Chapter 50: What Others See
It's been a few months. Three and a half to be exact. There are a few new things in my life. In my home. In our home.
For starters, there is a Bella that is new. She is brighter and lighter and happier. There is a life behind the caramel. There is a rhythm in my heart when it sees it. There are books on my coffee table and a television that stays off most of the time. There are shelves that are used and not just for decoration and storage. There are fingerprints on the glass to coffee table where she studies and I don't mind. No, I don't mind.
Upstairs, there is a new room. It is old, but it has been made new. The furniture has been moved out and replaced by all the things my mother sees fit. There is fresh paint on the walls and somewhere, there is probably a woman with a baby boutique that is in love with Esme and her need and desire to be a grandmother.
Bella hasn't gone in there and it's a good thing she spends a lot of time with Jacob.
For many reasons.
He is staying with Billy. Leah and Sam are not in trouble. Seth is safe. Jacob is with Billy so he can be safe as well. Away from those boys. Jacob is lighter and brighter too. The result of being around Bella. There must be magic in her fingertips.
"Ready?" She asks.
I look her over as she stands before me. Her belly is poking out. She is trying everything in her power to hide it, but it's there. It's not huge, but it's a belly. It looks just as I imagined. She is every bit as perfect. If she never opened her mouth, she would be the epitome of what you'd picture as the perfect mother. Long hair that is well kept. Well-pressed clothing that is lady like. Soft eyes and a soft face. She looks the part. Too bad her heart isn't there.
I nod and push the stool under the counter. We are going to Billy Black's house. When I said I wanted Bella to seek therapy, I didn't exactly mean hanging around Billy's house and having him be the one, but beggers can't be choosers and even I can't deny that it is helping.
I help her in the car and climb in on my side. She holds my hand as we drive. We come to a red light and I stop. I kiss the back of her hand.
"You look very beautiful." I kiss her hand again. Her wrist smells like vanilla. Lilly flowers. I kiss it again.
She leans in to kiss me, but pauses. Her eyes catch something. Her expression changes. I glance to where she is looking. There is a group of girls standing outside of an ice cream shop. There are two boys talking to them. I look back to Bella.
"That's that asshole kid. Riley."
I look back to him. I try to imagine him talking to Bella. Saying the things she has told me. I look at the girl's faces and imagine he is bothering them much the same way. They look younger than Bella. They probably don't know how to defend themselves like she does. The light turns green.
"Well, it looks like he has moved on to other victims, Sweetheart. Finally got the hint."
She sits back in her seat. Her palms lay on her stomach. "You think this would have been the hint."
I smile and shift gears. "Either way, you're almost done with class, so I wouldn't let it bother you. You'll be moving onto bigger and better things and Riley will still be trying to get teenaged girls to think he is sun and the moon."
"If I pass. I might not pass, Cullen. I could be stuck for the rest of eternity in a classroom with Riley the Asshole." She mumbles something to herself.
I reach for her hand, again. "You won't. You'll pass."
She looks at me. "How do you know?"
I smell the floral on her wrist again. "Because, you're Bella."
We pull up to Billy's house and Jacob is already racing towards the car. He grabs onto Bella as soon as she gets out. I know he's a kid, but still.
"Jacob, be easy around Bella, please. She's delicate." And mine.
"Sorry." He takes her hand and pulls her along.
She has a smile on her face and I hate it and love it. I take the food she made from the car and follow them up the steps, to the house. I never really spent much time with Billy Black. Bella has told me a few stories, both old and new. He sounds like a decent man. His home is not fancy, but it's clean. It's a little old. A little withered. A little like his face. He grabs a few dishes and then asks Jacob to help. Bella helps because she is Bella and I take whatever she is willing to give me. We go out to the deck and place the food around a large wooden table. There are a few other people here. I don't know them. They seem to know Bella.
I assume the woman kissing Bella's cheek is Sue. The man shaking my hand is saying his name is Harry. I know they are Jacob's great grandparents because Bella told me a few weeks ago. She came home with small braids in her hair and I was full of wonder.
The food is pretty good. Not my usual type of thing. But I like it. Jacob pulls Bella to a swing set they have and I am sort of left behind. Again, I tell myself he is just a kid. And I am being ridiculous. The other men are discussing things I don't know about. Fishing. Hiking. Hunting.
Sue takes a seat next to me. She is a kind woman. I am glad Bella seems to have made friends with her. On some level. I'm not so sure how far. But all of these people to seem to just welcome and embrace her without judgment. She doesn't seem to shy away. She didn't seem timid here. She looks free and at ease.
"Lovely girl." Sue comments.
I smile. "She is."
"She's done wonders for Jacob. I have never seen that boy so happy."
And I watch as Bella sits on the ground. Jacob has a long rope he is winding around a stick. He is handing it to Bella and she is pointing and telling him something. And he listens. To her, he listens. I wonder if it goes both ways. Jacob takes off running and the rope lets out. He lets go and he fails. The kite never gets off the ground. Bella stands up. Not easily. Her belly. He offers a hand and I have to not hate Jacob for spitting on me all those times. And the kicking.
I look back to Sue. "Well, if it's any consolation, Bella looks happier too."
She nods. Her eyes are kind. "Sometimes it takes two broken hearts to heal one. And sometimes, you have to look into another's eyes and see what you don't see in yourself. Bella had a strong father in Charlie Swan. Jacob wants that and whether Bella knows it or not, she is like him. She is like her father. Prettier….but still." She smiles and I see Billy watching.
He excuses himself. Harry follows him. He looks troubled. Sue touches my hand.
"It's hard for him. He knew Bella as a girl. Charlie…" she shakes her head. "Charlie asked him to watch out for her if anything ever happened to him. But sometimes…..we don't know what we will become ourselves when that day arrives. And it was hard on him."
I look back to Bella. They still haven't gotten the kite to fly. "It wasn't Billy's fault. She had a mother."
Sue. "From what I hear, not much of one."
I nod. "I know. But it still isn't Billy's fault. Anyhow…what's done is done. She is getting better now, so it's no use to dwell on the past."
They need to use a thinner rope.
"Looks to me like the past is very much in the present."
And I know she is talking about Bella's baby. I look back to Sue.
"Did she tell you about this?"
Sue nods. "She said you are going to adopt the child. I believe that's why she wanted us all to meet here, today. She wants you to know us. Her child…she wants her child to know us."
"Is that what Bella said?"
Sue smiles lightly. "It is isn't usually what Bella says that tells you about her and what she'd like, now is it?"
And I have to smile. "No, usually the latter."
Her expression changes. Serious. Sincere. "She really loves and adores you, Edward. She has never said these things, yet I know it. And perhaps, you have a little of Bella inside of you, because without speaking a word, I see the same on your face, as you watch her."
She takes my hand. Her skin is warm. Tan. Wrinkled. "And like Jacob, there is something you seek in Bella's eyes. There is a need there to be fulfilled. And there is a goodness in you that Bella must see in your eyes, to allow you to care for her child. This partnership…it is very uncommon, and yet, when I think about you and she, I see a plan. Some may call me silly, or nosy, but as the oldest woman in this family, I am wise and I know what connects you to Bella. I know why this works."
I watch her eyes for truth. A truth even I don't know. Or understand. Fully.
"Why? What do you see that everyone else never will? Never would be willing to?"
Her leathery fingers hold tight to my hand. "You are the ground for Bella. You hold it and you allow her to fly. An unselfish love. And when she flies, she still stays connected to you. She never will fly too far away and you will always be her lifeline. You will always be connected." She looks forward. And finally, they got it. "Just like a kite."
And the spool unravels and Jacob runs and even though he reaches the end of the length, he lets go and when he does it goes up high and out of his hands, but Bella….Bella holds on to the rope and keeps it from floating too far and from falling down.
I wait for her outside as she asked me to. I see that kid Riley and do my best to keep my eyes and mouth to myself. He isn't bothering Bella, so I really have no just cause to start trouble. Right now. I see her come out from the office. I start to walk, to meet her half way. I raise my brows and she looks at me. She shakes her head.
"I didn't look yet." She passes over the envelope to me.
I slip my finger under the corner and break the seal. I pause and pull out the papers. I don't need to look at her face to know she is nervous. Or chewing her finger. I say a silent prayer before I read the results. I don't doubt her. I just don't want her to be discouraged if she didn't pass.
"Want to know?"
I shake my head. "Looks like Riley is going to be very lonely."
I glance up from the paper and she tries to mask her joy. She is Bella. But Bella is slightly new and the new Bella defeats the old Bella and new Bella wraps her arms around my neck and hugs tightly. I am hugging her back when she pulls away. She looks down.
Old Bella. "What the hell was that?"
I laugh a little. "Did she kick you?"
She looks up to me. "It did something."
I put my hand there. I feel the little jabs. "Apparently, Grace is happy for you, too."
"This is going to be scary. We should have worn body armor."
Bella laughs and hits me playfully. I put the car in park.
"We've put this off long enough, Cullen. You have to tell Alice at some point. I mean, she is going to come over with her stupid pies someday and see you holding a baby and freak the fuck out. Of course, if you didn't tell her…it could be like serious pay back for the 'locking you in the morgue' incident."
I smile and turn off the car. "I'd never be forgiven if something happened to Alice."
We get out and walk up to the front door. I have never been so scared in my entire life. My mother has accepted this. My father I suppose is willing to accept anything as long as I am happy. Alice and Emmett and Rose still don't know. We drew names from a hat. Alice was first. Of course.
I look to Bella before Alice answers the door. "I love you."
She smiles and slides her hand into mine. The door opens and the house smells like cinnamon. Her house is smaller than ours. It is bright and it is like Alice. It makes you feel good. Welcome. I take a seat in the living room. Alice is getting us drinks from the kitchen. Bella points to a picture on the coffee table. I pick it up. It's Alice and myself as children. Bella takes it from me.
"This is you?"
I nod. She smiles and keeps her eyes on it. Alice sets down our drinks and takes a seat.
"I love that one. It's my favorite."
Bella glances up to Alice. "You guys look the same. As you do now. Just smaller."
She sets it back down and my nerves bundle. There won't be much time for 'nice talk'. Alice looks to me.
"So, what's up? Not often I get a house call, Doc." She teases, but not really.
"I'm going to do my best to ruin your day." I try to tease back, but not really. It probably will.
She gets serious. "You two are getting married, aren't you? I knew it. I told Jasper this would happen. Fine…get married. Whatever."
I laugh. So does Bella. "No, we aren't getting married, Alice."
She doesn't buy it. "I already know you two are dating. Everyone knows, so just fess up. I have pretty much already swallowed the idea down, so just say it."
"Alice, this isn't about marriage. And it isn't about Bella and I 'dating'. It's actually a lot more serious."
She waits. I try to find the right words. There is nothing but the truth.
"I'm adopting Bella's child."
And she stares. And stares. And stares. And stares.
"Look…I know you're all full of jokes and stuff all of a sudden and that's great….I'm glad you have discovered you have a sense of humor, Edward, really….but this is not funny. Not at all."
I laugh and rub my face. "Jesus, between you and mom." I look back to her. "I'm not joking. I am being 100% serious. Bella is going to have her baby, Grace, and I am going to adopt it. If you love me at all, you will be supportive and make my life much easier."
And she is looking at me. Then Bella. Then me. Then Bella. Christ.
"This is why mom has been hording baby things? For you? Not because she thinks I'm knocked up?"
My face scrunches. "Whh…huh?" Amazing that I am college graduate.
"Mom. She has an entire closet full of baby shit. I saw it a few weeks ago when I was going to borrow a shirt of hers. I have been freaking out ever since. Jesus, Edward."
I look at her. My brow arches. "Are…."
"No! Hell no! I was just freaking out because you know….when you're in love and hell, I bake for a living….well…you eat more and look!" She stands up and she tries to jiggle what cannot be jiggled. "I have gained ten pounds since I started dating Jasper!"
And I laugh. And Bella laughs.
Alice does not. We stop.
"You're not fat, Alice. Truth be told, you could stand to gain about five more."
"Oh, now you can really get out of my house."
I smile. "Does this mean you aren't going to kill me?"
She rolls her eyes. "I'm not exactly over the flipping moon…but if it means mom gets off my case and jumps all over yours…then yeah. Fine. Have a baby. Shit, get a damn dog and a fish and a pony while you're at it."
"Seriously? I get to leave your house anatomically correct?"
And Bella is laughing next to me.
"I said yes. Jesus. Do want me to go on a rampage? I could if you'd like me…"
I hold up my hand. "No. I think I'm perfectly fine with you being perfectly fine. Thanks."
She slides down into her seat. "Damn Jasper and all his shrinkiness."
Now I'm teasing for real. "Making you soft, Alice?"
She throws a pillow at me. "Shut it."
It's raining today. We can't go to the park. I'm lying in bed with Bella. We have a movie on and haven't changed out of our pajamas. Well, she has on pajamas. She doesn't like me looking at her now. Her belly. My sleeping attire is the same. Plus a shirt. We ate breakfast downstairs and I still have some manners.
I glance over to her. "I was….I was thinking about something. It's kind of about Jacob."
I roll to my side. She sits up. She plays with her fingers and she is still the same Bella in so many ways.
"What about Jacob?"
"It's like….well I passed my test. And I'm supposed to do something now, right?"
"Like college? Yes. I think you should go to college."
She nods a little and looks back to her fingers. "You know how Jacob was….like….how he was messed up and stuff….I mean, he's still a little messed up. It's not like he's living with his dad or something, so there is still shit fucked up there….but he's better, you know? Anyhow…he talks to me. That's what I mean. Like…he trusts me. Maybe because I'm fucked up, too. Maybe it takes one fucked up person to understand someone else who is fucked up too."
She stops and I sit up next to her. I take her hand because I can't stand when she won't look at me.
"What does this have to do with college? I'm not following."
She looks at me, but it's still shy. Scared. "Maybe other fucked up people would talk to me, too."
"Like a therapist?"
She shakes her head. "Most of those people are just crybabies seeking attention. No offense."
I smile. "Then what?"
"Like the type of person who gets to speak to someone like Jacob. Before they can really get fucked up and do stupid things. Before Jacob could turn into Emmett."
And it never ceases to amaze me how Bella's mind sees things.
She continues. "Maybe one of those moronic guidance counselors. They don't ever know shit. When I was a kid, they never knew shit. They never did shit for me and maybe that's because they didn't even know what to look for. Not everything comes from books."
She tries to read my face. Child Bella. "You think it's stupid, right?"
I shake my head. "I think it makes perfect sense." I kiss her hand. "I also think that you need to work at grade levels under high school, because if you are trying to get rid of the Riley's from your life, being a guidance counselor to boys that age would not help." I laugh and she nudges me.
I tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. "I think you would make a wonderful counselor, Bella. And…Lord help me if you ever show up with glasses and your hair in a bun to my office."
She laughs and looks at me with wide-eyes. She pushes against me and I roll to my back. She crawls on me. Her belly presses into mine.
"Holy fuck. That's your fantasy. A therapist. Does Alice know about you and Jasper?"
I laugh and pull her face towards mine.
"It's not a therapist fantasy or fetish. It's just Bella. It's just my beautiful Bella I fantasize over. In glasses…preferably."
Her smile spreads over mine as she touches her lips to my own. "I'll see what I can do."
And when I roll her to the side and hold her against me, we sleep peacefully and with dreams that are bigger than our simple unconsciousness. More than things that don't make sense when you wake in the morning. And I see the diamond flying higher in the sky and I just pray that I will able to hold on and keep the ground steady.
Steady enough, so we don't fall.