Sunday, March 22, 2015 | By: Drotuno

Man Behind the Mask Chapter 9 & Pics

Chapter 9 – Question All You Trust
Walk the razor's edge
Cut into the madness
Question all you trust
Buy into the fear
I see the man ripping at my soul now
I, I know the man
I know him all too well

There's nothing here for free
Lost who I want to be
My serpent blood can strike so cold
On any given day
I'll take it all away
Another thought I can't control
“This Means War” – Avenged Sevenfold
The city of Seattle blurred outside the window of the cab. My phone was almost dead from the texts I was receiving from Emmett. Apparently, he was heading to our mother, who had called him about the same time that Bella had called me, while I had to go clean up the mess that was our dad. Something had happened between them; we just didn’t know what.
My forehead thumped softly to the car window. I hadn’t been lying to Bella. All I’d wanted the entire time I was in L.A. was to come back and just see her. With her, I didn’t have to put on any act, didn’t have to hide behind a mask of indifference. That last thought made me close my eyes. That wall of indifference I’d had to wear for so long had started to become a part of me, and it wasn’t me. And knowing my dad was sitting in Bella’s bar, saying who knew what, that indifference meshed into anger.
If he said something to hurt her, if he offended her in any fucking way, I didn’t know if I could control myself. She was too sweet, too important to me to have him come in and destroy the barely there relationship I wanted so damned badly.
My phone bleeped, signaling that my battery was just about gone, but it bleeped again with a message from Bella.
I closed the bar early, Edward. Come in the back door.
I wanted to ask a billion questions, but just as I started to type back, the phone died in my hand.
“Fuck,” I sighed to myself but sat up when we pulled into the alley.
I paid the fare, getting out of the cab and dragging my bag behind me. The back door to the bar was unlocked, but I remedied that as soon as I was inside. I dropped my bag on the floor, following the sound of two voices I’d recognize anywhere – Bella and my dad.
Bella’s tone was her usual calm and cool sound. It was light, with an easy laugh mixed in. My dad still sounded a little drunk, but at least he was forming complete sentences.
“My boys hate me, Bella.”
“Oh, that can’t be true,” she countered gently. “My mother and I don’t see eye to eye on everything, but I don’t hate her. She doesn’t like what I do for a living, but it keeps me close to my dad. She wants me to finish school, but I’m happy where I am. She voices her opinion, and I voice mine. We keep going.”
“But I’d be willing to bet your mother never used you,” my dad stated, and while that was probably cryptic to Bella, I knew exactly what he was saying. My Bella, however, never even flinched.
Her laugh was soft. “Oh, now…I suppose that depends on your definition of ‘using,’” she started, and I peeked through the door to see her leaning on the bar in front of him, holding a coffee cup in her two small hands. “I was seven when my brother was born – my half-brother – so…instant babysitter. There were days I fed him, bathed him, dressed him…all on my own.” She paused to sip her coffee. “My mother and father never stopped loving each other; they were simply toxic together. So she’d pump me for information when I’d come home from a weekend with him. Sad part? There was nothing to report. My dad worked – sometimes music, sometimes this bar – but he never moved on from my mother like she’d done with my stepfathers. And that seemed to push my mother over some edge. She didn’t understand why they didn’t work, but I don’t think she ever looked in the mirror – she never accepted my dad for who and what he was; she only wanted to mold him into something he wasn’t, something he could never be.
“As you can see, he was an open, free spirit.” She pointed around her bar. “He was extraordinarily talented. He saw music in the air around him, but he couldn’t remember to tell me to brush my teeth or get me to school on time. He was calm and so easy to talk to, but he’d disappear for days in his studio to write music, hardly stopping to eat or sleep, so he wasn’t able to be a husband and father on a full-time basis. He wanted to but knew he’d fail. He told me that a hundred times, so it was something he’d come to terms with, but not everyone can accept themselves like that. Like my mother, who still doesn’t really know that he loved her enough to let her go.”
“You were her pawn in a game of chess,” my dad pointed out, and my eyes shot to him. He was a touch more sober than he’d probably been a few hours ago.
“A bit, yeah. The problem is…I am a combo of both of my parents, so I’ve accepted who I am, but I’m not afraid to tell her. My poor brother isn’t so lucky. He’s constantly caught up in her wants and needs. I hope that changes when he’s finally eighteen in a few weeks.”
My dad was quiet for a second, but he seemed to be studying my girl intently. I almost walked on in, but he spoke my name so softly, it was barely a whisper.
“Edward…” He sighed, shaking his head. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe he doesn’t hate me. Perhaps it’s disappointment, which is quite worse, really. He’s so talented, so smart. I wanted more for him than what he does. He could’ve been—”
“Have you actually watched what he does?” Bella asked, and I could tell she was bristling a little at him, which wasn’t a shock, simply because she was so damned protective of me, but he didn’t answer her. “He’s amazing. What difference does the genre of music make when the outcome still brings people to some sort of emotion? My dad played rock and blues, but he used to dance with me when I went through a boy-band phase.”
Grinning, I shook my head, secretly reminding myself to tease that sweet thing about that particular phase sometime in the future.
“What I mean is… Your son touches people on a level that I don’t think you understand. His fans love him. And he and Jasper have been recognized as one of the most powerful music-writing teams out there. He’s busted his ass to earn all of it, even if he’s had to put on a false face to get it done. There’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of there, and if you are, then you’re missing out.”
She spun around at the same time I stepped through the kitchen door. Her eyes widened, but then she glanced back over her shoulder and then back to me worriedly. “I’m glad you’re back safe… He’s um…”
I wanted to kiss the living shit out of her, but I had to focus on my dad. What I did do was press a long kiss to her forehead for so many reasons I could barely speak – for what she’d just said about me, for taking care of my dad, and for just being Bella.
“Missed you, angel,” was all I whispered to against her hair.
“Me, too… I’m sorry.”
I gave her a small smile, wrinkling my brow and shaking my head. She had no need to apologize, especially not to me. When I stepped to the bar, I eyed my father.
“Let’s get you upstairs to my place, Dad,” I said with barely controlled anger. “You’ve bothered Bella enough for one night.”
“He wasn’t…” she started but smirked a little when I shot her a quick look.
“Son, I—”
“Upstairs, then we’ll talk. That is, if you don’t pass the fuck out on me,” I told him, walking around to wrap his arm around my shoulders. He may have sobered up a little, but he was still a bit wobbly.
“Your mother knows, Edward,” he mumbled, leaning against me. “I think she may leave me.”
“Yeah, well… We’ll deal with it,” I sighed deeply, my heart hurting.
Shit had now gotten way out of hand, but there was a part of me that was glad my mother knew the truth. My father brought all of this stuff on himself, but as we followed Bella out the back of the bar, I wondered if my helping him hadn’t simply postponed the inevitable. What I’d done by taking his place when he’d had the car accident had only pushed off what probably needed to happen naturally. After being in rehab, I knew that labeled me an enabler, but the pure fear on my dad’s face that night had scared me. I’d felt sorry for him. Now I knew I couldn’t do it again. He had to face it this time, no matter how hard it was.
Bella reached for my bag that I’d set by the door, but I said, “Leave it, Bella. I can get it tomorrow.”
She simply smiled sadly, hoisting the damn thing onto her shoulder. “I’ve got this. You’ve got a heavier load.”
Fuck, she knew. I could see that she was now putting pieces of the puzzle together. If not, she knew that something just wasn’t quite right.
“I wanted to… But I…” I started, but she quickly kissed my lips.
“This isn’t about me, Edward. Go. I’ll follow you up,” she whispered, gesturing toward the stairs.
It took a few stumbles to get up three flights, and my father had gotten awfully quiet, but I could see he was watching me, only to glance back to Bella.
“Don’t say it,” I warned him. “You’re in deep shit with me, so you might want to focus on yourself right this second.”
I opened my apartment door, wishing my homecoming was so very fucking different. I wanted the girl behind me in my arms, not my dad. Guiding him straight inside, I helped him sit on the sofa, turning to see a nervous Bella placing my bag on my bed.
She shifted on her feet but then smiled a little. “I’ll leave you two to talk. I am glad you’re home, though.”
I didn’t say a word but walked straight to her, taking her hand and pulling her out my front door. Pulling her to me, my hands sank into her soft hair as I moved her mouth to mine. I needed her like I’d never needed anything in my life, but the timing was fucking off. I was a frenzy of teeth and tongue and lips. Bella, however, slowed us down, pulling back just enough to smile at me.
“Edward, look at me,” she commanded in a whisper, and when I met those dark eyes that brought me comfort and safety, I wasn’t disappointed. I was shocked it was still there, actually, when I thought she’d be pissed or filled with pity, but I saw none of that. “I’m still not running,” she vowed, her brow wrinkling as she studied my face. Her fingers trailed along my jawline to pull me in for a light kiss. “Still here. Still right downstairs if you need me.”
“I need you now.” My voice was raspy, my breathing heavy, because I truly wanted this girl in every damn way. “I want…”
“Me, too,” she agreed with a smile, “but he needs you more. And I don’t want us using that as a way of just…escaping.”
“I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have said anything.”
She grinned, biting her lip just a little before shaking her head. “I’m not sorry you said it. Maybe a little disappointed in the timing.”
Groaning, I let my forehead fall to hers as everything bubbled up out of me. “Fuck, Bella… I don’t know what to do with him. And I know you don’t know anything, but—”
“Edward, he’s your dad. He was drinking himself stupid because he thinks you and Emmett hate him. I know you don’t. I can see it all over this handsome face,” she said, brushing my hair off my forehead. “He has to want to change, even if the catalyst is you being very pissed off at him.”
Smirking a little, I nodded. “You’d have made a damn sexy therapist.”
Her giggle was soft as she rolled her eyes at me and pushed me back a bit. “But I pour a mean beer.”
“You do…way more than that, angel.” I held her shoulders to make sure she was looking my way. “I’ll never be able to repay you for all you’ve done for me since I met you. Never.”
“I don’t need repaying,” she said firmly, but her smile was sweet as she leaned in to kiss me. “I don’t regret a single thing.” She kissed me again, slowly, deeply making me moan in want of her, but she finally stepped back. “Did you mean what you said?”
“Which part?” I asked, trying not to reach out and simply take her. “The sexy therapist? Yes.”
Her laugh started with an adorable snort, but she covered her mouth. “No, silly ass…about coming home to just hang out?”
“God, Bella. It was all I could think about while I was away,” I told her with a slow shake of my head.
“Tomorrow, then?” she offered, pointing toward my door. “You know, after you’ve…”
“It’s a date,” I vowed, smiling at her. “Tomorrow. I’ll come down when he’s gone. He’ll most likely sleep this shit off…”
“Okay,” she said softly, kissing me one more time. “Night, Edward.”
“Night, angel.”
She stopped before she took the first step down, turning to face me. “You might want to get some pain killers and water in him before he crashes out, Edward. That way, tomorrow won’t be so…harsh.”
Grinning, I shrugged. “Says the beautiful bartender. Harsh seems oddly satisfying at the moment, Bella, but you’re right.”
She wrinkled her nose but smiled before leaving. I waited until she was safely inside her own apartment before turning to go back inside my door. I was hit with curses and yelling that my dad was trying to keep down.
“Yes, Esme, I know! I’m aware,” he snapped in a hiss, his hand raking through his hair in a rare show of stress. “Here…you can talk to Edward.”
He thrust his cell phone at me, and I put it to my ear. “Mom…”
“Edward Anthony Masen Cullen! I can’t believe you falsified a police report, that you covered for that…that—”
“Mom!” I practically growled into the phone, finally remembering my own was dead. As I plugged it in on my nightstand, my heart broke at the sound of my mother’s sobs, Emmett’s and Rose’s voices consoling her, and my dad’s drunken grumbles. I turned to him first. “You…shut up. If you’d told her about this from the beginning, you wouldn’t be here. If you’d recognize that you have a fucking problem, none of us would be in this mess. You’re a goddamn doctor, for fuck sake! You of all people should’ve known the damn signs. And Mom,” I spoke over the line, “I’d have done the same for you, so don’t even start with me. You live with the man, and you didn’t see it?”
My dad stared at me, wide-eyed and quiet again, but I walked off to the bathroom to grab a bottle of aspirin and then into my kitchen for a bottle of water. I thrust both at him while I waited for my mother to calm down. I sat down hard on the other sofa, listening to Rose’s kind voice soothing her. However, my brother was ranting in the background. When I glanced up to my father, he was taking the medicine with the water, letting his head fall back.
“Do you know why I helped you that night, Dad?” I asked him, and he wearily lifted his head back to look at me, but I could also hear my mother sniffle softly in my ear. “I told you the other night at the coffee shop that it was because what you do is important, that I could get away with it due to my reputation. All that’s true, but…I thought that if I did it, if I cushioned this shit for you, that you’d see I wasn’t a fuck-up.”
“I don’t think you’re a fuck-up, Edward,” Dad argued.
Yet, you tell Bella you think Emmett and I hate you.”
“Who’s Bella?” my mother whispered on the other end.
“Edward’s new girl,” Emmett answered with a chuckle. “She’s pretty damn awesome.”
When my dad looked down shamefully, I said, “We don’t hate you. We just wanted something different than you. You seemed to take that as an insult, as something personal.”
“But you could’ve…” he started, and I stopped him by holding up my hand.
“I don’t want to hear it. Not anymore. What’s done is done. I can’t go back and change anything about my life, not that I’d want to, because I have no regrets, except that my career choice drove a wedge between us. And even that isn’t my problem; it’s yours. I’m good at what I do, my band is good, and I can’t take it back. Writing music and being on the stage is everything to me, and even though I have to be someone else occasionally to get the job done, all that bullshit fades away as soon as the spotlight falls on me, as soon as I play that first damn note. And Emmett asked to come with me, Dad, so it was his choice, too.”
I sighed, rubbing my face. I felt tired and sad, not to mention dirty from being on a plane. I wanted a shower, and I wanted sleep, but mostly, I wanted to bolt down the stairs to Bella in order to wrap her up and bury all this shit in something good, something that wasn’t tainted by lies and alcohol and misunderstanding. Nothing sounded as good as losing myself in her, showing her how amazing she made me feel. In the last several weeks since I’d met her, my life had changed dramatically, and I owed it to her. Despite the situation I was in at the moment, things weren’t so hard, because she was in my life.
Laughing softly behind my hand, I realized I’d fallen head over fucking heels for the pretty brunette, the brave little thing who had saved my ass from the paparazzi, who’d let me stumble into her life, only to bring chaos and anarchy with me, wrapping me up in her arms.
That realization made me want to rush to her, tell her how amazing she was to me…for me, but I knew it was too soon. However, the memory of her telling me she wanted me too was so vivid in my mind. For years, my life was fast-paced, threaded with scattered moments of instant gratification. With Heidi, it had been the same way – a relationship hidden behind a curtain of lies. With Bella, I wanted it all – to bring her on tour, to come home to her, to show her the world, and to prove I could be Edward with her…not Masen, not some puppet-type manifestation created for the masses. I didn’t want instant gratification; I wanted to show her how she made me a better person, how she allowed me to surface above the bullshit.
Sighing deeply, I forced it all away to focus on the problem at hand. “I’m done, Dad. If you want help, then we’ll help you. But I’m not doing this anymore. You’re gonna end up killing yourself or someone else, whether in a car or at the damn hospital, and I won’t contribute to it. Consider this your intervention. Take it or leave it.” I stood up, still keeping my dad’s phone to my ear. “I have one more month of required AA meetings before I’m cleared of something you did. I’ll finish it because I’d promised I would, and I’ll get it done before the band goes on tour.
“And Mom?” I said into the phone. “I’m sorry we lied. I’m sorry that we kept the truth from you, but it was kind of a touchy thing, and we didn’t want you caught up in it. We did it to protect you…up to a point. Once the charges were settled in court, I told Dad to tell you, but he was scared.”
“That’s no excuse,” she argued.
“Actually, it kinda is, Mom,” I countered, shaking my head. “We had to make it look a certain way. The deed is done. Where the arrest and rehab barely touched my reputation, it would’ve ruined Dad’s and yours. It was hard to say no when he was begging for help, Mom, and I could have, but I didn’t. That’s on me. I made him promise to get help, to go to the meetings with me, but he didn’t. That’s on him. But ignoring it all while it was right under your nose…that’s on you. We’re all fucking wrong.”
“Edward,” my mother started over the line.
“I tried to help, no matter how fucking twisted it became…”
“Language, Edward…” my mother whispered, but it was a half-assed reprimand.
“Sorry,” I muttered, raking a hand through my hair. “I’m so damn tired of living for everyone else. I’m tired of lying. I’m not an alcoholic, I’m not a wild party animal, and I’m not sleeping with every girl in the fucking Pacific Northwest. There’s only one girl, who’s right downstairs, and she’s the only one I haven’t lied to, but I don’t need to lie to her. I just want her and music. Anything outside of that is superfluous.”
My dad was watching me with a curious expression, nervously wringing his hands.
“I love you both, but you two have to figure this out on your own, together, with rehab, with a damn priest for all I care, but I can’t anymore. I’ve got enough shit to do.”
I tossed the phone at my dad, getting my keys out. “I’m gonna get some air. You can stay here if you want. Let me know what you decide.”
For a moment, I wondered if he’d even remember this shit come morning, but I knew my mother would. I also knew Rose and Emmett could handle some of it. I walked out of my apartment, rumbling down the stairs. I paused for a moment in front of Bella’s door but kept going down and into the alley. I knew I needed to talk to her, explain everything, but I also knew that if I set eyes on her at the moment, I’d lose my shit. I wanted her with an intensity that would probably scare her, and I’d be doing it for all the wrong reasons. Like she’d said…an escape.
Starting for my car, I changed my mind and just kept walking as I pulled a wool cap down on my head from the pocket of my jacket.
I have no idea how long I walked or how far. I lost myself in my head, in music notes that begged to be written, in how my life got really fucking screwed up.
A few hours had gone by when I realized I’d left my phone back at my apartment, but I couldn’t care less. Glancing around, I saw I’d ended up at the water. Falling down on the closest bench, I tried to quiet my mind. It didn’t work, though it was better than before.
It was well past midnight when I finally made my way back. I was fucking exhausted, but my mind was still going. Rushing by Bella’s door in order not to just…break it down to get to her, I went back in my own apartment. It was dark and quiet, except for the sounds of my father’s soft snore on my sofa. Though he’d probably sleep through a hurricane, I grabbed my acoustic guitar and took it back outside in order to let him sleep. Sitting down on the top step, I leaned back against the railing to pick softly.
I played whatever came to mind – random notes, parts of songs that I’d tested but never written down, even some of Chainsaw Charlie’s songs.
I never heard her approach. Hell, I didn’t even see her come up the stairs, but suddenly the gorgeous brunette angel was standing a few steps down, putting her almost at eye level from my seat on the landing. My eyes raked up soft plaid pajama pants, to an oversized T-shirt with an amazing Fender emblem on it, and finally to the sweetest face on the damn planet.
“You might be the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen,” I muttered, grinning when she glanced down at herself and raised a deadly eyebrow at me. “Just fucking perfect.”
“You okay?” she asked, ignoring my idiotic rambling, and when I nodded, she shifted a little on her feet, but she wasn’t exactly dressed to be outside in the chilly weather.
“C’mere,” I whispered, setting my guitar aside and opening my leather jacket. She sat down crossways on my lap, and I wrapped my coat and my arms around her. “Better?”
She nodded, practically melting against me, but she spoke softly. “You didn’t answer me. Are you okay, Edward?”
“I am now,” I sighed truthfully, burying my face in her neck.
“I um… I need… Edward, you should know…I heard you?” she said, but it came out like a question as she pulled back to look me in the eye. “I didn’t mean to, but…the sound carried… You were sort of…yelling,” she admitted, her nose wrinkling.
I shrugged a shoulder. “I wanted to tell you anyway, but…”
“You…” she started, pausing to frown a little as her fingers trailed across my face. “You…went to jail for him? You took his place?”
“Yeah…I couldn’t… I shouldn’t have, but he’s my dad, Bella. I looked up to him my whole fucking life, and to see him so fucking scared…” I knew my voice sounded pleading, sounded like a little kid talking like he hero-worshiped his daddy, but of all the damn people in the world, she was the one who I needed to understand.
“That…” She started, seeming to struggle with her words, but she finally kissed me softly. “That was stupid and brave and sweet and terrible and…and…”
“You could’ve stopped at stupid, angel.”
She cracked a smile. “So that’s what he meant when he said he was using you. That must’ve been scary.”
I shrugged, holding her closer, my hands rubbing up and down her side on the outside of her shirt but still trying to keep her inside my jacket. “I’ve been arrested before, baby, for disorderly conduct…a party in a hotel after a show got a tad bit out of hand,” I said with a smirk. “But I was let go and never charged. Once we knew no one – aside from Bree – had been hurt, and she had only minor injuries, the rest was no big deal for me.”
“I meant scary over what it could have done to your family,” she said softly, reaching up and tugging the wool cap off my head to rake her fingers through my hair.
I stared at her for a moment. “Yes.”
She glanced behind me to my door and then met my eyes. “What’s he gonna do?”
“I don’t know,” I sighed, loosening my hold on her in order to put my cap on her head to keep her warm. I smoothed her hair back. “It’s up to him. I’ve done too much…”
She nodded sadly, tilting her head at me and placing her hand on my chest. “Yeah, but it came from a good place, Edward.”
“Maybe, but we’re back to square one.”
“No, you aren’t. Sweetie, he came to you before going anywhere else. Something you’ve done, something you’re doing is getting through.”
“I hope so.”
“You know…he didn’t drive. He took a cab here to find you.” My eyebrows shot up at that, but I didn’t say anything as she cupped either side of my face. “Can I tell you something?” she asked, like I’d ever tell her no, and I told her yes. “You’ve done more than enough. Maybe too much, but it’s okay to back off. It doesn’t mean you don’t love him, or that you don’t care, but he really does have to do this for himself, Edward.”
Nodding, I let out a long breath. She was right, of course. I knew she was. I pulled her back to me, nuzzling my face into her neck again. But I had to smile when her whole body vibrated with the shivers.
“C’mon, let’s get you back inside before your toes freeze off or something.” Slipping my arm underneath her knees, I stood with her cradled against my chest.
“Your guitar…” she said, reaching out and picking it up with a grin. “You shouldn’t leave it out here.”
Shaking my head at her, I smiled and walked down to her apartment door. I expected her to reach for the door knob, but when I gazed down at her, I could see her eyes were locked on my chest. She didn’t get down out of my arms, though.
“Edward, I…” she started, swallowing nervously as she gripped the sleeve of my jacket with her free hand, and I took the guitar from her and leaned it against the wall. “When I said your voice carried downstairs, it meant that I heard…everything you said…”
“What’d you hear that’s making you not want to look at me, angel? You’ve heard the worst, the lies, and the family fight. What more is there?” I teased her, leaning in to kiss her cheek, but I froze when I remembered what I’d said at the end. “Oh…”
“Did you mean it?” she whispered as I lightly dragged my lips down her cheek. “About me? About there being only one girl…downstairs?”
Smiling against the spot just below her ear, I whispered, “Yes, angel.” I knew was pushing it – myself and the situation, simply because my want for her had not abated on my long walk – when I opened my mouth to her skin to taste salty-sweet. “Fuck, Bella, I…”
I tasted and kissed along her neck, teasing her earlobe with my tongue and teeth.
“Take me inside, Edward,” she commanded, and I pulled back to look at her, thinking I’d pushed too far, but she grasped my face in both hands and kissed me. “I’ve changed my mind,” she whimpered against my mouth.
“About what, baby?” I groaned, because sweet mother of fuck, she was killing me with her voice, her kisses, her fingers in my hair, never mind how ridiculously adorable she was in PJs and my wool cap.
“Maybe we do need that escape…”
My forehead thumped to hers. “You have to mean that, Bella. My control around you is slipping.”
She smiled, nodding against me as she reached for the door knob.


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