Chapter 47: My Bella
Jasper takes a seat at his desk.
"So, Mr. Cullen, what brings you in today?" He has a pad of paper and is clicking his pen.
"Jasper, please. I appreciate you wanting to be professional and all, but I'm kind of in the middle of a serious breakdown here."
He smirks, writing on his paper. "Alright. Edward, what can I do for you?"
I just say it, because…hell…what else is there?
"Bella asked me to adopt her baby."
He looks up from the paper. My sister's boyfriend Jasper looks shocked. My therapist is in control.
"When did this happen?"
"When we went out of town. A few days ago."
He scribbles, then looks back to me. "And what did you tell her?"
My hands are clammy. It's gross. I get up and pull a few tissues from the box on his desk. I pace.
"I didn't really give her an answer. I mean, I answered her, obviously someone cannot just change the subject and ignore the question, but I didn't say yes and I didn't say no."
My head. Jesus, help me.
"What were your words to her?"
I take a seat again. The tissues rub against my palm.
"I think I said something like, 'why are you doing this to me?'". I look up to Jasper. "That was wrong…wasn't it?"
He fucking smirks.
"How exactly was it said?"
I sigh. Hard. "I didn't know what to say….I asked her what would happen if I said no and she said I wouldn't and…"
This is why he is a Shrink. "She was right."
It takes me a moment. I nod slightly. "How the fuck do I say no, Jasper?"
He sets the notepad aside. "You don't have to give in to Bella just because she is dependent upon you, number one. More importantly, I'd like to know Bella's reasoning for asking you?"
My voice is low. I don't look at him. "She said she loved me."
There aren't enough tissues in this office.
"And how do you feel? Do you want a family with Bella?"
I look at him. "Jasper, you don't get it. She isn't asking me to be it's Dad. Like to fucking marry her or something and live like my parents. She's asking me to adopt this baby and raise it and she isn't sticking around. She doesn't want it. I have to give up Bella. To love her the right way - unselfishly - I have to give her up."
He is still a therapist. Un-phased. "What are her plans?"
"She said she wants to go to school. She wants to grow up. Be on her own…as if she's done so well at that or something…" I stop before I say things I shouldn't. I rub the throbbing in my brain.
"That sounds logical. That's sounds like a good plan…for her. If she's being honest."
I rest my chin in my palm. "What do you mean?"
"Bella has had substance abuse issues, yes?"
"That, along with the rest of her history, won't be an easy thing to shake if she is on her own, again. Your concerns are valid. Most people cannot cope even with a support team. I think if you are seriously considering keeping this child, agreeing to this, you need to set up boundaries with Bella.
"She needs to understand that you need to feel just as secure with taking this on as she feels asking you to do it. It's only fair. It will also establish a sense of responsibility. A plan. For both of you. All of you. If you simply give in and say yes, because you love her, she might take that as weakness on your part, even unintentionally. It is the only thing she knows.
"And if she has an out, she might fall back into her old habits. Giving up a child is hard enough…but having to give up a stable home, her job, her partner….that's a lot to endure. For anyone. Now put those shoes on a person with Bella's mental and emotional state."
I think to myself for a few minutes. I look back to Jasper.
"And if she won't comply?"
He picks up his notepad, again.
"Then I don't think you should either."
I sit for a moment when I pull into the garage. I gather my thoughts and turn off the car. I'm late and I didn't call. I wasn't planning on seeing Jasper. I grab my things from the seat next to me and climb out. My nose tells me she has cooked. My guilt tells me it's cold and I should have called. The food, sitting on the kitchen counter, confirms this.
I don't see her. I set my things down and walk through the house. It's an odd realization. The quiet. The emptiness. It's how it was before. Except dirtier. Before she came and made what was a mess, tidy. Made a house into a home. Somewhere that I wanted to be. And without her, it is back to where it began. Where I began.
I climb the steps and look in my room, but she isn't there. Of course not. I cross the hallway and see her door is cracked. When I push it open, she is on the floor. She is matching socks and folding her clothes. She doesn't see me. I stand here and I just watch her. I watch until my chest is swollen and until there is s lump in my throat and I make a noise to push it down and she notices me.
My fingers touch the door knob. "Hi."
"I made dinner."
And yeah, I should have called. I step inside and take a seat on the edge of her bed. She turns around to face me, but stays on the floor.
"I had to stop somewhere. I'm sorry."
I have reservations. But I need to tell her, so I just tell her.
"I went to see Jasper. I needed his advice on what you asked me."
She looks away. "And…what did he say?"
"He wants to see you."
She looks at me and when she does it is not happy. "I don't need to see a Shrink, Edward. I know I'm fucked up."
"It's not for validation, Bella. It's about…"
She cuts me off. "He's not going to fix me. I asked you to do this because I am trying to fix me. I don't need someone to hold my goddamn hand and pass me tissues."
"And yet…you are asking me to help you. Don't you think that's a little contradictory?"
She makes a face and looks away. She huffs. "I'm asking you to help her. Not me. There's a difference."
"No there isn't. If I help your daughter, I help you. You can do what you want. You free. Just like you wanted, Bella."
Her voice drops. "None of this is what I wanted."
I scoot off the bed and sit on the floor. "Come over here."
She pushes the laundry away, irritated, and takes a seat beside me. I keep my hands to myself, hugging my knees, but look at her so she knows I'm honest.
"I love you, Bella. You're asking me to give that up. You're also asking me to give up my life…my life as it is now. This isn't like a puppy or something. If I say yes, everything changes. And not just for me, but for you. For my whole family. It's hard enough when they're are two parents, you're asking me to be on my own, so I'll need their help.
"And for you not to be willing enough to even consider talking to Jasper, is about the most selfish thing I could think of right now. If you want me to consider changing my entire life, giving you up and raising this child, is it not fair for me to ask for some things in return? From you?"
She looks away. After a moment, "What do you want me to do?"
"I want you to see Jasper for starters. Or at least, someone in his field, if you don't feel comfortable with him, since he is my therapist and Alice's boyfriend. I could understand that. But you need to see someone, Bella."
She looks back to me. She is still not happy. "You said things…what else do you want?"
"I'd like you to stay here. Even if you're not working. You can go to school, do whatever you like, but I want this to be your home." Our home.
She's Bella. "I'm not living here for free."
"Then you better get really good at balancing work and school."
She is a child. "You're being a real jerk."
"No, I'm just being fair. To both of us. All of us." I sigh. "You have to meet me at least halfway here, Bella. Can you honestly argue with that?"
And she can't.
I pull up to my parents house and don't want to be here. I don't want to have this discussion and I don't want to be here. I get out of my car. My mother opens the door after two knocks. She offer me a drink and something to eat. I am not hungry, nor thirsty. She knows something is wrong. She is my mother. I sit on the couch. My father is not home. He is my father.
"I need to ask something."
She is all ears. She smiles her motherly smile. "Go ahead, Dear."
I take a deep breath and just go for it. "I need your help with something."
Okay, so I didn't quite go for it.
She scoots closer to me. "That is not a question, but you know I'll help with anything." She rubs my shoulder and okay, I'm going for it.
"Bella…." Jesus, just go for it. "I would like adopt Bella's baby." Hell.
She is silent. Of course. "Um…wh….I mean….Honey."
"She asked me to and I am considering it. I need you all to be supportive if I say yes, though. For many reasons. Obviously it wouldn't be fair to the child if she was brought into a family that wasn't in agreement about this. Not to mention, I'll need your help taking of her."
And knowing how to be a father.
And how to deal with Bella being gone.
And how not to lose my mind.
"Edward…is this a joke? 'Cause I remember when you and Alice were younger you played that joke on me about the…"
I cut her off. "This isn't a joke, Mom. I wish, but it's not."
She thinks. She speaks. "Alright, well, if we are being serious here…I will stick to what I said about always helping you, but I am a little confused….and definitely concerned."
"Well, that would make two of us." I rub my face.
"Her choice was good, however. If we are looking to the bright side." And she is a proud mama bear. She smiles and nudges me. "If this is what you choose, then I will stand by you." She offers her hand. "You are my son."
I nod and try to push down the feeling in my throat. "Alice….Alice is going to throw a fit."
Esme pats my hand. "No, she won't."
I glance at her. She smiles. "Okay, she probably will. But we are family and she will just have to get used to it. I'm happy for you. Finding someone and now being able to have a child. It might not be the most ideal situation, given who the child's biological father is…but it's still a wonderful turn of events."
And this is where I remember why I don't want to be here.
"Bella doesn't want to raise her, Mom. She wants me to take care of her while she gets her life in order…I don't know if she'll ever want to, but right now, she doesn't."
Her face falls. "Oh."
She touches my face. "I'm sorry, Darling."
I lie. "It's alright."
And she knows I'm a liar. She's my mother.
Bella is on her swing. I am lying on the grass reading something to myself. She hops down. I glance up and then back to my book. She pushes it out of my hands and crawls in my lap.
"You've been in a bad mood since we left Virginia. I hate it."
I touch her face. "I'm not in a bad mood."
"I was flashing half of the park my underwear when I was on that swing and not one comment from the peanut gallery. I didn't even get a glance, Cullen."
I don't want to smile, but I can't help it. I pull her face to mine. I just hold her there.
Her voice is nervous. "Are you mad at me?"
I shake my head. I kiss her mouth. "I just love you."
Her voice is small. Tiny. For my ears only. "I love you."
I kiss her again. "Then stay with me, please."
"I said I would live there until I have this th….kid."
I shake my head. "After."
"I can't promise that."
My fingers make circles on the back of her head. "Then what happens, Bella? I can't see not having you having you. I definitely cannot see looking at child everyday that could very well look just like you and being okay with that. Do you have any idea how difficult that would be?"
She holds my face. Her eyes close. "What do you want?"
Now there's a list.
"I want you. I want you to be able to do all of the things you want, but I want you. If you need time to figure out how to be a mother, then you need time, but I want you."
Her voice is full of disbelief. "Like a girlfriend?"
"Like…my Bella. Call it whatever you like, but I just want you to be my Bella."
Her eyes open. She stares at me and my heart waits. "Your Bella?"
I nod. "Yeah, my Bella."
"It's not that easy. Your still naive, Cullen."
I mean it. "I don't care what people think."
"And what about when she is born? What about what people will think of that? Will think of her being my kid? My kid you are raising? And everyone knows what I used to do around here. She gets to be the Hooker Baby? Is that fair, Cullen?"
"No, but neither is the alternative."
"Well then maybe you're going to have to like the idea of a long distance relationship, because I can't see staying here. If I am able to go to school and do all this ridiculous shit that - might I add you were the one who told me I could do - it's not going to be around here. And if by some miracle of God, let's say I get a job doing something that doesn't involve being on my knees, again, it's not going to happen here. Even if there wasn't a kid. I can't stay here, Edward. Be serious."
I sigh because she is right and the need to fight has deflated.
"Then where are we? Where does that leave us?"
"I'm going to school, Cullen. You're raising this th…kid. And…I guess I'm 'your Bella', because you feel the need to put labels on things that are obvious. Freak."
The corner of my mouth lifts as I feel the warmth return to my heart. My Bella. She holds her hand over it.
"Don't even look happy, Edward."
But for the first time in days, I am.