Thursday, June 27, 2013 | By: Drotuno

Pieces of You Chapter 4 & Pics

Chapter 4 – Driven
Chicago, IL – August
“Come on, Bella,” I sighed, scrolling through search after search. “Where the hell are you, baby?”
I knew she’d hate that I was looking for her, but I rationalized it as making sure she was safe. The problem was that she’d fallen off the face of the Earth. I took what I knew about her, her mother, her past, and did my best to narrow down the searches, but nothing was coming up. It helped that I had Emmett’s permission to use his programs that the law offices used. Still...fucking nothing.
I closed my laptop and gazed around the house. Shaking my head, I snorted softly to myself. I’d moved into Bella’s old place almost two weeks prior. It had taken some serious charming on my part to get Charlotte to rent it to me. Once I explained that I was in the middle of a divorce, that the house meant something to me, that she didn’t even have to clean it out, and that I’d pay her six months rent up front, she slapped the lease down and handed me the keys. Though, she still wouldn’t tell me where Bella had gone, only that my girl had mentioned her mother. I understood it. Bella had a way of instilling loyalty in people, and she had no idea.

Everything about the house felt like home. More like home than the house I’d shared with Jane. When I’d finally stepped into the place for the first time alone, I thought my heart would break at the sight of it. Bella had left everything behind, only opting to take her personal items and clothes. Every stick of furniture, every appliance in the kitchen, and food in the cabinets – it was all still there. Even the covers on the bed had been left behind, though that I understood. Of all the rooms in the house, the bedroom had been the hardest to step into. All our love, all our fights, and all my broken promises had happened in that room. I was pretty sure I slept in there to torture myself.
The thought of our fighting made my eyes fall to my fist print that still showed on the wooden front door. Charlotte had told me she’d have it fixed, but I’d told her to leave it. I needed to see it. I needed to look at it to remind myself that despite my love for Bella, I’d treated her poorly, made her feel like a whore.
Rubbing my face, I got up from the sofa to get ready. Today was supposed to be a good day, but it felt empty. Without Bella there to see what I was trying to do, every step I accomplished seemed to be for nothing, but I kept going. Now it wasn’t even about freeing myself from Jane for Bella, but for myself. It was time to rectify something that should’ve never been.
A few hours later, dressed in a suit and tie, I found myself at the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the art center. The media was there, along with several hundred of Garrett’s biggest fans, not to mention family and friends. Jane was absent, thankfully.
“Love you, Garrett!” some girl screamed from the back of the crowd.
Chuckling, I looked to Garrett. “Does that drive you crazy?”
“Sometimes,” he said with a cheesy grin, shrugging one shoulder. “But they’re loyal as hell. I’ve seen one or two kick the paps’ asses for me.”
I snorted, shaking my head. “Whatever. I guess it’s working for this, anyway.”
I never saw Garrett as the superstar he’d come to be. A few decent roles, a play in New York, and he’d become pretty popular. He said it paid the bills, but he’d always been a fairly good-looking guy that loved drama class in school. Our senior year, he’d played Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He’d left us all with shocked looks on our faces.
“That it is. Isn’t that what you wanted?” he asked, his brow furrowing over at me when I merely nodded in answer. “Then work it, man. And be proud. You were swimming upstream to get here.”
“That’s the truth,” I sighed, but focused on the questions the media was aiming at James.
The art center was my proudest accomplishment. And I was surprised we were finally there, despite the fact that it was two weeks later than I’d intended. But the reason we were late was both good and bad. Permits ran late – and I suspected that it was Governor Marcus Sterling’s doing – but James had used the extra time to get in touch with everyone he knew at NIU. Every contact, every head of every art department, and even the special education departments. He’d turned our art center into just...more. We’d now offer tutoring and classes in dance, drama, art, and music. It was all under one roof. And he’d brought in several employees and volunteers. It was brilliant.
But it all felt so empty without Bella at least knowing. By now, I was convinced that she wasn’t reading my emails, the only form of communication I had left. They weren’t returning to me, but there wasn’t any answer back from her, either.
As Garrett cut the ribbon and flashes went off in a blur, a small, warm hand slipped into mine. I smiled down at Sarah.
“You still look sad, Mr. Edward,” she noted, tilting her head at me. “You wanna talk about it? James says when I’m sad, I should talk about it.”
I smiled at her in spite of it all. She had a beautiful spirit and a smile that could make a bad day better. James described individuals with Down Syndrome as angels without wings. They never knew hate or ugly. To them, everything came out as completely honest and right there on the surface of things. He also said that more people should be that way. And he was so right.
“I’m just...missing someone, Sarah,” I finally told her softly.
“Missing... Are they in heaven like our mom and dad?” she asked.
“No.” I shook my head, but kissed the back of her hand. “They just...moved away. I hope to see them soon.”
“I hope so, too,” she said with a firm nod of her head, which made me chuckle.
“Come on, pretty girl,” I told her as a large group of us made our way inside. “Keep me company until your brother is finished schmoozing.” I grinned when she giggled, but she kept her hand in mine.
We stepped into the main atrium, and a hand landed on my shoulder.
“You seriously got a court order to prove paternity?” my father asked, and I spun to face him, giving Sarah a pointed look.
“You’re seriously asking me that today?” I countered, trying to keep the venom out of my voice, if only for Sarah’s sake.
“I...well...” At least he had the wherewithal to look guilty. “Hey, Miss Sarah.”
“Hi, Mr. Edward’s dad,” she chirped, grinning at him.
Even he couldn’t maintain his gruff demeanor, and he snickered and shook his head.
Bending down, I caught her attention. “Sweetheart, there’s snacks if you’re hungry. Go ahead. But come get me if you can’t find James. Okay?”
She nodded, kissed my cheek, and made her way through the crowd. When I stood up straight, I locked my angry gaze on my father.
“Not here. Not today. Understand?” I stated firmly. “This,” I growled through gritted teeth, gesturing around me. “This is a good thing. The best thing I’ve ever done. Don’t start with that shit today.”
When I started to turn away from him, his hand landed on my shoulder. “Son, wait,” he said softly, and I met his gaze again. “I didn’t mean... You misunderstand. I’m asking because if you’re having that test done, then...the baby isn’t yours?”
“No. The baby isn’t mine. Though, neither of us are innocent. The problem extends from Marcus. He’s trying to take Sterling away from me. He’s biding by every contract signed. I built that gallery, made it what it is, but since he backed me in the beginning, he’s using everything he can to keep it, even if it means handing it over to his daughter.” Again, I pointed around me. “If I hadn’t done this...I’d have lost my kids, too. This, at least, will continue.”
Carlisle Cullen was not stupid, and he was a damn good lawyer and usually pretty loyal to his friends, but I saw the dark look in his eye at what I’d just said.
“You cheated, too?”
“I did.”
He sniffed, looked around, and shoved his hands into his front pockets. “Can it be proved?”
“I don’t know. She’ longer around.” I shrugged, matching his stance, but his eyes locked onto mine at most likely the tone of my voice. “Emmett’s doing his best to find loopholes in both the Sterling contracts and the pre-nup. Jane’s already been served the divorce papers, but her father has hired a lawyer – your competition, I might add – to fight for everything. I’ll lose it all, if they get their way.”
“Why’d you go to Emmett?”
“I went to you first. You told me to work it out,” I countered, looking at him like he was crazy.
He grimaced, but nodded. “I’ll get with Emmett on Monday morning, see what he’s found out. You shouldn’t lose what you’ve worked so hard to accomplish. Have they done the test yet on Jane?”
“No, next week.”
He took a deep breath and let it out. “I’ll see if I can’t get those results back sooner than usual. It’s possible this’ll see the inside of a courtroom.”
“I know.”
He gazed around the art center, but finally looked back to me. “Were you ever happy with her? Or did you do it all because we pushed you?”
“Yes and both,” I answered him as honestly as I could. “I thought it would work. It didn’t. I thought I was happy, until I really felt happiness for the first time. And I felt...obligated after Sterling started showing promise.”
He studied me. “Fair enough. I’ll see if I can’t help you.” He held up a finger. “But be prepared for a war. And don’t worry about your mother. I’ll explain it.”
I chuckled. “I wasn’t worried about Mom.”
He smiled, gripping my shoulder. “No, I suppose not. She always gave into you more than Emmett.” Laughing, he added, “I mean, she wants grandchildren, but now she’ll just put all the pressure on poor Rose.”
“I’ll be sure to warn her,” I chortled, looking down when Sarah joined us again, munching on a carrot stick. “You’re eatin’ bunny food, Sarah.”
She giggled, but popped the last bit of it in her mouth. “I like bunny food. Bunny food is good for you. I can’t find James, Mr. Edward.”
“Okay, we’ll hunt him down,” I conceded, looking back to my dad. “Thanks for coming.”
“Congratulations, son. This is...amazing,” he told me. “I’ll call you Monday.”
Chicago, IL – September
To: Bella Swan
From: Edward Cullen
Subject: Happy birthday
Hey Sunshine,
I don’t even know if you’re reading these emails. A part of me hopes so, but I can’t fault you for not opening them. I suppose I could request confirmation of receipt, but Maybe I don’t want to know. There’s another part of me that simply needs to talk to you, and this is the only way I can, so I’ll take it, whether you’re getting them or not. I tried to stop, but I really can’t.
You wouldn’t believe what my life has become, Bella. It’s chaos and insanity. It’s a battle for money and power and shit I don’t even know if I want, but it’s all been yanked out of my control. Lawyers are warring against each other in Jane’s and my names. Fuck, we don’t even have to be there. They do it all on their own. They’re fighting over the gallery and my house and cars and bank accounts. It’s fucking ridiculous.
This is the shit I never wanted you to see, the things I tried to protect you from – the shit slinging, the name calling, the accusations. And I’ve come to terms with the fact that you’re not here, simply because I’d absolutely hate to see you dragged into the middle of it. This isn’t your fight. It’s mine. And it’s ugly. I hate what my life has become, but I can’t blame anyone but myself. My dad and my brother are pulling out all the stops to help me. Emmett has my back. My dad, though, simply seems to want to bury Jane, Jane’s lawyers, and Jane’s father. It’s some sort of...test for himself or some shit. I don’t know.
At least they can’t take away the art center. That stands alone in my name...and Garrett’s. I don’t know what I would’ve done if he hadn’t come through as backer for that thing. But he did. And it’s amazing to go there in the afternoons. I still teach one art class. Sarah begged me, and I can’t seem to tell her no to anything.
I’ve given up keeping anything from you. Not here. Not in these emails.
I moved out of my brother’s house...and into yours. I can’t decide if you’d be pissed about that, but I needed a place to live, and you were gone, so I took it. It is and always will be home, the place I could be ME, Sunshine. I told you that once, and I meant it. Though Charlotte still likes you better, so don’t worry...she hasn’t spilled your whereabouts. Which is probably a good thing, because there’s a part of me that would run away to you just to fall at your feet.
The problem with that, though, is proof. I’m not the father of Jane’s baby, Sunshine. We got verbal confirmation just last week, but unless it’s in black and white, it wouldn’t do any good to tell you. I know everything I ever said, promised, and vowed to you seemed like lies. They weren’t, but I’m well aware that if I ever have the honor of seeing you again, I’ll be bringing hard evidence with me, I swear to fucking God.
And sweet Jesus, I miss you so fucking much. I told you I couldn’t breathe without you, and I was right. Some days, it’s hard to get out of the damn bed, but I do. I keep pushing, and I keep thinking that everything I do is one step closer to being someone you’d be proud to know again. I want to be the man you needed, to show the world that you’re everything to me, and I won’t stop until I’m finished with it all, Bella. After that? I hope I find you, if only to hand you everything...just to show you that I never, ever meant to hurt you. I never meant for everything to come out as lies, and I want to simply say I’m sorry, that I love you. I’ll never love anyone as much as I love you.
I always was and always will be yours.
Chicago, IL – October
“You haven’t given up yet?” Rose asked, setting a cup of coffee down next to me at her kitchen table.
I logged my computer on, shaking my head no. “No. I won’t, either.”
She kissed the side of my head before joining me. “Good.”
Chuckling, I asked, “Why do you care?” When she gasped dramatically, I went on. “Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the support, but you’ve been...a cheerleader since you met Bella only the one time.”
She frowned, took a sip of coffee, and wrapped both hands around the mug. “You know why, Edward.”
“You hate Jane that much?” I laughed when she rolled her eyes my way.
“I do, but only for how shallow she was. I always felt she was trapping you. It didn’t seem fair,” she explained, shrugging a shoulder. “She tried too hard to fit in with all of you at school, but it was never enough. She wanted more money, more things, more...status. She used you to get it. So not cool.”
I smiled over at her after typing Bella’s name into the search engine and hitting enter. “She had all of that.”
“Not as much as the rest of you. You were all born with silver spoons in your mouths, but you never flaunted it. You were all so...real, down to earth. She just...wasn’t.” She took a deep breath and met my gaze. “And you never gave me shit for Emmett, for not being ‘up there’ with the rest of you. I always respected that about you.”
I shrugged. “You made my brother happy. Ridiculously so. Even when we were in high school.”
Laughing, she nodded. “And I saw that in Bella for you, Edward. It’s as simple as that.” Her eyes glanced over at the computer screen and went wide. “Holy fucking shit. You found her!”
My head spun so fast that my neck flamed up in protest, but my eyes locked onto Bella’s name. With a shaky hand, I clicked on the link for the Cedar Key Beacon newspaper.
“She went to her mom’s in Florida,” I whispered sadly, swallowing the lump in my throat.
I figured you’d have looked into places like where her parents lived.”
I did. The phone’s still in her mom’s name. There was no indication she was there. I was afraid of tipping off Jane if I hired a PI. If she’s at her mother’s house, she hasn’t switched the phone to her name.”
She wanted to stay hidden,” Rose surmised sadly, leaning against me.
Yeah.” Something about that really just...hurt, but I tried to stay focused.
But she’s working. Look,” Rose added, pointing to the pictures on the screen. “Where the hell is Cedar Key?”
Um, central Florida, west coast. Gulf of Mexico. Her mother and stepfather have a place there,” I told her, giving her a glance. “She’s working for a newspaper down there. The dates on these are only a week old!” The words came out sounding slightly awed, but I was...floored, actually.
The tiny newspaper only printed once a week, but her work was still fucking amazing. It looked like she’d covered some sort of fair or festival. I had to smile at the life she’d caught on camera. Contests, parades, exhibits, cookouts, even people on the beach – it was all there, and they all seemed blissful. There was a guy in a woman’s apron, giving the camera a warning glare, but the guy was smiling. And the food on the table in front of him looked like it was no easy feat to deal with.
“Fitting,” Rose murmured softly, meeting my gaze when I turned to look at her. “You call her Sunshine...and she moved to the Sunshine State.”
I laughed, but looked back at the computer screen. “Her eye for shots is amazing,” I stated softly in praise. “These could be so boring. You know...just some sort of country fair, but...they’re not. She could be hanging in any gallery anywhere...”
Rose snickered, bumping my shoulder. “Maybe that’s not what she wants. What else did you find?”
I clicked back to the links that Bella’s name had brought up, and my eyebrows shot up into my hairline.
“Is” Rose snorted, pointing to the screen, her head falling back with a laugh when I nodded. “Well, holy shit...”
“She sold that picture to an online poster site,” I said, grinning at the picture of myself in HD, though my face wasn’t showing, just my back. “Oh damn.”
I remembered her taking that picture of me. We’d just started seeing each other. Hell, I hadn’t even seen her place yet, but she’d had her camera with her. We’d been at a hotel on the other side of town, and I’d gotten up to look out at the view, when I’d suddenly heard the camera’s shutter click off several shots in rapid succession. It had made me laugh, until she’d shown me the photograph once she’d developed it. She saw me so differently than I saw myself. Beautiful, she’d said. Masculine, but beautiful. She’d also said I looked like I carried the weight of the world on my shoulders.
“I miss her,” I barely said aloud, shaking my head at the feelings one picture could bring about.
“I know. Time, Edward,” Rose said, but closed my laptop. “Keep that shit to yourself, hmm?”
I nodded, standing up. “Yeah. It’s not like I can just show up. She’d never believe a thing I said anyway. I don’t have proof of any of it yet. And this whole mess is taking forever.”
“You’re all over the local news. Surely she’s seen it.”
I shook my head. “No, knowing my Bella, she’s closed the door. She’s probably trying to forget it ever existed. Fuck, I don’t even know if she’s reading my emails, Rose. So...” I shrugged, not knowing how to finish that thought.
She nodded. “She will. Just...give it time. Finish what you started. You can fly down there and set it in front her when it’s all over.”
I smiled, but it felt more like a grimace. “I hope.”
About a week later, I found myself in the conference room of Cullen and Denali. I still hadn’t told anyone that I’d found Bella. It didn’t quite seem a priority to my dad and brother. They were too busy fighting with Jane’s lawyers and father. They were way more interested in the gallery. Sad thing was that I wasn’t even sure I wanted it anymore, but they’d stopped asking me questions and simply filed motion after motion.
The room looked like a war room. Jane and her people on one side. My entire family, it seemed, on the other. My father and Marcus were practically nose to nose in a heated argument.
“If it weren’t for Edward, Sterling would not be where it is today. You think Jane could sell her art anywhere else? No,” my dad sneered. “And if you hand it to her, where will that leave the gallery when she has that baby?”
“We’re going after the father for child support. He can definitely afford it,” Marcus countered, picking up a file and holding it up in my dad’s face. “We’ve proven Jacob Black is the father.”
I snorted out loud. “At least there’s that.”
“Fuck you, Edward,” Jane sneered, and I merely grinned and shrugged.
“No...he’s holding the proof that I didn’t fuck you.”
I was in a piss-poor mood, and all the yelling and foul shit being slung around me was not helping. Neither was being in the same damn room as Jane. I wanted this shit over.
Emmett snickered, but then told me to shut up.
Shrugging, I sighed, sitting back in the chair. I knew for a fact that Jane didn’t want children. I also knew that her daddy’s Pro-life stance would take a beating if she didn’t follow through. I’d also heard that Jacob Black was going to be suing for custody of the baby, but it was none of my concern. I simply didn’t care about it anymore.
“Gentleman,” Eleazar Denali said, standing up from the conference table. “We all need to stay calm, sit back down, and settle this the right way.”
My father and Marcus both took their seats, looking just a hair away from laying the smackdown on each other right in the middle of the table. I took a deep breath and wondered briefly if this was all worth it – the fighting, the sacrificing of a very long friendship. I wondered if they regretted anything about pushing Jane and me to marry, if the profits they’d made were worth all the shit we were going through right now.
But the blame didn’t solely rest on them. I could’ve told them no at any time, told Jane no, even worked my way up in the gallery business under someone else. There were plenty in the city of Chicago in which I could’ve worked. Having gone to Dartmouth alone would’ve made me an asset.
“I’m afraid we’re going to have to take this pre-nup in front of a judge,” my dad stated, though he was now a bit calmer. “We have no alternative but to prove...who cheated first.”
Without any inflection in my voice, I turned to Emmett. “October. Last year. It lasted eight months.”
“You think I’d take you at your word, Edward?” Marcus asked, sounding condescending and incredulous.
“With all due respect, Marcus, I don’t really care what you do.” I smiled wryly, holding up a picture Emmett had obtained from places unknown of Marcus and his new secret flavor of the month, which made him pale to a chalky white. “You’re a giant billboard for hypocrites everywhere, so please don’t sit there and act like you’re innocent. October of last year. Eight months. Can your daughter be so honest? Because I know for a fucking fact that she and Jacob have been cheating a helluva lot longer.” I turned my gaze to Jane. “Isn’t that right, dear? I’m pretty sure that was the reason I was moved to the guest room the year before, right?”
She scowled, but three lawyers’ hands popped out of nowhere to land on her, every last one of them telling her to keep her mouth shut.
I snorted. “That’s what I thought.”
“That’s enough, son,” my dad chided, but he turned to the lead lawyer on Jane’s side. “Guess we’ll have to take this to court.”
I groaned, simply because this would drag out months and months. I’d forever be tied to this shit.
“Relax, Ed,” Emmett soothed in a whisper. “It may not make it that far. We’ll subpoena Jacob Black to confirm when they started.”
“You’ll have to subpoena that whore of Edward’s, too,” Marcus said, but flinched when I suddenly stood up, my hands landing on the table with a loud smack.
“No!” I snapped, glaring down at him, my lip curling in hatred. “You won’t drag her into this. I won’t allow it!” I yelled, fighting the hands that were pulling be back, but I wouldn’t relent. I faced my father. “Find another fucking way, but you leave Bella out of this. I won’t drag her through this bullshit!”
He stood next to me, speaking softly. “Son, we don’t have a choice. In order to negate the pre-nup, she had to have cheated first. That leaves you everything – the house, the gallery, the profits.”
I was shaking with rage and shaking my head no at the same time. “No. I won’t let you do that to her. I put her through enough. I won’t...I can’t allow it. It’s not fair to her!” I seethed back in a whisper.
My dad blinked, looking a little pained, but I didn’t let him speak.
“I’m done,” I finally said calmly, gesturing toward Jane. “Settle it all, but I’m done. She can have the fucking gallery, the fucking house, and you can take the start-up funds out for Marcus when it’s all said and done. But I won’t put Bella through this.”
I started to walk away, leaving the conference room in chaos, but Jane yelled my name.
“She left you!” she snapped. “Why would you give up?”
Smiling sadly, I shrugged one shoulder. “I love her. And I wouldn’t put her through this...for anything.” I faced her completely. “We should’ve never done this. And I’m sorry for that. Good luck, Jane.”
With that said, I walked out of the conference room and into the elevators, only to have Emmett practically fall into it before the doors slid shut. He didn’t say anything, but stayed by my side all the way out to the lobby and onto the street.
The air was crisp, just chilly enough to have a bite to it when the wind blew. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“Um, Ed?” Emmett said nervously, and I turned to face him. “You may not lose it all, but...the gallery? Really?”
“I don’t want it. Not like that. And it’s not like I could ever work with Jane after this, so it’s time to walk away. Simplify things.” I smiled, feeling lighter already, and he grinned back.
“I’ll do my best to keep you afloat, bro, honest,” he vowed, gripping my shoulder. “Maybe giving up the gallery and the house, she’ll let you off a little easier with everything else.” He eyed me for a second. “You know where she is, don’t you?”
“I do.”
He nodded. “Then I’ll bust my ass to finish so you can get her back.” He glanced up when the paparazzi suddenly came out of nowhere.
“Mr. Cullen, is it true? You just gave up the fight for Sterling Gallery?”
I waved them off, still feeling a little light, yet a touch defeated at the same time. “Yes,” was the only answer I gave them before I turned to Emmett. “I need a beer.”
He cracked up, wrapping an arm around my shoulders and guiding me through the cameras. “Me, too.”


Snoopyvet said...

OMG you amaze with every story I read of yours just amaze me.

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