Chapter12: Stories Pt 1
I'm sitting across from Bella. She has on a pair of sweatpants; the bottoms are pushed up to her knees. Her shirt is worn out and looks like it used to belong to a man. There is a team logo that tells me it was from a Police Athletic League. I'm reading the words and she shifts in her seat. I feel like an asshole. She thinks I am ogling her and I am only making what happened Sunday evening worse; if that is even possible. I get back to my mission at hand.
"This is a list of things I would like done, weekly. It is just a guide until you get a routine for yourself. I won't leave you notes anymore, unless there is something specific I need your help with." I hand her the papers and she take them.
"Tonight, for instance, I'm having some guests, so I'll need you to help with the kitchen and setting up dinner." I am curious. "Do you know how to cook?"
She looks up from the papers and shakes her head.
"I was just curious. It's not required. Just help set the table and so forth. I'll show you when the time comes."
Bella nods and I want to say something about last night, but what is there to say? Nothing. There is nothing to say. And I don't want to talk about it. So instead, I show her where all the appliances and cleaning things are. I go through the cabinets and drawers and list and all things inconsequential.
"Do you have any questions?" We are in the hall and she is still shaking her head at me. She hasn't spoken one word and it's eating a hole at my insides.
We play this game for much of the morning and even though I am grateful to have the day from the hospital off, I almost wish I were working. I finish my day at my office and head home. Bella is cleaning the dining room area and I walk to the kitchen. I pull out some items for lunch, but my appetite is shot. I took this girl into my home to give her safety – security - and I violated that. I shut the fridge's door with irritation and make my way upstairs to change clothes; into something more casual.
My friend Kate arrives as I am coming down the steps and I allow her in, helping out with the food she has brought. A few of her friends accompany her and I show them into the kitchen. She has cooked here before and I leave them to do what they do best. I find Bella and introduce her to the women, but ask her to follow me.
We pull out dishes and silverware and wine glasses and all the fixings for dinner and cocktails, tonight. She works fast and diligently. She does everything I ask without question or commentary and when she does, she does it perfectly. I see her hold her thumb to each place setting and make sure the plates are all even on the table. She is measuring my plate's accuracy. I see her wipe spots off silverware and hold up the wine glasses to the light, making sure they are perfect. She is straightening chairs and looking like a mess and saying nothing.
I walk into the kitchen and check on the girls. They are laughing and working and having a good time while they do it. They enjoy being here and helping me out. I pay them nothing. They do it because they just want to. They do it because they think I am a nice person.
"Would you make a plate for Bella, please, Kate? She's too shy to ask on her own."
I take a seat at the counter and listen to the messages I've missed on my cell. Kate nods and hands me over a plate. I have the phone to my ear and walk to find Bella. She is outside, sitting on the patio and when she sees me, she stands up and looks like I've caught her, again. I take a seat at the chair beside her and hand over the plate. She takes it and I lower the phone to delete a message.
"Eat, please." I go back to checking messages and she sits back down, but turns slightly away from me. I try to keep my eyes to myself, but fail several times. It's cold out here and she is way under-dressed. I hang up my phone and scoot to the edge of the lounge chair, so I'm not speaking to her back. "Aren't you freezing out here? You could have sat inside. I told you to rest whenever you liked, Bella."
She is shaking her head and chewing. I sigh and rest my elbows to my knees. "You aren't going to speak to me today, are you?"
Her chewing slows and she swallows, but says nothing. I rub my hands together, trying to think of how to bring up this subject. They feel numb and I don't think the weather is to blame.
"Bella, I'm sorry about last night. It was inappropriate and I apologize."
She looks over her shoulder. "You didn't do anything wrong."
"Yes I…" My phone rings and if it were anyone else calling, I would ignore it, but it's not just anyone. "Hi, Sweetheart."
Bella looks away and continues eating her food. "I miss you too, but I get to see you tonight. I have something for you." I laugh and continue on with my call, until it's time for it to end. "Alright, Sweetheart. I'll see you tonight. I love you, too. Bye."
I wait for the line to go dead and click the button. A heavy sigh escapes my chest and Bella is done with her food. I don't want her to leave. I want things to be alright. I slide over to her seat and sit beside her on the lounge chair. Her fingers grip the plate in her hands and she looks over at me. I feel the envelope in my back pocket and remember I put it there. I tug it out and hand it to her.
"This is half of your pay for the week. One, so you have money on you. Two, so we have trust established and you don't think I'm going to rip you off." I smile and she takes it. "Paydays will be every Friday."
She nods and holds her bottom lip in between her teeth. The envelope fidgets in her hands. I clasp my own and lean forward on my knees. I'm hesitant, but I have to ask. My thumb rubs at my chin and I can't look at her.
"How did you know, Bella?" She is quiet and I have to elaborate. "About Tanya. How did you know?"
"I didn't. I just…let's just say I'm good at reading people."
Now, I look at her. "That would be some very impressive reading."
She shakes her head. "I just mean I'm not stupid. And I've…known…a lot of people. A lot of people with wedding rings…" She looks at my hands. "But most of them also have pictures…or stories to go with them. You don't have pictures."
"So, I seem as pathetic as your former clients. Is that what you're saying?" I am teasing…a little.
She shakes her head. "There's nothing pathetic about it. They need something. I need something. It's a win-win."
"Except, I'm paying you to be my housekeeper, not for sex, Bella."
She shrugs. There is silence and I'm not sure what else to say. The air still doesn't feel cleared, but it seems that is going to be more difficult than I thought. Or easy, depending on how you look at it. Most women would want an explanation, but I suppose Bella Swan isn't most women. Now is she?
"Thank you for not asking about it." I mean it. She knows it. She nods and her lips curl, slightly.
"I don't need to know your story, Edward. It's not my business." And she wants the same. I nod and her lips curl a little more. "Unless you want to tell me. I could be a like a shrink at this point in my life. If you only knew the amount of lonely, desperate, pathetic, pathetic people I have…"
I keep nodding and stand up. Funny girl. "It's time to go inside, Bella."
A light laugh leaves her and it sounds nice. The air is thinner between us and that seems nice, too. We finish setting up and I ask Bella to change. Her clothes are a mess and I don't want her to feel uncomfortable in front my guests, who will without a doubt, make her feel uncomfortable.
She returns and looks refreshed. I smile and she helps Kate and the girls set up the cocktail area. The day has drifted away and I make sure all the lights are on outside. Next week I'll have to start digging out Christmas ones for Emmett; he loves to put them up. I'll have to tell Bella he'll be here.
I change my own clothes, again, and am quite pleased by Bella's ironing and neatness when she put my things away. Everything is in order and my ties are no longer a tangled a mess. I put on my suit jacket and speed my way down the steps when the first guest arrives. Bella is half way to the door and stops when she sees me.
"I'll get it." I glance through the window to make sure I am right. "Who is it?"
"Edward's already here."
There's a laugh on the other side. I smile wider.
I crack the door and eye her. "I don't know. I don't think there's a Bree Silly on the guest list." I look to Bella and open the door wider. "Did you see a Bree Silly on the list?"
She shakes her head no and I look back to Bree. "Sorry." I go to shut the door, but she pushes against it and I laugh. I squat down and she huffs, putting her hands on her hips.
"That was rude!"
I laugh and hold out my hands for her. Her anger falters and she comes to me. I hug her and lift her up. She smells just like Tanya. She pulls her face away from my shoulder and her smile is good enough to melt someone's heart. I kiss her nose and look back to the door.
"Carmen," I nod. "Eleazar. It's good to see you. Thank you for coming." They step in and I give my hugs, as best I can with full arms.
"Are we eating fish?" Bree asks. Her face looks disgusted.
I laugh. "I think we have some Bree approved dishes, tonight. Don't worry."
She smiles and I smile and when I look up, Bella is staring. I avoid her gaze and walk to the dining room. She goes back into the kitchen and more of our guests arrive. I ask her and the girls to tend to them and I pay attention to the only guest I really care to talk to this evening. I pull an envelope from my pocket while she is testing out the assortment of finger foods she has piled up on a plate. I wave it at her and she smiles.
"Told you I had something."
She hugs me before she takes it and then again afterward. The rest of the night could just disappear and I wouldn't notice. Or care.