Monday, July 8, 2013 | By: Drotuno

Pieces of You Chapter 7 & Pics

Chapter 7 – Alone in this Bed
Bella
Cedar Key, FL – November
“Oh my God! He did...” Alice started, wrapping an arm around me when a sob racked my frame.
“E-Everything he e-ever p-promised me,” I hiccuped through my tears. “I fucked up, Alice. I just fucking left him there!”
“Uh-uh,” she chided, pointing to the file Rose had brought that was now spread all over my coffee table and sofa – we hadn’t even touched my laptop yet. “I don’t think so. I think it was good you weren’t there, like Rose told you. Bella, they’d have eaten you alive during all of that mess! You said so yourself that you weren’t a part of that level of society. I can’t imagine what they’d have done. This Marcus guy sounds like the epitome of the crooked politician.”
Nodding that I’d heard her, I sat up, my eyes drifting to the TV screen, where we’d just finished watching the news coverage. Once again, his beautiful face was paused perfectly on the screen. Just hearing Edward’s voice again, over and over, had been so soothing that I couldn’t even explain it with words.

“I wanted to be so mad at him,” I whispered, not taking my eyes off his handsome, yet sad face. “Was I so selfish at wanting him all to myself that I couldn’t see that he was telling me the truth the whole time?”
Alice’s nose wrinkled, but she cupped my face in order to make me look her way. “Sweetie, there were so many lies and deceptions floating around you two, there was no way you’d have believed anything at the end. I would’ve probably run, too. Everything his wife did countered everything he tried to prove to you. She was playing him and destroying everyone involved. You know who I feel awful for?”
“The baby,” we groaned at the same time, both of us wearing matching expressions of sadness.
“For real!” she gushed. “That kid is now wrapped up in all sorts of fucked-up relationships.”
I nodded in agreement, but my eyes betrayed me, and I gazed back at the TV as Alice pushed around all the papers from Rose’s folder. I wanted to talk to him, apologize for not believing him, to hear his voice wrap around the word “Sunshine,” because he always said it with such reverence.
“You know,” Alice murmured softly, picking up the paternity test. “Maybe it was better that this Rose came here before Edward did. I mean... She wasn’t involved with your relationship, so she’s now given you an outsider’s testimony, really. You were so convinced of one thing that anything Edward would’ve said still might have sounded...tainted.”
My head spun to look at her, and she met my gaze. “Yeah, you’re probably right,” I sighed, grimacing a little. “Would I have ever taken his word seriously?”
“You can now. It’s obvious he was trying his damnedest, so let him tell you his side,” she urged, pulling my laptop closer while wearing a sweet smile. “I won’t be nosy, but I’m here for hand holding.”
Smirking her way, I opened my computer. With a shaky hand, I clicked on the folder that I’d ignored for the last several months. There were a hundred and one unopened emails. I started at the oldest one.
I fell into his words so deeply that I forgot Alice was even in the room. Tears coursed down my face as his emotions erupted out of each and every email. Some were long and detailed; others were simply to say that he loved me, that he was thinking about me, and that he hoped I was safe. The first few broke my heart, because he was panicking.
...Christ, Bella, I know what it looks like! None of it’s true! I swear to God. You can’t shut me out like this. I understand you need time and space, but at least let me know you’re safe. Please? Jane knew about us, okay? But that’s not the worst part. She was having her own affair, for much longer than I ever would’ve guessed, and it was with our next door neighbor! Please, please answer me back. You don’t have to tell me where you are, just...tell me you’re okay. Okay?
For a few back-to-back emails, he was pretty detailed about what he was doing, both legally and his living situation.
...We drew up the contract for Garrett and the art center yesterday, Sunshine. My kids will have a place to not only learn to paint and draw, but James is bringing in music teachers, dance instructors, and volunteer tutors. It’s turning out to be much more than I’d ever anticipated. We’re not just playing around with paint anymore. We’re giving these kids tools to help them grow and possibly get out in the world.
That means that Emmett is ready to serve Jane with a request for divorce. Now that my kids will be able to continue on with their classes and she can’t touch them, I can now serve her with papers. I know it’ll get ugly. She’s already started shit. She’s determined to take it all away and prove that I was cheating on her. She’s pregnant...with my neighbor’s kid! That’s the only thing Emmett says we have in our favor. We have to prove the baby’s not mine, so he’s already gotten a court order for her to have some sort of test done. I didn’t know paternity could be proven before the baby was even born. It’s called a CVS test or something.
...we’re contesting the pre-nup.
...Living with my brother certainly takes some getting used to. The man is addicted to video games...
...I shouldn’t lose Sterling, but I probably will...
When nothing but utter defeat could be heard in his words, I would stop reading in order to catch my breath. It was too much, reading them all at once. But one declaration had me pacing, sniffling, and finally snot-sobbing.
“He’s living in my house,” I stated in a whisper, looking to Alice as I blew my nose and wiped my tears away with the umpteenth tissue. She opened her mouth to say something, but I blurted out, “He missed me so much, he moved into my house, Alice! I can’t even imagine doing that! Just about everything that happened between us happened in that house! Fights, sex, laughing...fuck, even the first time he told me he’d fallen in love with me.” I ticked those points off on my fingers, but shook my head incredulously. “All in that house. It’s why I didn’t stay! How’s he not going crazy?!”
“Well,” she hedged, shrugging a shoulder. “Maybe being near you was the only thing that kept him from going crazy.”
I fell back down onto the sofa, only to dive back into his emails. Some things were so personal, my cheeks flamed red that Alice was even in the same room as his sensual words. They were so beautiful, so filled with promise and longing and regret that it was as if we were being watched.
...I miss your touch, Sunshine. But more, I miss touching you. I miss the feel of your arms around me. It hurts to think I may never have that again. I miss the way your face would light up when I’d show up at your door, the way that your breathing would change when I’d tell you I loved you, and the way your eyes would darken every time I’d kiss you. So much I miss, but the feel of you wrapped around me is what I miss most. It wasn’t about the sex. I was never with you just for the sex, Bella. Never. You were the other half of me that I didn’t even know I was missing, and I never felt settled until I was one with you.
...Remember our first time, baby? God, I do. We were nervous and stupid and knew that what we were about to do was so wrong, but we couldn’t stop any of it. It was like a freight train barreling down the tracks. I’d tried so hard to not be tempted, but Jesus, Sunshine, you are the epitome of temptation. You showed up at the gallery with those pictures. And fuck me, they were stunning, but when I offered to buy you a drink to thank you for what an amazing job you’d done, it was all over, because we were stupid enough to go to a bar inside the closest hotel. Boy, we were asking for trouble. The second you said yes, I was done. I kissed the living shit out of you as soon as the hotel room door closed. I couldn’t help it. We were going to hell anyway, so I thought I’d do it thoroughly.
...You’re so beautiful, Bella. And you don’t even know it. I could read everything you were thinking on that sweet, sweet face. I knew when you wanted me to kiss you, when you were happy, when you were up to no good, and when you were so turned on you could barely see straight. I knew that face better than I knew myself. It kills me that the last time I saw that gorgeous face, it had gone from completely sated to utterly defeated in a matter of seconds. It’s the last memory I have, and I fucking hate it...
As I ate up everything he had to say, time surged forward for him. He noted his progress or his set-backs. He’d rant about Jane and her father, the things they were doing. And through all of it, he’d set my mind at ease about not being there.
...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.
...I always thought Garrett had it bad. He has these fans that seem to know everywhere he goes when he’s home in Chicago. They show up and ask for pictures with him and for his autograph. He’s so patient, too. But it’s different when the newspeople want a scoop on something. My family and I can’t even walk to our cars or go to dinner somewhere or buy groceries without a camera in our face lately. I can’t imagine what that would’ve done to you. You’re so sweet and shy sometimes, and you love your peaceful little existence. To suddenly be harassed everywhere you go? No...not a chance. I would’ve gone to jail for punching someone or gotten sued for shattering some asshole’s camera. I miss you...so much, but I’m glad you’re not having to go through this.
Despite how his emotions ran the gamut, not once – not one fucking time – did he get angry with me for leaving, for not believing, for abandoning him when he probably needed me the most. Throughout it all, in all one hundred and one emails, his love for me was a constant. It was chanted like a mantra. It was said in every way imaginable.
...You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I love you, Sunshine.
...My love for you hasn’t changed one bit. If anything, it’s gotten stronger...
...I miss you. I love you. I hope you’re reading this...
...I always was and always will be yours.
...One day, I hope you give me the chance to tell you I love you again, even if you don’t feel the same. You need to know that I love you now and will always love you... I never, ever lied about that, Sunshine.
I closed my laptop when I finished the last email. It had to have been just before Rose had left Chicago, because it was about starting the negotiations. However, he hadn’t mentioned that he’d let Sterling go. Rose was right; he wouldn’t want me to know exactly what he’d given up in protection of me. To him, it was obvious that I’d been worth it. And that broke me.
Numb wasn’t even the best word to describe what I was feeling. I was blank. It was all I could do not to open my computer back up and start writing. I owed Edward an apology, that much was true. But I felt...validated, in some strange way. I’d always bound and gagged my worries, my fears, my disbelief in the back of my mind because I didn’t want what we had to end. I’d wanted to believe him so badly, but in reality, I’d shut them up because everything he’d vowed to me was true. And in some way, I knew it. The bitter side of me wondered if any of it would’ve happened had I not sent him out my door, but I knew that was wrong, too. He’d merely needed more time, and I’d been so very impatient.
“You okay?” Alice asked softly, wrapping an arm around my shoulders.
“Yeah, I think so.” I gazed over at her, suddenly feeling exhausted and emotionally wrung out. There had been too many tears, too many revelations, and enough heartache going through me to leave me just...tired. “Thank you for coming over, Alice. Really.”
She smiled, kissing the top of my head when she stood up. “I’m not far if you need me. But you look like you’re about to drop.”
Smiling up at her, I nodded. “Yeah...”
I walked her to the door and then spent the next few minutes cleaning up the scattered papers that Rose had left with me. The house was eerily quiet as I locked up and padded into the bedroom. Once again, the Dartmouth sweatshirt taunted me, but I felt no guilt for tugging it on before crawling into bed.
~PoY~
Things changed for me after that. Every email that pinged either to my phone or my computer made me fly into action. Unfortunately, Edward had been quiet up until the night before Thanksgiving.
Alice and Alec were over at my place. Alec was happily flipping through the channels of my TV, and Alice and I were getting food prepared for a big dinner the next day. Kona Joe’s was closed to the public, but I’d been invited to their family get-together. Both Alice and Jasper had family coming in from other parts of Florida to spend the day with them.
“The eggs are done, Alice,” I told her, pulling the pot off the stove and setting it into the sink. Turning on the cold water, I looked over at her as she chopped celery and onions. “You want to make up the deviled eggs tonight? Or first thing in the morn—”
Ping.
My eyes went wide at the sound, but Alice and I locked gazes before she shooed me out of the kitchen. I snatched up my phone, my heart almost exploding in my chest.
“It’s him,” I whispered, not bothering to look up when she rushed to my side. I touched the screen, falling down onto a stool when he wished me a happy Thanksgiving and told me about losing Sterling and the fact that he’d finally signed the divorce agreement. What hurt was that he knew he still had to wait, because he was determined to show me proof. Even harder to read was how he’d lost friends along the way, but I noticed he didn’t include me in that list. The last line brought tears to my eyes.
I hope you’re happy and safe where you are, and I hope that one day, you’ll allow me to make up for all the things I couldn’t do when I had the chance.
I looked up at Alice. “It’s over. He signed,” I barely said aloud.
She smiled, reaching up to tuck my hair behind my ear because it was a mess from working in the kitchen. “What are you gonna do?”
I opened my mouth and then shut it, shaking my head. “I don’t... I’m not sure. I want to email him back, call him, but Rose said not to...”
“Text her!” Alice giggled, and it was a light, easy sound, something that made the whole moment feel like I had as a teen when I was crushing on a boy.
I sent a quick text to Rose, telling her what Edward had said. Her reply was almost instantaneous.
Don’t say anything yet. I PROMISE you he’ll come to you, okay? Just wait. I’m about to fly home from my mom’s. Let me get there and see what happened. ~R
“I guess I should trust her,” I muttered, frowning at my phone. When Alice’s eyebrows raised up in disbelief, I chuckled. “Alice, she flew all the way here to prove Edward’s innocence. If I have to trust anyone, it’s gonna have to be her.”
Alice grinned. “Okay, then. So...”
I smiled, but shrugged. “I’ll wait.”
~PoY~
Cedar Key, FL – December
I stayed damned busy most of the two weeks before Christmas. Jessica was pleased with most of the shots I’d taken, but she still needed more. The paper was happy with the Christmas parade I’d covered; that was adorable to watch, because the guy that played Santa looked amazingly authentic. His beard was real, as was his tummy. And he was the sweetest old man.
Things with Peter, however, hadn’t improved. He wasn’t exactly cold, but I’d hurt him, so he was more cautious – or embarrassed; I wasn’t sure which – around me than ever before. The problem was that he didn’t know the whole story, and I’d asked Alice to keep everything about Edward to herself, but I was pretty sure they’d seen the change in me since Rose’s visit.
Somehow, despite the fact that I hadn’t heard a word from Edward since Thanksgiving, I’d found my patience. Rose texted me occasionally to let me know how he was and that he was the impatient one. She’d sent one picture to me that she’d taken in secret, and he’d looked so blank, so sad. I begged her to tell him that I knew everything, but she swore that she was working on something. The only thing she asked of me was that I mail her the postcards Mrs. Cope had had printed. I did. I’d even signed one of them.
On Christmas Eve, Kona Joe’s was busy, but Jasper said it was like that every year. People needed a break from presents, shopping, family, and cooking, so they’d pop in for a beer or two just to shoot the shit with everyone in town.
Jasper had asked if I’d take a few pictures throughout the night, just so he could hang a few. The wall behind the bar was covered with framed pictures going all the way back to when Jasper and Peter’s dad had built the place.
I walked around the bar, snapping a few shots here and there, but I was actually looking forward to going home alone. I’d promised my mother that I’d call her before the night was over, since she couldn’t make it back to Florida for the holidays. I had a small tree with lights, and I was going to check my emails before going to bed, but not until after curling up with a cup of hot chocolate and a sappy Christmas movie.
The year before, I’d done the same thing, only to receive a surprise knock on my door at almost midnight. Edward had somehow managed to escape his family, showing up at my door with mistletoe in hand. We’d made out like teenagers on my couch. It had only lasted about an hour, but to me, it had meant the world.
“I don’t like it!” Alec protested, giving the most adorable face – and one I couldn’t resist not capturing on film. “Eggnog’s gross! It tastes like bad milk!”
Grinning, I took a stool beside him at the bar where his uncle was cracking up. “I’m with ya on that one, pal,” I concurred. “It’s like...buttermilk... Yuck!”
Alec beamed my way, only to shoot his uncle an expression that simply said, “See?”
“Great, Bella, now he’ll never try it,” Peter sighed in defeat, but he slid a cup of the nasty concoction across the bar top. “Come on...one sip. I swear it’s our grandmother’s recipe...”
I grimaced, but did as he asked. It wasn’t as bad as some I’d had before, but it wasn’t great. At least he’d hidden the sour flavor with vanilla and sugar.
“Gross, right?” Alec asked, wearing a disgusted face.
“It’s...um...ermm, never gonna be my favorite beverage. Sorry, Pete.”
Peter chuckled, raising his hands in surrender. “Fine, fine. I give.” When he turned around and Alec and I high-fived, he laughed again. “I saw that, guys. Not funny.”
Alec and I collapsed into a fit of giggles. When the little boy was called away by Jasper, Peter leaned on the bar in front of me.
“Any plans tonight?” he asked, setting a beer in front of me.
“Nah,” I said with a shake of my head as I sipped it. “Just a call to Mom and turning in early.”
He grimaced, shaking his head. “I hate that you’re alone on Christmas. Stay with us. We’re going to let Alec open a couple of presents before he goes to bed. Alice figures this might be the last year he’ll believe in Santa Claus.”
“That’s probably true. Kids know too much these days,” I told him, watching Jasper toss his son over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. I turned back to Peter. “Thank you, though. But no. I’m actually looking forward to the quiet night.”
He nodded in acquiescence, taking my empty beer bottle, but refusing my money. “At least let me walk you home, okay?”
“Yeah, sure,” I agreed, putting my camera back into its bag, and Peter grabbed it up for me before telling Jasper he’d be right back.
The sounds of laughter could still be heard all the way to my deck door. Bob was surveying the beach from my rail.
“Hey, Bob,” we both chanted, and his beak snapped together in greeting.
I opened the door to let us in, and Peter set my bag on the kitchen counter.
“Want some hot chocolate? I know it’s not Grandma Whitlock’s eggnog, but...” I teased him, pulling out the milk from my fridge. When I turned around to face him, his gaze was locked onto a picture of Edward that I’d left out on my coffee table. It was from the art show, so he was in his tux – the “penguin suit” picture as Alec had called it.
He huffed a humorless laugh through his nose. “I never stood a chance, did I?” he asked, looking up at me. “He looks practically perfect.”
I frowned, pouring the milk into a pot and setting it on the stove. “He’s far from perfect. But there’s more there than meets the eye...” I hedged, grabbing the hot chocolate mix from the counter.
“Yet you’re here...and he’s not. Are you ever going to tell me what he did to send you all the way here from Chicago?”
I sighed, pulling a mug out of the cabinet. “It’s extremely complicated. We had...problems, yes. There are things that he needed to do...things I didn’t have patience for, but... One day, I hope we can address them face to face. We were both wrong.”
Peter’s eyes narrowed on me and then the picture again. “He’s married,” he whispered, his face already showing the judgmental expression I was expecting, but hoping not to see.
“He was.” My statement was firm and hung in the air heavily.
“He’s not anymore?” Peter finally asked.
I stirred the two mugs of hot chocolate, bringing him one and sipping my own. I took the picture out of his hand and gazed down at Edward.
Finally, I just gave in, thinking one of two things would happen. One, Peter would think I was a horrid person for breaking up a marriage, and he’d finally back off. Or two, he’d understand that sometimes, the heart wanted what the heart wanted, and love didn’t always leave us a choice.
“Have a seat, Peter, and I’ll tell you,” I sighed in acquiescence.
Once he was sitting on the edge of the chair across from me, I pulled out the file and started talking. When I was finally finished telling him about Rose’s visit, he set his second cup of hot chocolate down onto the coffee table and looked over at me.
“You think he’s coming?” he asked without any inflection in his tone.
“He’s pretty stubborn. And so far, he’s done everything he’d ever set out to do. I simply lost faith and patience. So...yeah, eventually,” I answered him softly.
“What are you gonna do?” he asked, snorting when I looked at him curiously. “I mean...you’re here now. His life is up there. Are you gonna...” He shrugged, but didn’t finish his question.
“I don’t know. If he comes, it’s certainly on the list of things to talk about.”
Peter nodded and then stood up, and I followed suit. “I hope you get what you want, Bella. If I thought I had a second chance...” He grimaced, shaking his head slowly. “I’d do things differently. That’s all I’m sayin’.”
“Me, too,” I agreed, smiling at him when his eyes shot up from the floor to meet mine. “Merry Christmas, Peter.”
“Merry Christmas, Bella.”
I walked him to the door. “Oh, and tell the little man that we have a date the day after tomorrow. He made me promise to take him with me on a beach walk while I take pictures.”
Peter chuckled. “Will do.”
Christmas Day was quiet for most of the day. I saved my call to my mom for that morning, spent the day watching Christmas movies, and was eventually called by Alec to come see his new bike, which he rode until dark. Despite the lack of my own family – and Edward – it was a good day, ending up with beers by a fire out on the beach with Alice, Jasper, and Peter.
My dreams that night were vivid and detailed. I was drowning in skin and soft words whispered in my ear. It felt so real that I half-expected to find Edward in my bed when I snapped awake way too early for my liking. Groaning, I buried my face into my pillow. I felt needy and impatient and still damned tired. And maybe a little hungover.
But I realized quickly that the dream hadn’t woken me up...a knock on my door had. Glancing over at the clock, I sighed that it was too damn early for Alec. I got up, tugged on a pair of yoga shorts underneath Edward’s Dartmouth sweatshirt, and walked out of my bedroom.
“Alec Whitlock, it’s way too early!” I yelled while walking through the living room. Snatching open my front door, I asked, “Did your mother feed you...jet...fuel?”
My words caught in my throat because standing on the other side of my door wasn’t a nine-year-old little boy too excited to sit still.
“Edward...” I breathed, taking in the sight of him.
“Hey, Sunshine,” he said, his voice soft, repentant, nervous, and his eyes landed on my shirt, only to snap back to my face.
My eyes drank him in. It had been so long since I’d seen him standing in front of me in person, like centuries since I’d set eyes on him. He was dressed in jeans and a black sweater, his hair was everywhere like it always was, and his eyes were so damn green and filled with sorrow. Tears clouded that perfect vision, though. I wasn’t prepared for I’d feel when he actually showed up at my door.
“Oh shit... Bella, please...” he began to ramble, starting to reach for me, only to pull back. “Don’t cry. I know you wanted to get away from me. But I need... I wanted to apologize in person. Show you that I never meant to hurt you... I thought...”
My mouth finally caught up to my brain, and I blurted out, “Shut up, Edward.”
His mouth snapped shut and he looked down at his feet, but I could see his jaw clenching over and over. His hand clawed at his hair and then rubbed the stubble on his face.
“I know everything,” I whispered, my sob finally erupting. “I know...and I’m sorry I didn’t believe you...”
I don’t think I blinked before he grabbed me up into his arms. Once he touched me, lifted me up, I wrapped myself around him and completely lost it. The sound of my door closing was lost in the middle of apologies.
“God, I fucking missed you,” he mumbled into my neck. “I’m sorry...so sorry. It’s over, I swear it, Bella... I’ll prove it...”
Pulling my face back out of his neck, I cupped his stubbly face. “I know,” I urged. “Everything.”
His evergreen eyes raked over my face, his expression curious. “Rose,” he stated, smiling when I nodded.
Suddenly, his lips were on mine, his body pressing me into my front door. Edward’s tongue claimed my mouth possessively, his hands gripping anywhere and everywhere he could reach, but as quickly as he’d started, he stopped, pulling back to look at me.
“What?” I asked, running my fingers through his hair.
He tilted his head at me, swallowing nervously. “Sunshine...who’s Alec?”



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