Chapter 7: Babylon Feeling
Alice is placing trays in the oven as I continue to beg. "Alice, please. It's just a part time thing."
She looks at me. "What is she going to do, Edward? Give blow jobs while I serve coffee and croissants?" My face sours and she holds up one of her mitted-hands. "Sorry, I'm just saying. I need a baker, not a…you know."
"It's just cookies and pie. How hard can it be?" I ask her this and she places her hand on her hip. It reminds me of my mother and I know I am in for it.
"Gee, I don't know. How hard is it to diagnosis a case of the sniffles or put a bandage on a kid's boo-boo?"
I deserve it. Alice is an outcast in our family; the only one who is not a Doctor and I burned her with my put down of the profession she chose. I sigh and lean against the counter. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean your job isn't hard. I just think it would be easy to teach someone. You're a patient person. You could do it."
She quirks an eyebrow.
"Please, Alice?" It is my last hope. She shakes her head and continues on with her work.
"How do you even know she wants the job? Did you even ask her?" The answer is written all over my guilty face and she groans in annoyance. "Look, I am all for helping people and I am sure that Bella is a lovely girl, but I am running a business, Edward. You're asking me to hire and inexperienced…girl…who you don't know anything about. She could be a thief, a criminal. Hell, she is a criminal."
I laugh. "No she's not."
"She sells her body for money. That's illegal. I'm sure the line isn't drawn there, either."
"What the hell does that mean?"
"She could be a drug addict, a thief, a drunk. I don't know. Circles, Edward. Circles."
"Who are you?" She asks.
"Um, Edward Cullen. Nice to meet you."
"No, you are Edward Cullen the Doctor. The guy who plays golf with other Doctors and contributes to charity. People who know you, know that you are an upstanding citizen of our community and people who really know you, know that you enjoy playing the piano in your free time and have a taste for the arts. You are intellectual and kind and won't drink soda."
I am just staring at her. She rolls her eyes. "The people you hang around with are all in that same circle. You don't hang out with criminals and drug addicts and shit like that. Who do you think Bella hangs out with? What do think she does with her free time? I sure as hell doubt she is going to luncheons with the Mayor and seeing musical productions up town."
"You never know, Alice. Politicians have quite the reputation for having a little something on the side," I waggle my brows and she throws a pot holder at me.
"Sorry, Edward. You want to have a bleeding heart for Bella; give her a job filing papers in your office or something. I can't help you out."
In my office, Rosalie hands me a card. I smile when I see a cartoon character and realize it is an invitation. How fast a year goes by. It seems like just yesterday she was waddling around the office, complaining and rubbing her swollen belly.
"Don't even think of telling me the hundred different ways birthday cake is a bad for my kid, either," she pokes me in the chest as I read. "It's a celebration."
"Of butter-cream and artificial colors and flavors. Light some extra candles for me, would you?" I joke and she rolls her eyes. "What should I bring?"
She takes a deep breath and I regret asking.
At noon, Esme joins me for lunch in the break room. She lays out her homemade potato salad and sandwiches from Alice's place. I take a few bites of my turkey club and check my phone for messages. I feel her eyes watching me, but she doesn't say anything. I am disappointed that Bella hasn't called, but not surprised. I just hope that no news equals good news.
"Are you coming to Josh's party this weekend?" She asks.
I nod. "Rose gave me the invite this morning."
"Alice is making an adorable cake. She showed me the design when I picked up the sandwiches. Chocolate with vanilla icing and gummy bears. She wanted to do gummy worms, but Rosalie protested," she laughs.
"I bet. I should clear my schedule for Monday; get ready for all the sick children with stomach aches caused by my own sister. I should make her intern for the day." I am just playing and Esme smiles, reaching across the table to rub my cheek.
"One day of sweets won't hurt anything," she reassures.
"We'll see about that."
At home, I am stuck doing my own damn laundry, because Rosalie has forgotten all about my housekeeper situation due to Josh's birthday this weekend. I have the afternoon off, for once, and I should be lying on my sofa, relaxing and watching a movie or something, but I am not. I am waiting for clothes to dry and cursing about how dusty everything I touch is. I think about sitting outside and getting some fresh air, but I am equally as annoyed by the patio's state. There are dead bugs and debris everywhere. Does no one take pride in their work anymore?
I am cleaning the patio area; sweeping and picking up things when the buzzer goes off to my laundry. I am folding clothes and running them upstairs and when I get to my room, I just sit them on the bed and lay down. This is more work than work. But no pay.
I take a shower and head to the grocery store; another task that has been neglected. My kitchen is bare and I hate shopping. While I am out, I pick up some things Rosalie wanted for the party and a clerk helps me pick out a few gifts. I have them wrapped at customer service and sign the card. They'll sit in my trunk until Saturday.
I make a vegetable stir-fry at home and go through emails and bills while a game plays on the flatscreen. There's a fire burning and snow falling outside. After the last bill is paid, I sit on Tanya's window bench and stare outside. My knees are in my chest and my eyes are trying to see her making snow angels, but all I see is white and dark and nothing.
There is just nothing.
Surrounded by cake and balloons, a child is asking me a hundred different questions about the dinosaur on one of the napkins. I am trying to remember all I know about pterodactyls, but it doesn't seem to satisfy his curious mind. He asks me to play in the bounce house Rosalie has rented, but I decline, telling him I am too big and he begs. I give up and sit on the edge while he runs inside. I am bounced and unamused and have to laugh a little that I chose caring for children as my profession. Don't get me wrong, I like them; I am just not the playmate type.
When he is fully distracted, I put my shoes back on and start to walk the park; needing a break from all the madness before round two begins. These kids are all riled up and they haven't even had cake yet. It's a little warmer today and most of the snow is gone. I stare at the clouds and shove my hands in my pockets. My feet wander toward a bench that holds memories only I know about. I sit there and lean on my knees. I stare at my gold band and wonder if I should bury it under the bench. It would make sense. More sense than wearing it on my finger.
"Edward that's huge!" Her hand is on her mouth and I laugh.
"I'm already proposing, Sweetheart. No need to flatter me." She smacks her hand to my chest and I wait. She frames my face in her hands and nods, pressing her forehead to mine.
"Will you marry me, Tanya Denali?" She keeps nodding and her eyes close. Warm tears go down her rose-colored cheeks and I kiss her face. "Thank you." She hugs her arms around my neck and I am still on my knees. I could care less about the dirt and grass that is staining my pants and I just hold her. I just hold her.
I take a deep breath and rub my face. My vision blurs and then clears, settling on a figure across the field. It's Bella and she is reading something, sitting underneath a tree. Only when I look closer, she isn't really reading. Her eyes are closed and her head lolls to the side. She is…sleeping?
I look back towards the party and everyone is still running around. I stand up and walk slowly to the tree. I am careful not to make noise and startle her, but it is useless and her eyes blink rapidly as my feet reach hers. She looks up at me and rubs her face, then glances around. I squat down beside her and lean my back to the tree, for better balance.
"Napping?" I ask.
I smile. "Just wanted to make sure you hadn't expired."
She holds up her book. "This is the most boring shit I have ever read." I tilt my head to read the cover. She is reading the Bible and I am already thinking of my apology for this Sunday's Confessional. "What are you doing here?"
"My friend is having a birthday party for her son." I nod my head towards the fiasco. "He turns one today."
"Oh." She thinks for a second. "What are you doing over here then? I thought you were all about the kids."
"Just taking a break," I shrug. "I was walking and saw you and like I said…"
"Yeah, yeah. Wanted to make sure I wasn't dead. Got it."
"How have you been feeling?"
"Just peachy, Doctor. Just peachy."
A child is tugging on my arm. It's my friend I abandoned in the bounce house. He is whining and trying to get me to come back over. I don't want to go. I look at Bella.
"How do you feel about sugar in large doses?"
"I'm not going over there, so don't even try."
"There's actual food, too. Hamburgers, hotdogs. Well, okay, that's not really food, but you know."
"I said no, Edward."
I look to the kid. "Don't you want Bella to come play with us?" His face lights up and he nods. She is not happy with me but he tugs on her and begs and she doesn't seem to take too well to children being obnoxious. It is highly amusing. My mother smiles when she sees me approaching. I pick up the kid and let him sit on my hip. His fingers are covered in blue and pink and I am assuming it is cotton candy. My shirt is now blue and pink and I curse silently to myself.
"This is my friend Bella," I say to my mother. She wipes her hands off and hugs Bella. My mother is a hugger. Everyone hates it, but she is a hugger. It doesn't matter who you are. Bella is no different. She cringes and her arms stay flat at her sides. I smile.
"Hi, Sweetie. So nice to meet you. Come, sit, eat. We have too much food…" Esme is just as hyper as the children and she takes Bella under her motherly wing, shoving burgers and chips and trays of finger-foods in her face. Bella seems overwhelmed, but I am not going to save her. She needs to eat and be around good people. My mother is good people.
I put the kid down and he says he is going to hide. I assign someone else to go find him and sit at the table, across from Bella. Alice is now talking to her, along with my mother. I should feel bad, but I don't. They're harmless. A little annoying and nosey, but harmless.
Alice looks at me and I know she is up to no good. "So, how is that search going for an office clerk, Edward?" She has imperfect timing, as Rosalie is taking a seat at the table now. She looks at me, confused.
"I didn't know we were hiring."
"We aren't. Alice is confused." I look at her and will her to shut up. It does nothing and she smiles and keeps going on with her fibs.
"You just told me all about it. I was saying you should hire someone…fresh and you know…not as old as those other women in your office." She pops a chip into her mouth and I wish I knew which foot under the table was hers. My brain thinks rapidly, trying to cover my ass.
"I said I was hiring a housekeeper, Alice. Keep up."
Rosalie is still stuck on Alice's words. "What do you mean not as old? I am not old."
"I didn't mean you, Rose." She turns her attention back to me. "So, when are you hiring this housekeeper?"
"Soon as I find one I like, Alice. Anything else you want to know about my life? Perhaps how much my phone bill is each month or what I had for dinner last night?"
She laughs. "Touchy, touchy."
Bella is nibbling on a burger when I look back to her and seems oblivious to our conversation. I am grateful. I see Emmett walking over with his son on his shoulders. He stands him on the table in front of Rosalie and reaches for a handful of chips, but pauses, with his hand half way there. His eyes are on Bella and she looks up at the same time. Her expression is scared and worried. Almost horrified. I look back to Emmett and he tries to quickly recover; grabbing the pretzels. He sits down and Bella is still as a statue.
There is only one thought that enters my mind and I hate it.
"I should get going. Um, thanks for the food." Bella gets up and grabs her bag from the ground. She rushes away from the table and I look back to Emmett. He is a canvas of guilt and fear. I stand up and walk towards Bella, trying not to make a scene. My hand grabs her arm and swings her in my direction.
"What the hell was that?" I ask.
"I don't do family affairs. It was stupid for you to ask me to come over."
"You know Emmett, don't you?"
"Don't lie to me, Bella. I saw the look on your faces."
"I need to go." She spins, but I grab and hold her still.
"Either he is going to tell me or you are. I'd rather not ruin a child's birthday party by accusing his father of being a fucking liar and cheater."
"He's not," she says adamantly.
"Then how does he know you? Is he…shit, is he one of your clients?"
"No. It's not like that. He's going to see us talking. I need to go." She tries to tug her arm away, but I am stronger. "Edward, please. I can't tell you."
"Rosalie is like my family. I won't let anyone hurt her."
"He's not. He just…he just works security at one of the clubs, okay? Fuck."
"Was he ever with you?"
"Was he ever with any of those girls?"
"Just works security? You're telling me the honest to God truth?" She is silent and I tug her towards me.
"He makes sure none of the Johns' rape or beat the shit out of me when I go on my first date. He fucking watches out for me; that's how I know him, alright?" She tugs her arm back. "He looks out for me and I fucking look out for no one and now he won't do it anymore. Are you fucking happy, now?" She shoves her hands against my chest. "Fucking happy now?"
She turns and walks away and the last thing I am, is happy.