Wednesday, October 21, 2015 | By: Drotuno

A Few Tables Away Chapter 23 & Pics

Chapter 23
EDWARD
“Edward?” I heard Aunt Jane call from the hallway.
“In here,” I grunted, dropping the last full box from my bed to the floor and gazing around my bedroom for anything else I might want.
Those of us heading back to Florida were catching a very early flight, so we were staying tomorrow night in a hotel in Seattle. They’d asked my siblings and me if we wanted to celebrate New Year’s Eve there, but we’d all declined. Emmett and Rose had to get back to UW, and Alice and I… Well, we just wanted out of Washington.
Every item we’d wanted, we’d taken pictures of, which we sent to Marcus. Personal items – like clothes, music, and our own books – were packed up without question. It was the items in my mother’s office and the box in the attic that we were waiting on the okay to take. We’d boxed them up, just in case he said yes. However, I honestly expected my father to say no just to be an ass.
I brushed off my hands and smiled when Aunt Jane leaned in the doorway.
“How’s it goin’ in here, sweet boy?” she asked, glancing around.
“I’m done in here. I’d already taken most of the clothes I’d needed when I moved into the dorms, so…” I trailed off, shrugging a shoulder. “Really, I just wanted my old journals, some of my books, and a few framed pictures.” I pointed to the two boxes at the foot of my bed.
“Then we’re almost packed up. Liam’s getting us a mover to ship the boxes to our house. They’ll be here in the morning,” she said, pausing for a second. “Well, once we get the all-clear from Marcus, that is.”
I snorted humorlessly. “Bet you five bucks that he says no. And don’t be shocked when he says to leave Alice’s car behind.”
Aunt Jane’s nose wrinkled, but she nodded in agreement, or at the very least, she suspected just about the same result. She pushed off the doorway and walked to me, cupping my face.
“Edward, I want you to do me a favor when we get home,” she said softly yet decisively, tilting her head a little. When I nodded, she smiled softly. “I think…and just hear me out, buddy… I think you need someone you can talk to – your sister, too. Someone who can listen to what you’ve been through. I have a very good therapist friend, and I can see if she can see you. Both of you.”
Frowning, I let my eyes drop to the floor, and I felt my face heat up. “You… Y-You…” I was going to ask her if she thought I was crazy, but then I remembered my fear of water, my sometimes irritating level of OCD, and my fear of loved ones driving in poor weather. But I didn’t voice it.
“Kiddo,” she whispered, lifting my gaze back to hers with her fingers beneath my chin. “I’m going to tell you what I told Jasper when I sent him to my friend a few years back after his dad left. Talking things out with someone does not make you crazy. It doesn’t make you wrong or off somehow or even weak. It simply gives you a chance to get some ugly things off your chest that you may or may not feel comfortable telling a friend…or girlfriend.”
My head snapped back up to see her face to make sure she wasn’t making fun of me.
“Sweet pea, I know you love my niece. And oh my goodness, does she love you to pieces,” she said through a soft, loving laugh, “but I also think that maybe you might want to work out some things that you may not want her to hear. Fears and anger and disappointment can be debilitating, not to mention grief, Edward.” She brought my face down in order to kiss my cheek. “Just think about it. Okay?”
I nodded, and she started to leave the room. “Aunt Jane?” I called softly, and when she turned to me again, I asked one question. “D-Did it… Did it…help? Jasper, I mean.”
She smiled softly and then nodded. “Oh yeah…most definitely. He went from a kid getting into fist fights on a daily basis, smoking weed, and skipping school, to the man you know now, the one who runs my café, and the one who bought tickets for Washington before you’d even gotten on the plane in Florida, Edward. I’d say it damn well helped.”
I opened my mouth but then snapped it shut, which made her chuckle.
“You don’t have to answer me now, son. There’s too much shit goin’ on. But when you are ready, you come to me. I’ll make sure it happens,” she stated, reaching down to take one of the boxes downstairs to the living room.
Picking up the other box, I followed her down to see my brother pacing on his cell phone. His face was fierce and pissed off as he glanced my way and then to Alice, who had seemed a bit lost in all of this since the night before at the table.
“He’s such a fucking prick,” Emmett sighed, rubbing his face roughly, but he looked to me. “Baby bro, you get around okay at school without a car?”
“Let me guess,” I muttered sarcastically, dropping the box I was carrying to the pile that was growing in the foyer and then folding my arms across my chest. “He’s demanding Alice’s car.”
Emmett snorted but nodded. “Right in one, bud.”
“No, I get around fine,” I answered him honestly. “The campus is small, but there are buses that cover just about everywhere. However, I’ve been saving up. I mean… I was saving, but coming here depleted that a little. Ali and I will figure it out.”
“Fine, he can keep the fucking car,” Emmett conceded into the phone, wincing when Alice stalked back upstairs. “But he’d better give us Mom’s things…”
Bella stepped out of the kitchen, her eyes sad. I looked for pity and found none, just love and maybe a bit of anger for me.
She walked to me and stood up on her toes to kiss my lips. “This may be a bit of a shock for her, baby,” she whispered, her nose wrinkling. “I mean, you and your brother have had a chance to move out, settle into college, and the two of you have lives and friends elsewhere. She’s losing everything, and she’s got two – now one day – to get out of the only home she’s ever known, never mind she’s got to finish school someplace she won’t know anyone.”
“I know. And I hate it all for her,” I sighed deeply, kissing her briefly. “I’ll go check on her.”
I trudged up the stairs to my sister’s bedroom doorway, leaning against the frame as she threw clothes out of her closet.
“Ali,” I called her, ducking when hangers were launched toward my head. “Mary Alice!”
Her fierce, angry face popped out of the closet. “What?!”
“Stop throwing shit at me and sit down,” I requested, pointing to her bed. “Please?”
She did as I asked, sitting cross-legged in the middle of the mattress. I sat directly in front of her, mimicking her posture.
“I hate him,” she whispered, trailing her finger along the seams of the mattress that had been stripped bare. “I hate him so much.” She gazed up at me. “I… I used to dream of killing him in his sleep for the things he’d say and do to us. I used to fantasize about seeing his Mercedes sink to the bottom of that fucking lake.”
Nodding, I gave her a weak smile. “Me too. I wrote stories about it.”
“No shit?” She giggled at my nod.
“Oh yeah, I wrote a whole revenge, bloody massacre thing. I wrote a shark attack, but that wasn’t satisfying enough. And I didn’t use his name, of course, but…” I shrugged, letting out a humorless laugh. “Funny, though…it didn’t make me feel any better.”
Her eyes stayed downcast to the trail her fingers were still making on the bed. “I thought I’d… I thought I’d feel different, knowing I was getting out of here…”
Frowning, I lifted her chin to make her meet my gaze. “Ali, I know it’s scary, and I know it’s sudden. I also know that getting out of this house and away from him was the very best decision I’ve ever made. And I owe you a thank-you for making me go, for not letting me give in to Dad’s bullshit.” I tapped her chin with my fingers. “Please trust me when I tell you that the car is one less tether to him. You don’t need it. Glenhaven is small enough to walk or bus somewhere – kinda like Forks, only without the assholes.”
I grinned when she laughed a little. “You won’t be alone in this. I promise. I think… Alice, I think you’ll really like it. You…you’re normal. You’ll love the beach and the warm weather and the water. Hell, maybe Bella can take you. I sure as shit can’t go with her, but…”
Alice gaze softened from the angry expression she’d been wearing. “Still?”
“You expect that to change?” I countered with a harsh laugh, sighing as I raked a hand through my hair and adjusted my glasses. “My scars are one thing, but I can’t take my girlfriend to the beach she’s grown up loving…”
“The girlfriend is perfectly okay with that,” Bella said from the doorway, and I grinned her way while Alice laughed softly. “You’re saving me from skin cancer or something, Edward. I’m sure of it.” She stepped into the room, dropping a heavy kiss to the side of my head. “Emmett told me to tell the two of you that…you’re clear to take your mother’s things.”
Alice gasped, gaping up at her, but I knew my girl, and I narrowed my eyes at her. “What aren’t you saying, pretty girl?”
Bella’s nose wrinkled, and she shook her head. “Your father’s exact words were, ‘Tell those ungrateful assholes to take it all. Otherwise, I’ll set fire to it.’ He also said that if he sees any of you, it’ll be too fucking soon. Though, he’s kind of stupid, because I’m sure there’s court shit in his future.”
Alice chuckled. “Marcus said we might not be needed, and he said hopefully there are enough character witnesses to bury him, so…”
“Good. I’d hate to have to tell him what a disgusting slug he is in front of a judge,” Bella stated, wearing an overly exaggerated sweet smile, which made my sister and me really laugh. “So…all that being said… You’re packed, with the exception of whatever you were doing in here. Liam will be here first thing in the morning with the movers. They’ll take all the boxes down to Florida for you. We’ll store them at our house, until you have a place to put them.”
“Are you… I mean…” my sister sputtered, and I chuckled and ruffled her hair.
“Get used to it, Ali. When Bella or her family says something, there’s no use in arguing.”
“Damn straight, handsome!” my girl sang, kissing my lips when I stood up from the bed. “Now he’s getting it!” She shot my sister a wink. “Soon, I’ll have all of you over on the dark side…”
Shaking my head, I wrapped an arm around her shoulders, my lips at her ear. “I love you.”
“Love you, too, baby.”
I gazed at her, my need to get back to Florida growing by leaps and bounds, which only served to remind me that this was most likely the last time I’d ever be not only in this house but in the town in which I’d grown up. As I gazed at the girl who was my future, I knew I needed to close my past.
“Feel like braving the cold, Bella?” I asked her.
“Sure.” Bella smiled, though her adorable face was filled with curiosity.
“I wanna show you something,” I told her, glancing over to Alice. “We won’t be gone long.”
My sister’s face was sad when she nodded, which meant she most likely knew where I was going, but I didn’t say anything.
I guided Bella to my room, where we put on coats and hats and gloves. We left out the front door, but I shot my brother a wave, telling him we’d be back in a bit. I reached for Bella, and she slipped her gloved hand into mine. The snow wasn’t as pristine as it had been. There wasn’t any new snow, so there were tire tracks and shoveled piles and footprints everywhere. I guided her down the street, where the houses became fewer and fewer. The woods were eerily quiet yet heavy with snow on either side of the street. Up ahead, the street narrowed, and my heart constricted at the sight I hadn’t set eyes on in seven years. Hell, I refused to look at it anytime I passed by it.
The railing had been repaired, of course, and the snow made it completely different, but as I helped Bella navigate the snow drifts, I could remember everything as plain as yesterday. The small lake was partially frozen, but it didn’t matter. And I didn’t take my eyes off it as I started to talk.
“We were coming down this way,” I whispered, my breath pluming out in front of me as I pointed to the street. “The… Th-The dog, it… Right there.”
I frowned at the double yellow lines in the center of the small bridge where everything had been sent into a blurry spin. I swallowed back bile as I took in the lake again. The sounds of my mother’s frantic voice, of rushing water, and of the car crunching were all coming at me. Bella’s gloved hands met either side of my face, making me look at her.
“You’re okay. And I’m right here. Edward, say something.”
“I know, I know, I know,” I chanted, letting my forehead drop to hers. “Her… Liam told me… Her seat belt jammed. That’s why she… That’s why…”
“Shhh,” she breathed, pressing her lips to mine. “Edward… Baby, it wasn’t your fault. Not a bit of any of it. Not the wreck or your mother or anything your dad has told you. Nothing. You and Emmett and Alice were all trapped in shit that wasn’t your fault.”
I nodded vehemently against her.
“Edward? Why come here?” she asked softly, her eyes only on me.
Gazing into the face that made me strong, that made me fight for what was right, I finally said, “Because I never want to come back here, Bella. Ever.”
“Okay,” she soothed me, reaching up to straighten my wool cap. Knowing her, I knew she’d rather rake her fingers through my hair, but it was too cold. “Fair enough.”
I pulled back from her, eyeing the lake again, and I was nowhere closer to being over my fear of water than I was at thirteen years old. Swallowing nervously, I whispered, “Aunt Jane says… She says I should see…a therapist.”
“Dr. Carmen.” Her voice was soft and kind, without judgment. When I looked back at her, she smiled. “She’s really nice. Jasper loves her. And you’d like her, too, Edward. She’s…quiet and calm. She’s really easy to talk to. And if you want, I’ll go with you, but it couldn’t hurt. Right?”
“No, no… I guess not,” I murmured and shook my head a little. “Maybe…” As I remembered my sister’s outburst just before we left, I sighed deeply. “Alice, too.”
“I think having someone to talk to isn’t a bad idea…for any of you.” Bella shrugged a shoulder. “But…I’ll go with whatever you decide, Edward.”
“’Kay.” I gave one more glance to the lake, the railing, and the road. “One more place and we’ll go back, okay?”
“Okay, baby.”
I took the same path as the day of my fight with Dad, carefully guiding Bella around the slippery spots on the sidewalk, but when the wrought-iron fence came into view, I stopped us at the gate.
Taking a deep breath, I let it out slowly, and it plumed out again into the cold morning air. Frowning, I adjusted my glasses and then my wool cap before meeting Bella’s gaze.
“Do you… Do you mind?” I asked her, swallowing around the nervous lump in my throat. I wasn’t sure if Bella would want to set foot in a cemetery.
However, she was already shaking her head. “No, baby.” When she held her hand out, I took it and led her toward my mother’s grave.
I found it unchanged from the last time I’d been there, though I still knelt down and brushed the snow away from the poinsettia and off the top of her headstone. Bella stayed quiet by the small fir tree.
Glancing back at her, my heart hurt with how beautiful she was, how full of concern her face was, and I asked the one question I’d pondered the day Alice had picked out the Christmas tree.
“Do you… You believe in…in…something after this?” I waved a hand around, hating that I didn’t have the right words at the moment, but my girl knew what I meant.
She gazed around with warm, dark eyes, taking a step forward and squatting down by my side. “I don’t know, Edward,” she stated honestly. “Despite my Southern upbringing, we aren’t all that religious. I think some people have to believe in order to get through the rough stuff. I think that if anyone deserves something peaceful after all the bullshit, it would be your mother.” She reached up to cup my face in her gloved hand. “I’ve never lost anyone I’m close to, baby, so I don’t know what I’ll feel when I do. I mean, I know it’s inevitable, but that isn’t something I have experience in.”
She leaned in and kissed my cheek. “I could…quote books and movies or whatever, but…” She sighed. “My heart hurts at the thought of it. That one day I’ll lose my family members, whether in old age or sickness or whatever. My need to wrap you up in my arms makes me crazy at the thought of something happening to you, so… That being said, I can’t see you anywhere but a heavenly place after all the shit you’ve been through. Would I like to think that all those beautiful souls are somewhere happy? Sure. But I feel I’m smart enough to say I honestly don’t know.”
She frowned a little. “That’s probably not what you wanted to hear.”
“I’d always rather have your honesty, pretty girl, than for you to say something you think I should hear,” I told her, shrugging a shoulder. “I don’t know, either.” I huffed a laugh, but it fizzled out pretty quickly as I looked back at my mother’s name chiseled artfully into the stone. “I just…” I swallowed back my emotions. “I just wish she’d had the chance to get away from here. I wish I could tell her…everything.”
“You can, sweetheart. And if you believe she’s someplace happy, then you have to believe she’s watching over you.” She tilted my face back to meet her gaze. “She fought like fucking hell to give you a chance to live, Edward. That’s all she wanted – to clear a path for you and Emmett and Alice to flourish in life, and despite all that your dad has done, you now have that chance. After all I’ve heard about her, about this place, I know that all she wanted was for you to be happy. You can tell her now, here, or you can write it down, but I think…I’d like to think she knows, baby.”
I nodded, feeling the sting of tears, because her honesty was sweet and really what I needed to hear. “I miss her, Bella.”
“I know you do, Edward,” she whispered against my cheek, wrapping her arms around me.
“I used to wish it was my dad’s name on this stone, but I was angry at her and him and everyone. I just… I know you’re right. I know all she wanted was for us to follow our dreams. She told us all the time.”
“Angry is normal. I can’t blame you for it at all.”
I sniffled and laughed softly at the same time but looked over at her. “She would’ve really liked you, pretty girl,” I whispered, brushing a lock of hair out of her face. “I know that much.”
“You think so? I don’t know… I mean, I’m crazy about her son, but I talk too much and say dumb things…” She laughed at my grin.
“I know she would… ’Cause it’s you who makes me happy.”
Bella smiled, her eyes watering a little. “Good, Edward. I’m glad.”




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