Thursday, May 16, 2013 | By: Jenny

Hard to Love Chapter 5

Chapter 5
Present Day
The ache in my heart ripped wide open when I stepped through my front door. Our house wasn’t much, but it was ours. We’d bought it when we both decided coming home to Forks after college was for the best. It was close to the school and close to Bella and Emmett’s bakery, Sweet Treats.
Everything was exactly the same as when we’d left for work Friday morning, including Bella’s laptop open on the dining room table where she’d been working on payroll and managing the bills for the shop. The blanket we’d snuggled under to watch TV was still crumpled up on the end of the couch, the remote control tossed on top. In the bedroom, the covers were a twisted mess because we’d been unable to stop ourselves when the alarm had gone off that morning, but that wasn’t unusual. Once we’d opened that part of our relationship up, we became insatiable, and it had never slowed down.
Now?!” Felix hollered from the bed.
Hey, big guy. You hangin’ in there?” I sighed, sitting down next to him, and he immediately waddled over.
The sight of the fluffy, chunky cat that Bella spoiled rotten made me smile. He was a white and dark-striped tabby and way too overweight for his own good, but the notch missing from the very tip of his left ear was the reason she spoiled him so badly. He’d been a stray, wandering up almost the day we closed on the house. He’d been here ever since.
Mummph,” he grumbled, head-butting my chin. “Now?”
Okay, okay...now. But you get cat food,” I told him as we walked into the kitchen. Well, he sort of waddled/rumbled. “Any other treats will have to wait, buddy.”
Mmm?” he asked, looking absolutely innocent as to what I was talking about. It was bullshit. He knew how to play Bella to get what he wanted.
I snorted, dropped a cup of food in his bowl, and went about to finish what I came to do. I wasn’t staying. I couldn’t bear the thought of sleeping alone in our bed. I’d never done it before and I didn’t plan to do it any time soon. I’d sleep when I brought Bella back. Gathering up a few things, I tossed them into a small duffel bag. I flipped through the mail that Mom had brought in, but nothing was important that it couldn’t wait a day or two. Finally, I stripped down to take a quick shower.
Once I was dressed and my bag was in the car, I gazed around the house. A part of me thought that I should straighten the place up, but I couldn’t. This was just...us. We weren’t neat freaks, we weren’t slobs, but we were comfortable. But the thought of changing something while she wasn’t here just about made my chest shatter with the pain of it. I needed her home – right there – where she belonged.
I made it back to the ICU in just under an hour and a half. I wouldn’t have left at all, but my dad’s news that she was healing had given me a touch of hope. Now, it was the waiting game.
Tanya was behind the nurse’s desk when I walked by. Rose had gone home about the same time I’d left earlier. I shot a wave her way, and she smiled with a pen between her teeth.
Pulling back the curtain, I saw Bella had a visitor.
Edward,” Angela said softly, getting up from my chair and walking to me. She hugged me close and then stepped back to look up at me. “I’m sorry I’m so late.”
Don’t sweat it, Ang,” I told her, bending down to drop a kiss to Bella’s cheek. “I’m back, Princess,” I whispered. “Felix says hi.” I stood back up to see Angela’s watery gaze on me. “The prognosis is good,” I told her, making sure she was looking at me. “Dad’s pretty positive. He’s keeping her under until some more of the swelling goes down.”
That’s good.” She nodded, pushing her glasses up her nose a bit, but she looked back at me. “Mrs. Cope told me to tell you to take all the time you need. She called me earlier.”
Angela and I both worked at Forks High. I’d known her just as long as I’d known Bella, but we weren’t as close. While I worked in the office, she was the algebra teacher for ninth and tenth grade.
Tell her thank you and that I’ll call her as soon as I know where I stand. I can’t...” I frowned, shoving my hands into the front pockets of my jeans.
No one’s asking you to, Edward,” Angela whispered, rubbing my upper arm. “I can’t imagine...” Her voice trailed off. “For you two, this must be like losing a limb.”
Grinning, I shrugged. It was true, but most people in this town had watched Bella and me grow up together, watched us go from the closest best friends to something more, something so much better. Some had tried to come between us, even I had messed up once or twice, but our bond was impenetrable. However, the woman in front of me had always been good to us, especially to Bella.
I’ve got to get going. Ben will want an update,” she said with a smile. “Give her my love, but I’ll be back soon.”
I will,” I told her, taking my usual chair and preparing for another long night. Once Angela had shut the curtain, I picked up Bella’s hand, pressing kisses to the center of her palm. “She’s always been a good friend to you,” I said softly, frowning a little. “Even when I wasn’t...”
~oOo~
Age 15
High school was pure hell. I hated every second of it. My name had changed to Cullen, which caused more rumors to spread, not that anyone except Bella knew much of anything. She knew. Not that she was talking much to me these days.
For the last two years, I’d been just...pissed. Angry at the world. My mother just...gave up. And while Carlisle and Esme were amazing and caring, I still felt abandoned by my own flesh and blood. Bella had tried to keep me calm, keep me grounded, but I’d pushed her away. I pushed everyone away. I pushed so hard that Carlisle made me see a therapist once a week, which made shit worse because I had to relive life with my mother over and over. My sleep was for shit and my grades were barely hanging in there.
Shoving earbuds into my ears, I made the walk home from school. Alone. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Bella walking with Angela. For a second, our eyes met, but it hurt to look at her. She’d changed so much physically in the last year that it was impossible not to notice. She’d filled out in all the right places and shot up a couple of inches, and she had more guys wanting her than I’d ever tell her. So many times, I’d been asked if I’d “hit that,” but I ignored them. Every time some guy would ask, they’d try to flirt with her, and I watched them fail time and time again. Newton’s balls had been introduced to her knee more than once.
With one more glance her way, I turned down my driveway. I couldn’t lie. I missed her. I missed having someone to talk to, but apparently, I’d turned “confrontational,” according to the therapist. He was an asshole. He was an asshole...because he was right. Bella got tired of me snapping at her for no reason other than I was feeling like shit. I’d hurt her feelings more than once, and finally, I’d figured it was best to just keep to myself.
Carlisle and Esme were both home when I walked into the door, but the looks on their faces stopped me from just running upstairs to hole up in my room.
Tugging out my earbuds, I stared at them. “What?”
Sweet boy, we need to talk to you,” Esme said, reaching for my hand, and I wanted to argue with her that I wasn’t as sweet as she thought I was.
I let her lead me to the couch, where she sat beside me, but Carlisle dragged a chair over in front of me. He rested his elbows on his knees, gazing down at the floor for a moment.
When he met my eyes, he swallowed nervously. “Son, I’m afraid I have some bad news,” he started softly, and Esme picked up my hand. “I’m afraid there’s been an accident...with your mother.”
My brow furrowed. “I thought you didn’t know where she was.”
We didn’t, sweetie, but we got a call today,” Esme answered gently. “She passed away.”
What?” I asked, confused as all hell. “No... How?”
According to the medical examiner, liver failure,” Carlisle explained, but sat back when I snorted.
So...she drank herself to death,” I sneered, and even to me, my voice was filled with venom and bitterness. “Fitting.” Neither of them said anything for a moment, so I stood up. “Well, thanks for letting me know,” I muttered, but before I could take another step, Carlisle called me back.
Edward, the services are being held here...in Forks, the day after tomorrow. Saturday. She’ll be buried next to your grandmother,” he said tentatively.
I stared at both of them, seeing that I was most likely going to be forced into a monkey suit and dragged to the cemetery to attend my mother’s funeral. I went numb, completely and utterly numb.
Fine,” I sighed, leaving them standing there.
I stayed numb all that night and through school the next day. As I walked across the parking lot to head home that Friday, I heard my name.
Edward, wait! Please!” Bella called, running to catch up to me. She was panting by the time I turned to face her. “Are you all right? I heard about—”
Don’t,” I said firmly. “She did that shit to herself, Bella.”
I don’t care about that. I’m worried about you.”
Don’t be. She got what she wanted, right?” I asked, my nostrils flaring.
Maybe she never knew what she wanted,” Bella countered, frowning up at me. “You know, I’m still here for you. I still consider you my friend. You can be a jerk if you want, but I know you.” She poked my chest. “I know you’re hurting. I’ll see you at the funeral tomorrow.”
With that, she spun away from me and joined Angela on their usual walk home.
My sleep was fitful, to say the least. Dreams of fights and bruises and a dirty apartment crowded my dreams. I woke up the day of the funeral covered in sweat and feeling nauseous.
Every step I made that day was as if I was watching someone else. I barely noticed that Bella and Emmett were there with Renee and Charlie, I couldn’t hear the services over the ringing in my ears, and I kept tugging on my tie because I felt I couldn’t breathe. But it was when I saw him that everything came into sharp focus. Roger.
As they lowered my mother’s casket into the ground, my eyes locked on him, zeroed in on the man that made my childhood a fucking nightmare. I didn’t shake the hand of Mr. Weber, Angela’s dad and the minister of the local church. Instead, I stood straight up and walked across the cemetery to confront the monster that had tormented me.
He wasn’t as big as I remembered him being, never mind that I was pushing six feet tall already. I was gangly, as Esme put it, but my shoulders had broadened and my muscle tone was starting to fill out. So when I stepped toward him, his eyes widened.
My hands shoved his chest. Hard. “Why don’t you hit me now, asshole?” I sneered at him, meeting him at eye level. “C’mon!” I snarled, balling my fists up. “You finally got what you wanted, didn’t you? You got rid of me and she’s dead. Did you bleed her dry of every penny? Or did the two of you party yourselves fucking stupid until it was all gone?”
Look, kid,” Roger started, but his eyes drifted behind me. He looked old and worn out, his hair graying at the temples and thin on top. The muscle that had at one time scared me, now was just flabby and fat.
Emmett came to stand on one side of me, and Bella on the other. The former was now seventeen and enormous. He’d played football most of his life at various schools around the country, but he’d just recently moved in with his grandmother to finish out high school at Forks High. He was tired of moving with his military father, especially when Germany was the next stop.
I’m sorry about your mom, okay?” Roger said weakly. “We were real messed up for a long time.”
Were?” Bella scoffed, rolling her eyes and folding her arms across her chest. “You still look pretty messed up to me.”
Bella,” Charlie chided from somewhere behind us in a half-assed tone.
He don’t look so tough now,” Emmett stated, cracking all his knuckles.
He’s not,” I sneered. “He’s a coward. He only gets off on beatin’ up little kids, right, Roger?”
I tried to toughen you up, you little shit! I tried to make you a man!” he snapped, but a hand landed on my shoulder before I could step to him.
Looking up, I saw Charlie. “Hiya, Chief.”
This man botherin’ you, buddy?” he asked, his mustache twitching into a wry smirk. I didn’t need to answer, so Charlie faced Roger. “I think it would be in your best interest to make your stay here in Forks as short as possible.” He sniffed, gripping my shoulder a little when I shifted on my feet. “In fact, I’d hate to have to run into you say...tomorrow. I might just be inclined to search your vehicle. Besides, I can’t promise your safety should you wander down the wrong dark alley.”
Kids these days...you can’t control ’em,” Carlisle added sarcastically, coming to stand on the other side of Bella.
Everyone that had been aware of my situation was standing by my side, and they were the only ones that had attended the funeral. I felt Bella’s hand slip into mine, and my world came into calm, easy focus.
If I ever see you again, I’ll kill you,” I stated calmly, not giving a shit that Charlie was standing right behind me with his hand still on my shoulder. “Go back under whatever rock you crawled from. You two deserved each other.”
With that said, I let go of Bella’s hand and walked away, pulling my tie off as I left the cemetery. I was suddenly completely and totally exhausted. I barely remembered the short and silent drive home in the back seat of Carlisle’s car. In fact, I didn’t remember walking upstairs to my room or collapsing onto my bed.
I woke up shortly before midnight, the house totally quiet. Rubbing my face, I raked my hands through my hair. My room felt like it was closing in on me, so I changed out of my now sleep-rumpled dress clothes and into jeans and a hoodie. Tiptoeing down the stairs, I walked out the front door and into a misty, rainy night.
I didn’t know where I was going, but I needed air, I needed to think. But somehow, I ended up where I always ended up: Bella’s house. It was almost one o’clock in the morning when I stood at the bottom of the tree that led up to her room. Charlie would kill me for what I was about to do, but I wasn’t exactly thinking clearly.
Scaling the tree, I tapped on her window, sliding my fingers under where it was cracked open and lifted it. It squealed softly on the way up.
Jesus, Edward!” Bella gasped, scrambling out of her bed to help me through. “You’re so stupid,” she snapped, slamming the window back. “If you’d called me, I would’ve let you in the front door. No one’s home. Dad’s working overnight and Mom left after the funeral to go to Portland to see my aunt.”
Sorry.” I sighed, falling down into the beanbag chair in the corner, my hands gripping my hair as I stared at her floor.
You could’ve fallen and broken your neck,” she chided, sitting on the edge of the bed. “Why are you here?”
I gazed up at her, seeing how hurt she was, but for the first time, I really, truly looked at her. She was gorgeous. When had that happened? She was sitting there in pink pajamas, her dark hair falling down around her shoulders. Her eyes were dark and warm, her cheeks flushed, and she was biting down on her bottom lip.
I don’t know,” I whined, finally answering her question and holding my head in my hands again. “I just started walking.” She didn’t say anything, but I needed to know one thing. “Why did my mom hate me, Bella?” I asked, finally looking up at her and feeling everything inside me crack wide open.
Oh, Edward,” she sighed, rushing to me and falling on her knees between my legs. She wrapped her arms around me, and my tears started and didn’t stop. “I don’t think she hated you. I think she was sick for a very long time,” she said softly in my ear as I cried on her shoulder.
I shook my head and pushed back. “No, she... She told me. She said that I was hard to love because I looked like my dad. She told me she could barely look at me. Why?! What’s wrong with me?”
Bella frowned, grabbing both sides of my face. “There’s nothing wrong with you! And you’re so easy to love, Edward. Look at how many stood by your side today. We all love you,” she stated, tears coursing down her face.
Swallowing thickly and sniffling, I shook my head. “She was always so selfish!” I ranted, pulling her closer. “She... She let that asshole beat her daily, fill her so full of drugs that when he beat me, she didn’t care. She...left me, Bella! She chose him over me. Did you know... Did you know that Carlisle paid her to sign her rights over? She sold me like she was pawning jewelery!”
No...” Bella sighed, wiping my tears away with her thumbs. “I see it as Carlisle insuring your safety. He paid her to keep you close and safe and happy. With her, you would’ve only known heartache. Here...you’re okay...you’re surrounded by people that care.” She brushed my hair from my forehead. “Edward, she didn’t leave you. She followed the drugs. She was an addict. That wasn’t your fault. Nothing that happened to you was your fault.”
I wasn’t sure how long I cried, but somehow, we both ended up lying together in that beanbag. Bella’s pajama top was soaked at the shoulder when I finally took a deep breath. Finally, we sat up face to face.
I’m sorry,” I murmured, poking at the wet spot on her shirt.
Don’t sweat it,” she whispered, shrugging that same shoulder.
No...I’m really sorry. I’ve been such a jerk, Princess,” I whispered, finally meeting her gaze. “I should’ve...”
I said...don’t sweat it,” she said with a chuckle. “I knew you were going through some tough things.”
I simply stared at her, and for the first time ever, I wanted to kiss her. Really, truly kiss her. My eyes landed on her lips and I shifted nervously. But we both jumped when her cell phone rang.
Falling on my back, I yawned widely and closed my eyes. I’d barely heard Bella say, “Yeah...he’s here,” before I drifted off to sleep.
~oOo~
Present Day
I was ruined.” I chuckled, looking over at her impassive sleeping face. “I knew right then that you were the only girl I wanted.” I sat forward, laying my head on her thigh. “Charlie was funny the next morning. I thought he’d kill me for sleeping in your room, but he simply said, ‘Kid, next time, sleep in the guest room, okay?’”
I sighed, toying with her blanket. “You never told anyone about that night. Not even my parents. You just said I showed up and crashed. That was it. I don’t know if I ever thanked you, Princess. I should have. I didn’t deserve such quick forgiveness for being a jerk to you, but you gave it anyway.”
A tear escaped her eye, and I sat up, wiping it away gently. “Did you know I wanted to kiss you? I did. So damn badly. I hid it, though. I’d been such a pain in the ass that I was just happy to have you back as a friend. After my mom died, things got a little easier. I felt...I don’t know...free.” I shrugged a shoulder, glancing up when Tanya appeared at the curtain.
She didn’t say much as she puttered around the room. She noted Bella’s chart, changed an IV, and adjusted the bed so that Bella was sitting up a little more. Then she smiled, handing me a new, clean blanket before leaving the room again.
I laid my head back on Bella’s thigh, thinking we sometimes watched TV on the couch this way, with my head in her lap. Though, I was missing the feel of her fingers playing with my hair.
Come back to me, baby,” I sighed softly, rubbing a thumb across her bottom lip as best I could around the tubes. “I still want to kiss you.”

1 comments:

Sophi715 said...

Another beautiful chapter! Young Edward breaks my heart...it took his mother's death for him to let go of some pretty serious self destructive feelings. The way you've blended memories of their past with the present, is allowing us to really get to know the characters on a deeper level. I've really enjoyed reading HTL and I hope you realize just how wonderful and well written this story is. Thanks for sharing!

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