Sunday, September 27, 2015 | By: Drotuno

A Few Tables Away Chapter 16 & Pics

Chapter 16
“And the fairy king knighted the archer boy so that his daughter could marry him,” I said, smiling when Alice squealed and clapped her hands.
“So they married and had a bunch of fairy babies, living happily ever after,” she concluded, bouncing in her bed.
“Yo, Ed, that war was awesome, with the acorn slingshots and the fiery arrows! And then there was the hummingbirds they flew on…like horses!” Emmett proclaimed, tossing his baseball up and catching it in his mitt.
“Excellent job, baby boy,” Mom whispered into my ear as she kissed the side of my head and wrapped an arm around my shoulders. “You should write it down, my love.”
“Will you help me get it right?”
“If you want,” she said through a soft sigh, raking her fingers through my hair.
“I do! I wanna be a writer like you, Mom,” I told her but fiddled with the string of my pajama pants and then adjusted my glasses. “But… Dad says… Dad says writers starve.”
My mother scoffed, rolling her eyes. “Do I look starving to you, Edward?” My siblings and I chuckled at her. “Your father is a very practical, no-nonsense man, son. That’s what makes him a good doctor. But when it comes to certain things, he’s sort of lost. Everyone is different, Edward. Look at Alice and Emmett. Your brother is good at math, at sports, where your sister likes science and animals. You… You can create a whole different world with just words. Being a writer can be tough, which is why I teach. Some writers have many stories to tell; some only have a few…or maybe just one. You know, Harper Lee only wrote the one book.”
Nodding, I smiled at her. “I like Scout. She’s pretty cool. She always said what everyone else was thinking…or…or she pointed out what just didn’t make any sense.”
“She was a smart cookie.” My mother chuckled, cupping my face. “I want all of you to listen to me.” She glanced around at all of us just hanging out in Alice’s room, and when we nodded, she went on, looking back to me. “Never, ever be afraid to follow your dreams, your heart. Don’t be afraid to fight for what’s right or for what you truly want in life. Anyone who tells you that you can’t do something is merely afraid to try for themselves, or they’re jealous of you. What’s right for Emmett or Alice may not be right for you and vice versa. Understand?”
“Yes, ma’am,” we all answered her quietly.
“You ever gonna write another book, Mom?” Emmett asked her.
“No, probably not. I enjoy teaching, but more importantly… I wanted children. You guys. Being a mother was all I wanted, more than anything. More than writing or teaching or even money. I wanted you guys.”
I grinned at her, but it was Alice who piped up with a question I hadn’t considered. “And Daddy?”
My mother smiled, and I wanted to say it was a sad smile, but she kissed Alice’s forehead. “I had to convince your father about children, sweet girl. He and his own father didn’t get on very well, so he wasn’t too sure, but he’d give me anything, so he gave me you guys. I couldn’t ask for a better present.”
I snapped awake, and the drone of the plane seemed loud in my ears. Rubbing my face, I wasn’t surprised that I was dreaming about my mother. It had been a long time, but I remembered that conversation. Though, now…I saw it in a completely different light. I saw what she hadn’t said.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re approaching Sea-Tac Airport. The high today is a chilly thirty-eight degrees, and there’s a slight chance of a light snow later on tonight.”
Glancing out the window with a sigh, I ached for the Florida weather I’d grown to love. When I’d left, it was a gorgeous sixty-something and the sky was as clear and blue as I’d ever seen it. I also ached for Bella. Her tears had just about brought me to my knees. Her proclamations of love had almost broken me, because all I wanted was to stay. Turning away from her had taken every fucking ounce of strength I had in me, and I’d had to shut down a part of myself in order to board this damn plane.
Frowning at it all, I adjusted my seatbelt, stowed my laptop, and put my tray up. It had been a long damn flight, with a layover in Atlanta, but at least I’d slept through most of it, which didn’t surprise me any. I’d stayed up most of the night before, just holding Bella. I’d wanted so badly to make love to her like she’d wanted, but had I done that, hell itself couldn’t have removed me from the Swan home. Instead, I’d held her close, whispered to her over and over that I loved her, that she’d made me a better person, giving me back myself – something I’d thought had drowned with my mother. I’d pressed light kisses to her forehead, playing with her hair in order to keep her relaxed.
As the flight attendants helped everyone disembark, a sense of dread washed over me. I wasn’t sure who I’d be meeting. All my father had said when I’d called him the night before was that “someone” would be there. Rolling my eyes, I stood up and shouldered my backpack. I followed the masses down to get my luggage, but it was who was waiting for me that made me smile.
“Big brother!” Alice squealed, dodging a few people and hitting me like a brick wall.
Chuckling, I hugged her tight. “I missed you.”
She pulled back, and I eyed her from head to toe – no makeup, her hair was up haphazardly in a short, dark ponytail, but at least she had her phone and car keys. She looked okay, just as strong and belligerent as always.
“Don’t judge me; you’re not the only one on break.”
I laughed. “No judging. Promise.”
Turning a bit, I watched for my bag and picked it up when it came by, pulling out my phone once I set it down at my feet. Alice waited patiently, twirling her keys, but I paused just enough to call Bella.
“Hey, pretty girl. I landed okay,” I told her, my eyes closing at the sniffles I could hear as clear as a bell, despite the fact that she was across the country, but it was that honest, adorable rambling that made me grin like an idiot.
“Edward, baby… I got your journal, and you’re just about the sweetest… I love you, too. So much, and you left our book! What… How are you gonna read to me? I’m not doing all the reading! And I fucking miss you like crazy already.”
I started to chuckle and couldn’t stop. God, I missed that shit already. “Bella, slow down. I have a copy at my house. Just…relax. And I meant every word. I promise.”
“Okay,” she sighed. “Who picked you up?”
“My sister.”
“Hi, Bella!” Alice squealed.
Bella laughed. “Okay, good. Tell her I said hi, and call me later. We’ll read.”
“Yes, ma’am, but it might be late.”
“I don’t care how late it is, Edward.”
“Okay,” I sighed deeply.
“Love you.”
“Love you, too, pretty girl,” I said and ended the call, but I flinched when a small fist landed hard on my arm. “Ow! Mary Alice, what the hell?!”
“You’re an idiot!”
“Why?!” I asked, rubbing my bicep and glaring down at her.
“Because you were happy and you came back here anyway!”
“Yeah, well, I wasn’t going to leave you alone with Dad at Christmas.”
She tsked at me, rolling her eyes and folding her arms across her chest. “I can handle Dad, Edward.”
Glaring at her, I shook my head slowly. “You shouldn’t have to, and I’ve talked to Emmett, Ali… I know all about Thanksgiving.”
She grimaced, reaching for my hand. “C’mon, we’ll talk about it in the car.”
Alice’s car was parked in the garage, and we loaded up in silence. I put my bags in the backseat, practically falling into the passenger seat.
“You hungry? ’Cause if you are, we should stop now. The diner will be closed by the time we get back home.”
“Yeah, I had something to eat when I had my layover, but… Yeah, we can stop.”
Alice didn’t talk about anything in the car as she drove out of Seattle. However, once she pulled into the restaurant just outside the city and we were seated, I raised an eyebrow at her.
“You gonna tell me?”
She grimaced but fidgeted with the straw wrapper from her drink. “I’m sorry! I didn’t… I didn’t mean for Thanksgiving to get out of hand. I didn’t mean for Dad to find out about Bella, and I didn’t want to tell him I applied to Edgewater until I knew for sure I was in…which I am.” She wrinkled her nose.
I smirked her way. “Congrats, Ali. So he knows?”
“That I applied, not that I’ve been accepted.”
“Hmm,” I hummed, nodding a little. “And don’t beat yourself up about Bella. He knew. He’s known for a while now; he just didn’t say it.”
Her eyes narrowed. “What do you mean?”
I explained the phone call I’d had with Dad the day I’d told him I wasn’t coming for Thanksgiving, how he’d baited me, goaded me, but that I hadn’t given in.
“Fuck, the phone bill,” she surmised in a whisper, frowning down at her hands when I nodded. “Shit… I’m so stupid. I fell into that trap.”
Snorting, I shook my head. “He’d have found some other way to mess with you, Alice. That shit is aimed at me…and Emmett.”
Alice groaned. “Jesus, big brother, you should’ve seen that whole thing. Rose don’t play, for real! Dad was so rude – when he was around – and she merely smiled his way. When Dad called her Emmett’s whore, I thought Em would kill him right there on the spot. Honestly. He told Dad that he could go fuck himself, that had it been him in the car instead of Mom, he’d have let the car sink. Emmett told him he couldn’t control us anymore. He also told Dad that if he so much as looks at you cross-eyed while you’re here for Christmas, he’ll personally put him in the ground in the middle of the woods where no one would find him, not that anyone would fucking miss him.”
Squeezing my eyes closed, I shook my head. “Ah, Christ…”
“Why does he hate us?” she asked in a whisper.
“I don’t think he ever wanted us,” I answered honestly, remembering the dream I’d had on the plane. “I think he allowed Mom to get pregnant because she wanted us. Which makes sense why he blames me, I guess.” I shrugged a shoulder. “I don’t know, Alice. And I don’t care. He’s been abusive and foul our whole lives, even before Mom died. This… I’m…I’m with Emmett on this. I can’t… This is my last trip back, I think.” I met my sister’s sad blue eyes. “I don’t need him. He can threaten and take away shit, but I don’t need him. I’m… I came here for you. I came to make sure you were okay and to make sure he lays off you until summer.”
“Spring,” she corrected with an evil smirk as the food was set down in front of us. “I’m trying to get Dad to let me come see you for spring break.”
Grinning as I picked up my fork, I shook my head. “Good luck with that, Ali. Trust me, once you tell him you’re going to school with me, he’ll be sure to make your life miserable up until you leave. Look what he did just before I left… My car, my school funding – all of it was held over my head. He’ll tell you that you can’t have both. Watch.” I pointed the fork her way, raising an eyebrow at her.
She laughed and shook her head. “You’re probably right. As long as I can get to you, I’m good. I can live without spring break. And Emmett and Rose said they’d help me move in.”
I raked a hand through my hair. “So…all of you are coming to Florida?”
She laughed. “Yup!” Her laugh and smile faded quickly. “Rose’s family is pretty great. They’re sending her and Em to Florida to visit you for the summer, so they’re helping me move into the dorms or whatever.”
Something about that made me very happy, but it also sent warning signals off in my head. “You know, Dad’s just gonna flip the fuck out over all of this. It worries me to leave you until the summer, and we aren’t even at the house yet.”
“Pfft,” she scoffed, shaking her head. “I got this. Trust me. He’s… He barely speaks to me, Edward, so when I need something – like my car back to pick you up, and the phone just in case, and whatever – he gives in simply so he doesn’t have to deal with it.” She snorted a little. “He blew up and took away my makeup, but he doesn’t know me… I had spare stuff in my locker at school. I just dressed there. He pays no attention and is barely home.”
“Lucky you.”
I ate a few bites in silence, thinking that she was probably right. Dad had always avoided her, so instead of enforcing the punishment with her, he’d simply give in to get her out of his face. And Alice had grown up learning that shit like the back of her hand. She was quick, she was smart, and she’d watched everything inside that house since our mother died. I just hoped stuff didn’t escalate between my heading back to school and the summer when she left for Edgewater.
“Speaking of lucky… I wanna see your Library Girl,” Alice segued beautifully, wearing the begging face I could never resist.
Laughing, I touched my phone and opened up the pictures, sliding it across the table.
“Oh, God, big brother…” she whispered, scrolling through the innumerable amount of pictures I had of Bella, of Bella and myself, not to mention all my friends and people I now considered family. “She’s gorgeous.”
“I know, right?” I grinned proudly, shrugging a shoulder when my sister laughed at me. “She’s amazing, Ali.”
“And she loves you.”
“For some reason, yeah.”
Alice sighed, rolling her eyes. “I bet if I asked her, she’d give me a thousand reasons.”
Laughing, I shrugged again. “Probably.” When my sister held up another picture, I pointed to everyone. “That’s Bella’s parents, Renee and Charlie. That’s her Aunt Jane, who is hilarious, and Bella’s cousin and my boss, Jasper.”
Alice’s eyebrows shot up. “He’s hot.”
“He’s great. He’s my boss, but…he’s like my best friend down there.”
She frowned, pushing my phone back to me. “You should’ve stayed.”
“Maybe, but had I not come, Dad would’ve been worse. Let him think I’m doing what he wants, and it’s over.”
“You know… Mom would be pissed at how he’s become,” Alice said softly. “Don’t you think?”
I sighed, setting my fork down and nodding as I reached for my wallet to pay the bill. “Yeah, definitely.”
As we got back into the car, Alice looked over at me. “Hey, big brother… Can… Can we do Christmas like back when Mom was with us?”
Smiling over at her, I studied her face. “You want the tree, stockings, carols, dinner, and everything?” When she nodded, I asked, “What about Dad?”
She chuckled, starting the car. “Let’s hope he’s working.”
Dad was home when we pulled into the driveway. Alice and I had chatted throughout the entire ride home, catching each other up on the little stuff. I told her how things were at school, at the coffee shop, and with Bella, and she told me all about how Forks never fucking changed. I’d asked her about the boy she went out with occasionally, Royce. She’d laughed, shaking her head, and told me he wasn’t the asshole everyone thought he was, that they’d become good friends, just friends. According to Alice, Royce’s dad, Dr. King, was just as pleasant to his son as our father was to us, so they compared notes, not to mention used each other to avoid said fathers.
Dad’s black Mercedes sat silently in the driveway like a warning beacon. My stomach knotted up, but I took a deep breath, preparing myself for whatever mood he happened to be in. Sadly, my Volvo was nowhere to be seen; he’d really gotten rid of it.
The sleek lines and stark angles of the house were shocking in comparison to the Swan home back in Glenhaven. Bella’s house radiated warmth and laughter and love. In fact, I couldn’t think of a time I took the front steps where laughter didn’t hit my ears as I reached for the door. But my house, this house in front of me, it was cold. It stood there surrounded by trees and manicured lawns like a tombstone in a cemetery. I felt nothing for this place but dread and hopeless, endless grief for my mother.
Emmett was right; after this Christmas break, I’d most likely never come back here.
With that last thought, I got out of the car and grabbed my bags out of the backseat. I wanted to get seeing Dad over with so I could call Bella from the privacy of my room. I missed my girl too much already. I missed the pure, unadulterated love and happiness that floated around her like an angel’s halo. Hell, I missed all of them – Jasper’s easygoing laugh, Renee’s hugs, Tanya’s teasing, Aunt Jane’s sarcasm, and Charlie. I missed Bella’s father for his calming personality, for the fact that he’d never, ever said an unkind word to me, only praise, only good things – both in and out of the classroom. He was, in all aspects, the complete and total opposite of my own father.
As I stepped inside the front door, it finally hit me that Charlie was exactly how a father should be, not the hard-faced man draining a glass of caramel-colored liquid as he sat in the living room.
“’Bout time you got your asses home,” he slurred, narrowing his eyes on the two of us, especially my sister, who laughed softly. “Thought you might’ve gotten in a wreck.” He laughed at his own foul joke.
“We’re fine. Thanks for calling,” she stated wryly.
“Hmm,” he hummed her way but locked sights on me. “Nice tan, Edward. How’s the beach?”
“Beautiful,” I answered without much emotion behind it. I was in no mood for his games or negative bullshit. I just wanted to call Bella.
That answer had to have shocked him, so he changed tactics. “Obviously you’re doing something other than studying, since you’re down to a three-point-eight.”
Grinning, I shrugged. “That’s still an A average, Dad, and it’s well within my scholarship’s requirements, so…” I shrugged again.
“And it’s well within my rights to not pay for such shitty grades,” he snapped, standing up in front of me.
Damn, I hadn’t even put my bags down yet, and he was in my face. Deep down, I could hear Bella’s voice telling me that his problem with me was just that: his problem. As I stared at him a moment, I could see just how miserable of a human being he was, and he’d aged right before my eyes. There were dark spots beneath his eyes, his hair was graying at the temples, and his hands shook, meaning he was drinking just a bit more these days. He was in pure hell, whether from the loss of Mom or simply because he’d always been that way, but having been away from home for several months, I could see it all over him. But I also couldn’t find it in me to sympathize. We’d all lost Mom, we’d all had to struggle through her devastating absence, and we’d all had to move on. He hadn’t, and I found that I honestly didn’t care whether he ever did.
“Then don’t,” I countered calmly, turning away from him to head upstairs to my room. “Don’t pay it, Dad.”
“Don’t you walk away from me, Edward!” he yelled, the ice in his glass clinking when he pointed at me.
Sighing, I turned around on the step and looked back at him. “Let’s get this over with now, okay?” I said calmly. “I don’t want to be here, but I came for her.” I pointed to Alice. “I don’t care about your money or your threats or anything like that. I’m here for her. I’m well aware of what happened here at Thanksgiving, and I’m not going to have a repeat of it. You wanted me here, told me not to… What was it? Oh, yeah…weasel out of it. So…I’m here. But let’s get a few things out in the open.” I ticked off the next few things on my fingers. “My personal life – meaning my girlfriend, my grades, my job, and my financial issues…should you choose to stop paying – are my business. Legally, you have no say in any of it – mine or Emmett’s.” I glanced to Alice, who was smirking a little. “And soon, Alice. Come next year, she’ll move to Florida with me. And she got a full scholarship, so she won’t need you at all. Now, I’m here for Christmas and we planned on actually celebrating it, so if you want to join us, which I sincerely doubt, then you can. If not, then point me in the direction of the shit you think needs to be done in order to ‘adjust my attitude,’ and we’ll stay out of each other’s face. Okay?”
I’d never spoken to my father that way, but I’d lived since August without his foul words and insults, and I wanted to get back to my life. I’d witnessed what true family was, and this wasn’t it. This was hatred. Carlisle Cullen hated every last one of us. He despised us for surviving when our mother hadn’t. He despised how he had to care for three kids he’d never wanted in the first place. I suddenly wished he’d just walked away from us instead of punishing us for simply existing.
The glass in his hand shattered against the wall by my head. I felt the ice bounce off my sneaker. Alice ducked just in time, and I pulled her behind me.
“You ungrateful bastard!” he snarled, walking quickly to me, and I stood my ground, bracing myself for his barrage of degrading words.
He wouldn’t touch me. He truly hadn’t physically touched any of us since we were in the hospital after the wreck, and even then, it was only to save face around his peers. My father was a lot of things, and at the top of that long, twisted list, he was smart. To touch me at nineteen would risk me telling someone or pressing charges. Just below that, he was a coward. I could see it in his eyes as he glared at me from the step below mine. Fists balled up at his side and his face red with anger, he stared me down.
“Ungrateful for what?” I asked, trying to keep my voice even, while inside I braced for whatever he was about to do. “Nothing you’ve ever done for any of us was out of the kindness of your heart, Dad. Nothing. It was merely obligation and to save your reputation in this small-minded town.” I almost asked him about the “bastard” part of that accusation, but I was pushing my limits with him already.
His eyes narrowed on me like I’d truly struck the heart of the matter, but he didn’t address that. Instead, he pointed his finger into my chest, and I flinched a bit but kept my eyes on his.
“She’s not going to Florida to be with you.”
“She is.”
“I am,” Alice piped up, coming to position herself between us. “It’s a full ride, a good school, and I’m going.”
His lip twitched. “Get out of my face. Both of you. Tomorrow, you’ll have a list of shit that needs to be done around here. Your sister’s been goddamn worthless since you’ve been gone. You’ll show her how to keep some shit up, and you’ll do it all or face the consequences.” He opened his mouth to continue, but his phone sounded from the end table by the sofa.
The benefit of his job was that he was constantly needed, whether on the phone or at the hospital. He snatched his phone up, answering with a loud, “Cullen!”
My nostrils flared in anger as I exhaled roughly, and I turned to head on upstairs to my room. I could hear, feel Alice following me, and once I dropped my things down on my old bed, I turned to face her.
“Welcome home, big brother.” She snorted at the sarcastic tone she let out, and I smirked, shaking my head. “Did you write down that shit you just told him?”
I barked a humorless laugh. “Some of it…and that was before I left for Edgewater.”
“You’re different,” she whispered, walking to me and giving me a hug. “I knew getting out of here would be good for you. I can’t wait to get down there and out of this house.”
Kissing the top of her head, I said, “Soon, Ali. And I can’t wait, either.” Smiling, I hugged her closer and then let her go. “Speaking of… I need to call Bella before it’s way too late. I just need to grab something out of the library.”
“Tell her I said hello,” she said, walking from my room to hers across the hall.
I smiled and nodded, rumbling down the stairs. I could hear my dad still on the phone, but he’d moved his conversation into the kitchen. The library – or really, it had been my mother’s home office – was just off the living room. I stepped in, turning on the lights, and my heart constricted at the memories of this room. It was where my mother would grade papers, pay bills, and write. It was where she’d taught me how to write. It was this room my siblings and I would come to in order to talk to her. It was a lot like Bella’s library, except the long back wall was nothing but windows facing the woods behind our house. There wasn’t a lake, thankfully, but there was shelf after shelf filled with books.
I’d left Bella the copy of The Count of Monte Cristo, because she’d checked it out of the school’s library, but I’d also wanted my mother’s copy. Actually, there were a few things I made mental note to take out of here before my break was over. Things I’m sure my father wouldn’t miss – photo albums, my mother’s journals, and the first editions of my mother’s published works. Those things were important to me, and I wanted them before I left, even if I had to ship them to the Swan house for safekeeping. But they were things I needed to do when my dad was at work and not after I’d just pissed him off.
My gaze, my fingers, trailed over the spines of my mother’s most beloved titles – mostly classics, with a few more modern stories thrown in for good measure. The sight of them made me sad but smile, too, because Charlie had some of the same books in his own library. They would’ve been good friends. I was sure of it.
I found the old copy of the Count and pulled it off the shelf, jumping when my father’s voice met my ears.
“Not even an hour in this house, and you’re in here with your head in the fucking clouds.”
Sighing, I held up the book. “Left mine back home,” I stated firmly, leaning on the last word for a reason. “I need this one before I go back to school.”
He narrowed his eyes, and I could see him debating on arguing, but he stayed quiet as I brushed past him in the doorway. I could’ve sworn I heard him mumble something about growing some balls and whores and my mother, but I was already hitting the steps and pulling out my phone.
“Hey, baby,” Bella sang sweetly after only one ring.
“Hi, my pretty girl. I miss you.”
“Miss you, too. So…my turn, right?”
“That’s right. Get to readin’, Bella,” I teased her, smiling at her sweet giggle and falling down onto my bed next to my bags that I would deal with in the morning. “I need your voice.”


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