emmett looks back to me. He pounds his fists on the table.
"You just had to fucking come here! You just had to fucking come here!"
Edward stands up. "Bella didn't lie to Rosalie, Emmett! You did. You don't fucking own her or the park, so go fuck yourself!"
"Fuck you, Cullen! I told you not get attached to this shit! I told you this shit would happen! But you want to go and resurrect your dead wife by using Bella and then everyone else gets to pay for it!"
And Edward is over the table. And he is attacking Emmett. And Emmett is going to kill him. And Edward is going to kill him. And Esme is yelling and Carlisle is trying to pry them apart. There is too much anger. It's no use. They are mad at everything and nothing has to do with whose face they are hitting. Those punches are for me. Those punches are for Kate. Tanya. Emmett's father. Emmett's childhood.
I get up and Esme tries to stop me. She can't. I fall to my knees and push myself against Emmett's shoulder. He'll kill Edward if I don't. He's not looking at him. He's looking at his father's hand hitting his mother. He's looking at Rosalie packing her things. He's looking at himself and wishing he was more than what he is. He's thinking of his son's face and wondering who he will call Daddy next.
Edward doesn't have enough anger to match Emmett's. Even if they were similar in size, Emmett would still win. Tanya's death has nothing on Emmett's entire life. I shove and it's like trying to move a wall. I'm knocked to my side and I get back up.
"Stop it! You'll kill him, asshole!" I push against Emmett again. He pushes me away. It pisses off Edward. He pushes Emmett and they roll, but Emmett regains his position. I catch a stray fist. It was definitely Emmett's. It makes him stop.
"Shit. Fuck. Bella. I'm sorry." The fight is gone. Emmett pushes Edward away. He holds my face. "Shit, girl. Are you okay? I'm sorry. Fuck, I'm sorry."
"Let her go." Edward pushes him away. "Look at me." He is breathless and bleeding from his lip. He gingerly lifts my head and looks at my face. My fucking jaw is killing me. I've had worse, but fuck.
"It's fine," I shrug him away.
"It's not fine. Look at me." He tries to grab me again, but Carlisle's hand goes in front of him.
"I'll look at her. You help your mother pack our things. I'm sure someone is going to call the authorities after that display."
Edward doesn't argue with his father. I sit on the picnic table as he examines my face.
He's gentle. Like Edward. "You'll have a bruise that is for sure. I'm surprised he didn't break it. You're lucky."
I wish he did.
"You should come gets X-rayed." I shake my head. "We should make sure everything is alright."
"I'm fine. Jesus, why does everyone named Cullen care so goddamn much how I am. Is it like fucking hereditary or something?"
Carlisle puts his fingers under my chin. "It's what family does. We look out for one another."
"I'm not your family."
He glances back to Edward, then to me. "You are now."
Edward plops down on the couch. He doesn't flip on any lights. No fireplace. No TV. We didn't speak in the car. He falls back against the cushions and sighs hard. His face is a mess. His clothes are a mess. He was perfect and I made him dirty.
I walk over to him. His eyes are closed. Slowly, I put one leg on the outside of his, and then sit in his lap. He opens his eyes. I take the bottom of my dress and place the fabric in my mouth. He watches me. It's gross. I wipe the bottom of his mouth and chin. Red stains the white fabric. I move to a clean area and wet it with my mouth again.
Brown and black and red stain the white. It's okay. I'm the dirty one. I should stay the dirty one. He just watches. There's a place above his eye that is going to hurt in the morning. I lean forward and kiss it. Fingers push the wayward hair away from his face. There's another place that will hurt. I want his hurt. He doesn't deserve to hurt because of me. He doesn't deserve to hurt because of Kate. Or Emmett. Or Tanya.
His family doesn't deserve to hurt.
They stand behind me. They stand behind him and they take the hurt.
Thick as thieves.
They are thick as thieves.