capitolo tredici

Andare in basso

capitolo tredici

Messaggio  simona80 il Dom 06 Mar 2011, 01:06

Chapter Thirteen
Old Mr. Krangel looked out his peephole into the hallway and saw nothing out of the ordinary. He had heard voices, a man and a woman arguing, but couldn‘t see anyone. He had even heard a name – Beatrice. But he was unaware of any tenant called Beatrice on the floor. And now the hall appeared to be empty.
He‘d already ventured out once that morning; he‘d had to return his anonymous neighbour‘s Saturday paper, which had been delivered to his door by mistake. The Krangels didn‘t take the Saturday paper, but Mrs. Krangel suffered from dementia and had picked it up and hid it in the apartment the day before.
Slightly annoyed at having his Sunday morning thus interrupted by a kemfn in the hallway, Mr. Krangel opened his door and stuck his aged head out. There, not fifty feet from the elevator was a half-naked man on his knees, his head in his hands. His shoulders were shaking.
Mr. Krangel was immediately embarrassed by the pathetic sight before him but was momentarily mesmerized.
He didn‘t recognize the man and he wasn‘t about to introduce himself. Surely a grown man who would waltz about the thirtieth floor of an apartment building barefoot and shirtless and . . . doing whatever it was he was doing, was not the kind of person he wished to know. Men from his generation never cried. Of course, they never took their shirts off in hallways, either. Unless they were – odd. Or lived in California.
Mr. Krangel retreated quickly, closed and locked his door, and then called the concierge downstairs to report a half-naked, crying man out in the hallway who had just had a screaming kemfn with a woman called Beatrice.
It took five tiresome minutes to explain to the concierge what a kemfn was. Mr. Krangel vocally lamented this fact, choosing to place the blame on the Toronto District School Board and their narrow, WASPish curriculum.
It was late October, and the weather in Toronto was already cool. Bella was without something warm under her pea coat as she slowly and miserably walked home, because she had left Edward‘s fouled sweater behind. She hugged her arms tightly across her chest as she walked, wiping away tears.
People passed her on the street and gave her sympathetic glances and tentative smiles. Canadians could be like that – quietly sympathetic, but politely keeping their distance. Bella was grateful for their smiles, and even more grateful that no one stopped her to ask why she was crying. Why she sobbed as she walked past the Royal Ontario Museum. For her story was both too long and too utterly fucked up to tell.
It must be said that Bella had never asked herself why bad things happen to good people, for she already knew the answer; bad things happen to everyone.
Not that it was an excuse or a justification for wronging another human being.
Still, all humans had at least this one shared experience – that of suffering. No human being left this world without shedding a tear, or feeling pain, or wading into the sea of sorrow. Why should her life be any different? Why should she expect special, favoured treatment? Even Mother Teresa suffered and she was a saint.
Bella had caused Edward to suffer, she thought, even if it was only the teeniest, tiniest bit. She had promised herself that she would not be the one to tell him who she was. But he had pushed her so far and so fast into fury and resentment, she had abandoned all reserve and let him have it. She had told him. She told him out of anger, harshly and cruelly, and then she abandoned him and his shattering mind just as he had abandoned her six years ago.
It was poetic, perhaps, but still cruel.
And Bella was never cruel.
Bella could not regret looking after him when he was drunk, even though her good deed had not gone unpunished. For if you truly believe that kindness is never wasted, then you have to hold tightly to that belief even when the kindness is thrown back in your face with a curse.
But she was more ashamed than she could say that she had been so stupid, so foolish, so naïve as to think that he would remember her after a drunken binge and that they could just go back to the way things were (but never were, really) that one night in the meadow.
Bella knew that she had allowed herself to be swept up into the romantic fancy of a fairy tale, without any thought of what the real world, and the real Edward, was like. And for that, she would never forgive herself.
But it was real - the electricity was there. When he kissed me, when he touched me, when our skin connected, the electricity was still there. He had to have felt it – it wasn‟t all in my head.
Bella quickly pushed those thoughts aside, willing herself to stick to her new, non-Masen diet.
It‟s time to grow up. No more fairy tales. No more love at first sight. So what if he said he loved you? He probably says that to all of the girls who warm his bed – just so he won‟t feel guilty for treating them like whores.
As she entered her little hobbit hole, she immediately took a long hot shower, washed her hair and then changed into her oldest and softest flannel pyjamas. Pyjamas Charlie had bought her for Christmas several years ago. Pyjamas that were pale pink with images of rubber duckies on them.
She threw Edward‘s t-shirt to the back of her closet, where she couldn‘t see it and would hopefully forget about it. And then she curled up on her little bed, clutching her velveteen rabbit and fell asleep, physically and emotionally exhausted.
While Bella was sleeping, Edward was warring with himself, staving off the shattering of his mind. He was slumped over his breakfast bar, wiping away the moisture that leaked unwilled from his eyes, drinking copious amounts of black coffee from the pot that Bella had thoughtfully made for him.
He was still trying to grasp the fuller implications of Bella‘s parting words. At first, he hadn‘t believed her. But the things she knew – the details; he realized it must be true. And then when he looked at her closely, before she spat out her final words, he realized that the brown-eyed angel of his memory had been staring him in the face since September. Bella was Beatrice.
And he was the mother of all asses.
As he contemplated her life-altering revelation, he was simultaneously sickened with the roughness with which he had treated her, not just this morning, but since that first class back in September. And in reflecting on his own myriad failures, he could feel himself sliding deeper into despair once again; only this time, he was resolved not to drink himself into oblivion.
This time he would walk towards the light . . .
The last time he had been in despair, he had gone to Esme. He had intended on settling his affairs and then he was going to end himself.
But God had intervened; a genuine Deus ex machina. God had sent him an angel to lift him out of his despair; a delicate, brown-eyed angel in jeans and sneakers with a beautiful face and a pure soul. She had comforted him in his darkness and given him hope. She had loved him, he thought, even though he was unlovable.
She saved me.
And if that first salvation wasn‘t enough, the angel had appeared to him a second time, just when he had cruelly lost the only other strong force of goodness in his life, Esme. The angel had come and she had offered him truth, beauty, hope and love.
And he had responded by cursing her.
He had to go after her. Even if she wanted nothing more to do with him, he had to tell her the truth. He had to make things right with her and try in some small way to atone.
I‟m the Angelfucker now. I‟ve fucked over the brown-eyed angel. .
And with that thought came dry heaves that sent Edward stumbling to the nearest bathroom.
―O you who on the way of Love go by,
listen and see
if there is any grief, as grave as mine:
and I beg you only to suffer me to be heard,
and then reflect
whether I am not the tower and the key of every torment. . .
Now I have lost all my eloquence
which flowed so from love‟s treasure:
and I am grown so poor
in a way that speech barely comes to me.
So that I desire to be like one
who to conceal his poverty through shame,
shows joy outwardly,
and within my heart am troubled and weep.”
Dante‘s lament from La Vita Nuova rang in Edward‘s head, a fitting tribute to the Beatrice he had just lost through his own moral failings. For Edward was self-aware enough to realize that his current torment was of his own making.
If Edward had been reckless, he would have followed Bella immediately. But he knew that he needed to wait until he was absolutely rational before he spoke with her again. And he knew that she needed some time and some space to process her own emotions before he tried to attend to her wounds. Wounds that he had carelessly inflicted.
Once his stomach had settled, he took a long, hot shower to clear the Scotch-woven cobwebs from his mind. The cobwebs had been replaced by poetry and an inexplicable desire to play his long disdained piano. An inexplicable desire for Chopin‘s Fantaisie Impromptu.
Before he would allow himself to play, however, he walked into the kitchen to find something to soothe his growling stomach. He opened the door to the stainless-steel fridge and stood several moments, bathed in its brilliant fluorescence.
His green eyes lazily glanced over the contents until they found themselves fixed on a large white tray that was resting on the very centre shelf.
A very pretty, large white tray.
A very pretty, very feminine, large white tray with food, orange juice and what appeared to be a cocktail on it.
And was that?
She even garnished the plate, for God‟s sake.
Edward‘s breath exited his body and he despaired of it ever returning.
Have you ever been conscious of your own sin? Have you ever been confronted, face to face, with your own ugliness? Not an ugliness of body, but of soul.
The sight of Bella‘s breakfast tray confronted Edward‘s ugliness in a manner that was silent, stark and absolutely unrelenting.
She could not have known this, but in the instant Edward‘s eyes saw Bella‘s gentle handiwork and the love with which she had crafted not only her note, but also his plate, her words from a week ago rang true. Sometimes you can overcome evil with silence, and let people hear their hatefulness loudly in their own ears, without distraction. Sometimes goodness is enough to expose evil for what it really is.
Bella‘s breakfast tray was just as powerful as her words that morning, perhaps even more so.
And Edward was more than stricken by it.
He closed the door to the fridge slowly, clutching her handwritten love note in his hand.
And then, as his heart slowly began to bleed into his chest, he walked over to the piano and placed the note on the music rack.
He sat down on the piano bench, shut his eyes, and began to play, allowing all his turmoil to flow into his long and nimble fingers and onto the ivory and ebony keys; his hands flying across the piano as if they were being chased by a thousand demons from hell.
When Bella finally awoke, it was after ten o‘clock in the evening. She‘d been asleep for hours.
She yawned and stretched and after making a very sad and humble bowl of instant oatmeal and barely being able to choke down a third of it, she decided to check her voice mail.
She had turned her cell phone off when she arrived at Edward‘s the night before and had been unwilling to turn it on afterwards because she was expecting Peter to telephone her while he was driving home from Princeton. She was not in a mood to speak with Peter, then or now, even though she knew he would likely cheer her.
She just wanted to be left alone to lick her wounds in privacy, like a puppy that had been kicked. Repeatedly.
So it was with a heavy heart that she checked her messages, scrolling through to listen to the oldest ones first, frowning when she realized that her inbox was full. Bella‘s voice mail inbox was never full, for the only people who ever called her were Charlie, Alice and Peter, and their messages were always short.
―Hi Bella, it‟s me. It‟s Saturday night and the conference went well. I‟m bringing you back something from Princeton. It‟s small, so don‟t worry. You‟re probably at the library, working. Call me later. (pregnant pause) I miss you.”
Bella sighed and deleted the first message from Peter and moved on to his next one.
―Hey, Bella. It‟s me again. It‟s Sunday morning and I should be home sometime tonight. Do you want to meet for a late dinner? There‟s a great sushi place over by your apartment. Call me. Miss you, little Rabbit.”
Bella deleted Peter‘s second message and then quickly texted him and said she had come down with something that could be the flu and was catching up on her sleep. She would call him when she was feeling better, and she hoped he arrived home safely. She did not tell him that she missed him.
The next message was from a local number that she didn‘t recognize.
―Isabella . . . um, Bella. It‟s Edward. I . . . Please don‟t hang up. I know I‟m the last person you want to hear from but I‟m calling to grovel.
"In fact, I‟m standing outside your building in the rain. I was worried about you and I wanted to be sure you got home safely.
"I wish we could go back to this morning and I could tell you that I‟ve never seen anything more beautiful than the sight of you in my living room, happy and dancing. That I‟m incredibly lucky that you rescued me and stayed with me all night. That I‟m an idiot and a fuck-up and I don‟t deserve your kindness. At all.
"I know I hurt you, Bella, and I‟m sorry.
(deep inhale and exhale) "I should never have let you go this morning; not like that. I should have run after you and begged you to stay. I fucked up, Bella. I fucked up.
"I should have humiliated myself in person, which is what I am trying to do now. Please come outside so I can apologize to you face to face. Actually, don‟t come outside; it‟s too cold for you. You‟ll catch pneumonia. Just come to the front door and listen to me through the glass. I‟m just going to stand here and wait for you. Here is my cell number . . .”
Bella scowled and deleted his message, not even bothering to save his number on her phone.
Still wearing her rubber duckie pyjamas, she opened her apartment door and walked across the hall. She had no intention of listening to Edward; she just wanted to find out if he was still waiting outside in the cold, dark rain.
She pressed her little nose against the glass in the front door, smudging it, and peered outside into the inky blackness. It was no longer raining. And there was no Professor to be found. She wondered how long he had waited. She wondered if he had walked to her apartment without an umbrella. And then her spine stiffened and she told herself that she didn‘t care.
Let him catch pneumonia. Serves him right.
Before she turned to go, she noticed a large bouquet of purple hyacinths leaning up against one of the pillars on the porch. It had a large, white ―B‖ tied to it by an expertly tied pink ribbon, and something that looked like a Hallmark card resting in the middle of it.
Oh really, Professor Masen? I didn‟t know that Hallmark‟s greeting cards included the “something for the girl/graduate student I cussed out after I told her I wanted to pet her and later puked on her” category.
Bella turned on her heel and went back to her apartment, shaking her head and muttering.
Curling up on her bed with her laptop, she decided to perform an internet search on purple hyacinths, just in case Edward (or his florist) was trying to send her a subliminal message. On a horticultural website, she read the following: ―Purple hyacinths symbolize sorrow, the request for forgiveness, or an apology.‖
Yeah, well if you hadn‟t been such a bastard to me, Edward, you wouldn‟t have to buy hyacinths to beg for my forgiveness. Jackass. And hyacinths are a lousy flower, anyway. Would it have killed you to spring for long-stemmed roses? Bastard.
Still shaking her head in irritation, Bella put her laptop aside and checked her last and final voice message. It was from Edward and he had left it a few minutes ago,
―Bella, I wanted to say this in person, but I can‟t wait. I can‟t wait.
"I wasn‟t calling you a whore this morning. I swear. It was a terrible comparison, and I never should have said it, but I wasn‟t calling you a whore. I was objecting to seeing you on your knees. It really - upsets me. Every time. You should be worshipped and adored and treated with dignity. Never on your knees. Never on your knees, Bella. For anyone. No matter what you think of me, that‟s the truth.
"I should have apologized immediately for what Tanya called you. I just finished setting her straight and I want to pass on her apology. She‟s sorry. She and I have a . . . um . . . we . . . uh . . . it‟s complicated. You can probably imagine why she jumped to that conclusion and it has to do only with me and my previous – um – houseguests, and nothing to do with you. I‟m really sorry she insulted and demeaned you. It won‟t happen again, I promise.
"Um, I found the breakfast tray that you left in my fridge. Um . . . . (very long pause) seeing it really did something to me. I can‟t put it into words. Bella, no one has ever done anything like that for me before. No one. Not Esme, not a friend, not a lover, no one. I . . . you‟ve been nothing but good and kind and giving. And I‟ve been nothing but selfish and cruel. (clears throat)
(voice is husky now)
"I – found your note. Please, Bella, we need to talk about your note. I am holding your note in the palm of my hand and I am not going to let it go. But there are some things I need to explain to you, serious things, and I‟m not comfortable doing that over the phone. I‟m sorry for what happened this morning. It‟s all my fault and I want to fix it. Tell me how. Please tell me how to fix this, and I‟ll fix it. But please talk to me. Please.”
Once again, Bella deleted his message and once again she made no attempt to save his cell phone number. She turned her phone off and placed it with her laptop on her card table, and went back to bed, trying to put Edward‘s sad and tortured voice out of her mind.
The next day and the day after that, Bella didn‘t leave her apartment. In fact, she spent all her time in various flannel pyjama sets, trying to distract herself with loud music and a series of well-worn paperbacks by Alexander McCall Smith. His Edinburgh stories were her favourite because they were cheerful, slightly mysterious and smart. She found his writing comforting, like a warm blanket, and more than soothing to her soul. And the stories tended to make her hungry for Scottish things like porridge and Walker‘s shortbread and Isle of Mull cheddar, not necessarily in that order.
Although she had had a truly scarring experience with Edward, hard on the heels of spending the night in his arms, she was more determined than ever that she would not let him break her. She‘d been broken before; he had broken her. And she had sworn in her heart that she would never allow her spirit to be broken again. By anyone.
And so she made the following three decisions:
First, she was not going to drop Masen‘s class, because she needed a Dante seminar to demonstrate her competency.
Second, she was not going to quit school and go back to Forks a coward.
Third, she was going to find herself another thesis director and file the paperwork behind Masen‘s back, as soon as possible.
Near midnight Tuesday night, she finally turned her cell phone on to check her messages. And once again, her inbox was full.
She rolled her eyes when she discovered, not surprisingly, that the first message was from Edward. It had arrived Monday morning,
―Isabella . . . I left something for you last night on your front porch. Did you see it? Did you read the card? Please read it.
"By the way, I had to call Peter Norris in order to get your cell phone number. I made up some excuse about needing to speak with you about your thesis, in case he asks you about it.
"Did you know that you forgot your I pod? I‟ve been listening to it. I was surprised to find that you are a fan of Arcade Fire. So am I. I‟ve been listening to “Intervention,” although I‟m more than surprised that someone as well-adjusted and happy as you would listen to such a tragic song.
"I‟d like to be able to return your I pod in person.
"I‟d like you to talk to me a little. Scream at me. Curse me. Throw things in my face. Anything but silence, Isabella. Please. (large sigh) Just a few moments of your time, that‟s all I ask. Call me.”
Bella deleted his message without sighing, and promptly walked herself and her now Scottish tartan flannel pyjamas out to the front porch. She picked up the card that was attached to the bouquet, ripped it into a hundred pieces, and threw the pieces over the railing and into the grass. She then picked up the now withered purple hyacinths and threw them over the railing, too.
Then she inhaled the cold night air deeply and ran back inside, slamming the front door behind her.
Once she had calmed down, marginally, she listened to the next message, which was also from Edward. He had called her that afternoon,
―Isabella, did you know that Alice is on a God-forsaken Canadian island? With no access to either a cell phone or her email? I had to call Carlisle, for God‟s sake, when she wouldn‟t answer her phone. I was trying to track her down so she can track you down since you are refusing to respond to my messages.
Listen, I‟m worried about you. I checked around and no one, not even Peter, has seen you for days. So I‟m going to send you an email, but it‟s going to be formal because the University has access to my email account. I‟m hoping you get this message before you read it, otherwise you‟ll think I‟m being an ass again. But I‟m not. I just have to sound like one in an official email. And if you reply to me, keep in mind anyone from the Administration can read those emails. So be careful what you say.
"I‟ll see you at my seminar tomorrow afternoon. If you aren‟t there, I‟m going to call your father and I‟m going to ask him to track you down. For all I know, you‟re already on a bus on your way back to Forks. Call me, please. I‟ve had to restrain myself from coming over every day since Sunday.
(long pause) "I just want to know that you‟re alright. Two words, Bella. Just text me two words – tell me you‟re okay. That‟s all I‟m asking.”
Bella quickly turned on her computer and checked her university email account. There, sitting in her inbox like a dirty bomb, was the following message from Professor Edward A. C. Masen,
Dear Miss Swan,
I need to speak to you concerning a matter of some urgency.
Please contact me as soon as possible.
You may telephone me at the following number: 416-zzz-zzzz (cell).
Prof. Edward A. C. Masen,
Associate Professor
Department of Italian Studies/
Centre for Medieval Studies
University of Toronto.
Bella deleted the email message and the voice mail message without a second thought and then she typed a quick email to Peter, explaining that she was too sick to attend Professor Masen‘s seminar the following afternoon and asking Peter to pass that information on to the Professor. Then she thanked Peter for his several emails, apologized for not answering sooner, and asked if he‘d like to accompany her to the Royal Ontario Museum to see the Florentine art exhibit when she was feeling better.
The following day, she spent the better part of the afternoon composing an exploratory email to Professor Jennifer Leaming of the Department of Philosophy. Professor Leaming was an Aquinas specialist who also had an interest in Dante. Although Bella didn‘t know her personally, Peter had been in her class and had liked her a great deal. She was young, she was funny, and very popular with her students; the complete opposite of Professor Masen. Bella was hoping Professor Leaming would consider directing her master‘s thesis and she stated this hope as a mere possibility in her email.
Bella wanted to consult Peter about the switch and take his advice, but she couldn‘t. She knew that he would assume that Masen had dropped her and would likely confront him about it. So she sent the email to Professor Leaming and hoped that she would receive it graciously. And respond quickly.
Later that evening, Bella checked her voice mail and once again, there was another message waiting from Edward,
―Isabella, it‟s Wednesday evening. I missed you in the seminar. You brighten a room, you know, just by being present in it. I‟m sorry I never said that to you before. I should have.
"Peter said you‟ve been sick. Can I bring you chicken soup? Ice cream? Orange juice? I could have those items delivered, Bella. You wouldn‟t have to see me. Please let me help you. I feel terrible knowing that you‟re in your apartment, alone and sick and suffering, and there‟s nothing I can do.
"At least I know that you are safe and not on a Greyhound bus somewhere in the Dakotas.
(pauses; clears throat)
"Bella, I remember kissing you. You kissed me back. You kissed me back, Bella, I know you did. Didn‟t you feel it? There is something between us. Or at least, there was.
"Please, we need to talk. You can‟t say something like what you said and not give me a chance to respond. You need to let me explain a few things to you. More than a few things, alright? Just call me back. All I‟m asking for is one conversation before we go our separate ways.”
The tone of Edward‘s voice throughout his messages had grown increasingly depressed. Bella noticed that fact but she pushed it aside as she turned off her phone, deliberately suppressing her own innate empathy.
She knew the University had access to Edward‘s email but she didn‘t care. His messages needed to stop; she would never be able to move on if he kept bothering her. And it didn‘t seem that he was going to be giving up any time soon.
So Bella did something dangerous. She typed out the following email and sent it to his university email address, deliberately using the provocative ―h‖ word, and pouring all of her hurt and anger into every single word,
Dr. Masen,
No, I did not read your card. I destroyed it.
Stop harassing me.
I don‘t want you anymore.
I don‘t even want to know you.
If you don‟t leave me alone, I will be forced to make an appointment with the University‟s harassment officer and file a formal complaint.
And if you call my father, I will do just that.
If you think I‟m going to let a little insignificant thing like this drive me from the program, then you are very much mistaken.
I need a new thesis director; not a bus ticket home.
Miss I. M. Swan,
Lowly Graduate Student,
P.S. I will be returning the M. T. Masen bursary next week. The first and middle initials are very apt.
Congratulations, Professor Abelard. No one has ever made me feel as empty as you did Sunday morning.
Bella pressed ―send‖ without proofreading her message and then, in a fit of rebellion, she took two shots of tequila and began to play the song, ―All the Pretty Faces‖ by The Killers on her laptop. At a high volume. On repeat.
It was a Bridget Jones moment if there ever was one.
Bella grabbed her hairbrush from the bathroom and began singing into it as if it were a microphone, and dancing about her room in her now marching penguin-decorated flannel pyjamas, looking more than slightly ridiculous. And juvenile. And feeling strangely - dangerous, daring, and defiant.
―Help me out, I need it I don't feel like loving him no more Help me out, I need it I don't feel like fucking him no more Well how did it happen I spent SIX long years in a strange strange land Well how did it happen I'd do anything just to be your woman . . .
Help me out, I need it I don't feel like touching
I don‟t feel like loving you no more . . .”
In the days after Bella sent her angry email, all contact from Professor Masen ceased. Every day she somehow expected to hear from him, but every day there was nothing.
Until the following Tuesday morning, when she received another voice mail,
―Isabella, you‟re angry and hurt; I understand that. But don‟t let your anger prevent you from keeping something you earned by being the top master‟s student in this year‟s admissions pool.
"Please don‟t deprive yourself of money you could use to go home and visit your father just because I was a bastard.
"I‟m sorry I made you feel empty. It‟s trite, but it‟s true. I‟m sure when you called me Abelard, you didn‟t mean it as a compliment. But Abelard truly cared for Héloïse and I care for you. So in that sense, there is a similarity. He also hurt her, as I have hurt you. But he was also deeply sorry for having injured her. Have you ever read his letters to her? Read the sixth letter and see if it alters your perception of him . . . and me.
"The bursary was never awarded before because I never found someone who was special enough to receive it. Until I found you. If you give it back, the money will just sit in the Foundation‟s bank account earning interest and benefiting no one. I‟m not going to allow anyone else to have that money because it‟s yours now.
"I was trying to bring goodness out of evil. But I failed in doing that just like I‟ve failed in everything else. I‟m a failure, Bella. A complete and total failure. Everything I touch becomes contaminated or destroyed . . .
(long pause)
"But there is one thing I can do for you and that is find you another thesis advisor. Katherine Picton is a friend of mine and although she‟s retired, she has agreed to meet with you to discuss the possibility of directing your project. This will be a tremendous opportunity for you, in more ways than one. She asked me to have you contact her directly via email, as soon as possible, at kpicton[at]utoronto[dot]ca
"I know it‟s officially too late for you to drop my seminar, but I‟m sure that‟s what you want. I will approach one of my colleagues and see if she will supervise a reading course with you, and then you‟ll still have enough credits to graduate in May if you drop my class. I‟ll sign the drop form and work it out for you with the School of Graduate Studies. Just tell Peter what you want to do and ask him to pass on the message. I know you don‟t want to talk to me.
(clears throat) "Peter is a good man.
(muttering) "Audentus fortuna iuvat.
(pause; voice drops to almost a whisper)
"I‟m sorry you don‟t want to know me anymore. I will spend the rest of my life regretting the fact that I wasted my second chance to know you. And I will always be conscious of your absence.
"But I won‟t bother you again.
(clears throat twice)
"Goodbye, Isabella.” (long, long pause before Edward finally hangs up)
Bella was stunned. She sat, open mouthed, with her phone in her hand, trying to wrap her mind around his message. She listened to it again and again as if it were in Latin, puzzling out the words and trying to translate it.
Only Professor Masen could use an apologetic voice mail as an occasion to re-assert his academic prowess and give Bella an impromptu lecture on Peter Abelard. Bella moved past her annoyance at that fact, deciding not to follow his suggestion and read Abelard‘s letter.
He‟s not the boss of me, she thought. And then she turned her attention to the more interesting part of his message, when he mentioned Katherine Picton.
Professor Picton was a seventy-year old Oxford-educated Dante specialist, who had taught at Cambridge and Yale before she was lured to the University of Toronto by an endowed chair in Italian Studies. She was known to be severe, demanding and brilliant, and her erudition rivalled that of Mark Musa.
Bella‘s career would be greatly advanced if she were to write a successful thesis under Professor Picton‘s supervision, and she knew it. The Professor could open doors for Bella far beyond those open to Edward. Professor Picton could send Bella anywhere for her doctorate, Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard. . .
Edward was single-handedly giving Bella the biggest career opportunity of her life, gift-wrapped with a bright, shiny bow. An opportunity worth far more than a messenger bag or the M. T. Masen bursary.
But what were the strings attached to the gift?
Atonement, Bella thought. He‟s trying to make up for every wrong he has ever done to me.
Edward was asking Katherine Picton to do him a favour, for Bella. Emeritus professors rarely, if ever, directed doctoral dissertations, let alone master‘s theses. This was a tremendous favour that would have required Edward to call in all of his markers with Katherine.
All for me.
After she contemplated this new information from all angles, Bella pushed aside everything to focus on the single question that filled her heart with shameful dread.
Edward is telling me goodbye?
She listened to the message three more times and then with more than a little self-criticism, she cried herself to sleep. For despite all her defiance, there was a flame in her that recognized its twin in Edward. And that flame could not be extinguished, unless Bella was willing to extinguish a part of herself.
Early the next morning, Bella called Peter under the pretence of making plans to meet him before Masen‘s seminar. She had hoped that he would tell her that Masen had gotten sick or mysteriously left for England or taken ill with swine flu and effectively cancelled his seminar for the rest of the semester. Sadly, he had done none of those things.
Bella had already decided that she would continue attending the Dante seminar, just in case Edward had trouble finding her a reading course as a substitute. Indeed, if Professor Picton became her thesis advisor, Bella was confident she could tolerate being in Masen‘s seminar for the five remaining weeks of the semester.
So that afternoon, she wandered into the office of the Centre for Medieval Studies in order to check her mailbox, before she was supposed to meet Peter.
She was somewhat intrigued to find a large, padded manila envelope in her pigeon hole. Removing it, she noticed with some surprise that there was no name on it. It was not addressed to her, nor was there any return address or any marking of any kind on the envelope. However, it was sealed shut.
She quickly slid her finger through the adhesive, opening it quickly.
And what she saw inside shocked her.
Nestled inside the padded manila envelope like the feathers of a raven, was a black lace bra. Her black lace bra. Her black lace bra that she had left, unfortunately, on top of Edward‘s washing machine.
That bastard.
Bella was so angry, her body began to shake. How dare he return it to her mailbox? Anyone, anyone, could have been standing next to her when she opened it.
Is he trying to humiliate me? Or does he think this is funny?!
Bella didn‘t notice that her I pod was also inside the envelope.
―Hey, gorgeous.‖
She jumped about a foot off the floor and shrieked.
―Whoa, Bella, I didn‘t mean to scare you.‖
She looked up into Peter‘s kind dark eyes and saw him staring down at her with a puzzled expression.
―You‘re jumpy today. What‘s that?‖ He pointed to her envelope, hands still raised.
―Junk mail.‖ She stuffed the envelope into her new and improved L. L. Bean knapsack and forced a smile. ―Ready for Masen‘s seminar? I think it‘s going to be a good one.‖
Peter laughed. ―I don‘t think so. He‘s in a foul mood, again. I need to warn you not to mess with him today; he‘s been out of sorts for two weeks.‖
Peter‘s face took on a very serious expression. ―I don‘t want a repeat of what happened the last time he was like this. Although this time, I‘m going to step in if he attacks you.‖
Bella tossed her hair slightly and grinned.
Actually, I think that you need to tell Masen not to mess with me today. I‟ve got a lot of rage, a black bra, and I‟m wearing a thong. He‟s the one in trouble, not me.
―I‘m so glad you‘re feeling better. I was really worried about you.‖
Peter reached out to take her little hand in his, spreading wide her palm and placing something cold in it. He closed her fingers in on themselves and squeezed gently.
Bella withdrew her hand and uncurled her fingers.
Resting on her palm was a beautiful silver key ring, with a striped ―P‖ that swung like a pendulum from the ring itself.
―Now, please don‘t tell me you‘re not going to accept it. I know you don‘t have a nice key ring and I wanted you to know I was thinking about you while I was gone. So please don‘t give it back.‖
Bella blushed a rosy pink.
―I‘m not going to give it back,‖ she said, softly. ―I don‘t want to be the kind of person who flings kindness back in someone‘s face. I know what that feels like and I‘ve learnt my lesson.‖
She looked around quickly, making sure that they were alone. ―Thank you, Peter. I‘ve missed you, too. You‘re a good friend.‖
She stepped closer to him and hesitantly put her arms around his barrel chest, clutching the key ring in between her fingers. She pressed her cheek against the buttons of his shirt and hugged him.
―Thank you,‖ she sighed, as his long, muscular arms engulfed her.
He brought his lips to the top of her head and pressed them cautiously to her hair.
―You‘re welcome, Rabbit.‖
Unbeknownst to them, a certain angst driven green-eyed Dante specialist had just walked through the door, eager to discover if a certain item had been received by its owner. He froze in his tracks as he saw the young couple in front of him, murmuring to each other and locked in an embrace.
He growled.
And the original Angelfucker makes his move.
―But who has been flinging kindness back in your face?‖ Peter asked, oblivious to the dragon who was standing behind him, silently breathing fire.
Bella was mute and unconsciously hugged him more tightly.
―Tell me, Rabbit, and I‘ll fix him. Her. Whomever.‖ Peter‘s lips moved against Bella‘s hair. ―You know that you‘re special to me, right? And that if you ever need anything, you just have to ask. Anything at all. Okay?‖
She sighed against his chest. ―I know.‖
The green-eyed monster turned on his heel and abruptly departed, cursing about a Rabbitfucker as he disappeared down the hallway.
Bella broke free first.
―Thanks, Peter. I needed a hug. And thanks for this.‖ She held the key ring up and smiled.
I could look at that smile forever, thought Peter.
―You‘re welcome, Bella. My pleasure.‖
Shortly thereafter, they entered the seminar room together. Bella studiously avoided making eye contact with Edward, laughing softly at one of Peter‘s jokes.
Peter‘s hand pressed lightly and familiarly to her lower back as he guided her to their seats.
At the front of the seminar room, Edward seethed, his long white fingers gripping the edge of the lectern and not letting go.
Hands off her back, Rabbitfucker.
He stared with hostility at Peter, until he was suddenly distracted by Bella‘s ridiculous book bag. He wondered how she had been able to transform it so effectively from its previous putrid state.
And then he wondered why she wasn‘t using her new messenger bag. And the thought tortured him.
Did Alice tell her?
He fidgeted slightly with his bow tie, purposefully drawing attention to it. He had worn it as a sign of his own self-strangulation and self-mortification. He had worn it to attract her attention. But she didn‘t seem to notice. And she certainly wasn‘t looking at him.
Instead, she was whispering and laughing with Peter, her dark hair long and flowing, her cheeks slightly pink and her mouth . . . Bella was even more beautiful now than in his memory.
―Miss Swan, I need to speak with you after class, please.‖
Edward smiled in her direction and then he looked down at his Gucci horse-bit loafers and shuffled his feet.
He was about to begin his seminar, when a small but determined voice from the back of the classroom interrupted him.
―I‘m sorry, Professor, I can‘t. I have an urgent appointment afterwards that cannot be delayed.‖ Bella looked over at Peter and winked.
Edward slowly raised his head and stared straight at her.
Ten graduate students inhaled as one and began to move backwards in their chairs, fearful that he might explode, or that a dagger from his eye might fly out and gut them.
She was baiting him. And he knew it. Her tone, her physical proximity to Peter, the way she flicked her hair behind her shoulder with the delicate fan of her hand. . .
Edward was distracted momentarily by the curve of her neck, her delicate skin, the scent of strawberry that either wafted towards him or came to him only in memory.
He wanted to say something, to demand that she speak with him, but he knew that he couldn‘t. If he lost his temper now, if he was aggressive with her, she would only retreat further from his grasp and he would lose her. He could not let that happen.
Edward blinked. Rapidly.
―Of course, Miss Swan. These things happen. Please email me to set up an appointment for another time.‖ He tried to smile, but found that he couldn‘t; only one-half of his mouth would curl up, making him look as if he‘d been stricken with palsy.
Bella shifted her gaze to stare back at him, her expression empty. She did not blush. She did not blink. She just looked - vacant.
Edward noticed her expression, which he‘d never seen before, and began to panic.
I‟m trying to be nice to her and she looks at me as if I wasn‟t there. Is it really so surprising that I can be cordial? That I can keep my temper?
Peter dropped his hand below the table and quickly but gently squeezed Bella‘s arm at the elbow.
His touch distracted her and so she looked at him and he shook his head almost imperceptibly and then his eyes flickered to the front of the room and back to her.
Bella seemed to be awakened from her reverie. ―Of course, Professor. Another time.‖ And for good measure, she averted her eyes and waited without expression for the class to begin.
Edward‘s mind was racing. If he couldn‘t speak with her today, he would have to go days and perhaps weeks without explaining. He couldn‘t wait that long. Their separation was eating away at him. And the longer he waited, the less receptive she was going to be to his explanation.
He had to do something. He had to find some way of communicating to her. Immediately.
―Um, I‘ve decided that rather than have a normal seminar today, I will deliver a lecture. The theme of my lecture will be the relationship between Dante and Beatrice. In particular, what transpired between them later in life when Dante met Beatrice the second time and she rejected him.‖
Bella stifled a gasp and looked up at him in horror.
―I‘m sorry to have to do this,‖ his voice took on a comforting tone, ―but I was left with no other choice. A misunderstanding has emerged that must be dealt with. Before it‘s too late.‖
His eyes met hers for the merest of seconds, and then he looked down at his notes. Of course, his notes were of no use for this particular lecture.
Bella‘s heart raced.
Oh. No. He wouldn‟t . . ..
Edward inhaled deeply and began.
―Beatrice represents many things for Dante. Most importantly, an ideal of womanhood and femininity. Beatrice is beautiful. She‘s intelligent and charming. She has all of the character qualities Dante believes are essential to the ideal woman.
"He first encounters her when they are both very young, too young for any kind of relationship, but he waits for her. And rather than sully their love with any kind of pedestrian or tawdry entanglement, he chooses to adore her reverently but distantly, in deference to her age and experience.
"Time passes. He meets Beatrice again. She has now matured into a talented and intelligent young lady; very gifted and very beautiful. Now his feelings for her are far stronger, even though he is married to someone else. He pours his affection into writing poetry and pens several sonnets for Beatrice, but none for his wife.
"But Dante does not know Beatrice. He has little contact with her. Even so, he adores her from afar. And after she dies at the young age of twenty-four, he celebrates her in his writings and in his poetry.
"In The Divine Comedy, Dante‘s most famous work, Beatrice helps to persuade Virgil to guide Dante through Hell because she, as one of the redeemed in Paradise, is unable to descend into Hell to rescue him. Once Virgil sees Dante safely through, she joins him and guides him through Purgatory and into Paradise.
"But for my lecture today, I wish to pose the following question: where was Beatrice and what was she doing in between her two meetings with Dante?
"He waited and waited for her for years. She knew where he lived. She knew his family; she was friendly, very friendly, with his family. She could have written to him. If she cared about him so much, why didn‘t she? I think the answer is obvious; their relationship was entirely one-sided. Dante cared for Beatrice, but Beatrice cared nothing for Dante.‖
Bella almost fell off her chair.
All of the graduate students were following his lecture diligently and taking copious notes, although those students, like Peter, Bella and Angela, who were familiar with Dante found precious little that was new in his lecture.
With the exception of the last full paragraph, which had nothing whatsoever to do with Dante Alighieri and Beatrice Portinari, at all.
Edward‘s eyes wandered to Bella‘s and lingered there almost a beat too long, and then he turned to Angela, smiled flirtatiously, and resumed his lecture.
Bella fumed. He was doing that on purpose; purposefully looking at her and then focusing all of his attention on Angela-the-Gollum, just so she could see how easily she could be replaced.
Fine. If he wants to play the jealousy game, bring it.
Bella began to tap her notebook with her pen just loud enough to be distracting. When Edward‘s narrowed eyes darted around to look for the offending noise and they landed on her left hand, she slid her right hand closer to Peter and gave his hand a squeeze.
Peter looked over at her with a heart-melting smile and she gazed up into his eyes through her eyelashes. She parted her lips, exposing her teeth and gave Peter the slowest, sweetest smile she could muster.
A half-groan, half-cough from the front of the room caused Peter to rip his eyes away from her and stare straight into the very angry emerald eyes of Professor Masen.
Peter withdrew his hand from Bella‘s immediately.
Bella huffed.
Smirking now, and still continuing his lecture without fumbling a word, Edward began to write on the board.
More than one graduate student reacted in shock when they saw what he had written, which was the following:
In real life, Beatrice was willing to leave Dante in Hell because she couldn‟t be bothered to keep her promise.
Bella was the last person to look up because she was still huffing about what had just happened with Peter.
By the time she saw the board, Edward was leaning his back against it with his arms folded across his chest and a very smug expression on his face.
Bella determined then and there that even if he had her expelled, that smug expression was going to be wiped off his face. Immediately.
She put her hand up and waited until he called on her.
―That‘s really arrogant and self-serving, Professor.‖
Peter placed his hand on her arm and did more than squeeze, his fingers tightening and slightly tugging at her. ―Don‘t,‖ he whispered. ―Are you crazy?‖
Bella ignored Peter and continued.
―Why blame Beatrice? She‘s the victim in all of this. Dante met her when she was under eighteen. It wasn‘t possible for them to be together. Unless he‘s a pedophile. Are you telling us that Dante is a pedophile, Professor Masen?‖
One of the female students gasped.
Edward scowled. ―Of course not! He has true affection for her and this affection is undiminished even during their separation. If she had ever had the courage to ask him, he would have told her that. Unequivocally.‖
Bella moved her head to one side and narrowed her eyes. ―That‘s a bit difficult to believe. Everything in Dante‘s later life seems to revolve around sex. He can‘t relate to women in any other way. And he‘s certainly not sitting at home alone on Friday and Saturday nights waiting for Beatrice. So he must not have cared for her.‖
Edward‘s face grew very red and he unfolded his arms, taking a step in her direction.
Peter immediately put his hand up, trying to distract Edward, but Edward ignored him and came another step closer to Bella.
―He is a man, after all, and needs – uh – companionship. And if it makes it any more palatable, those women were just helpful friends. Nothing more. His draw to Beatrice is undiminished. He just despaired of waiting for her, since it was obvious that he was never going to see her again. And that‘s her fault, not his.‖
She smiled sweetly as she prepared her knife.
―If that‘s affection, I‘ll take hatred.
"And just what were these friends so helpful with, Professor? Hmmmm? They‘re not friends; they‘re pelvic affiliates. Wouldn‘t a friend want the other person to have a good life? A happy life? And not be clawing after fleeting pleasure like a randy old sex addict?‖
Bella saw Edward wince, but she ignored his reaction and ploughed ahead.
―It‘s commonly known that Dante‘s dalliances were anonymous and tawdry. He tended to pick up women at the meat market, I believe, and when he was finished with them, he simply threw them away. That doesn‘t sound like someone who would appeal to Beatrice.
In addition to these nameless, faceless, colourless conquests, he has a mistress named Tanya.‖
Immediately, ten pairs of eyes swung inquisitively to Bella.
Bella flushed a deep red, but continued, somewhat flustered.
―I – I found something once by a woman from Seattle who unearthed evidence of their relationship. If Beatrice lacked affection for Dante and rejected him later in life, it was completely justified. Dante was a self-absorbed, cruel and arrogant man-whore who treated women like toys for his own personal amusement.‖
Now at this point, both Angela and Peter were wondering what in the holy hell had just happened to their Dante seminar, for neither of them knew anything about a female Dante expert from Seattle or a mistress named Tanya. They silent pledged to spend more time in the library from now on.
―I believe I‘m somewhat familiar with the woman you‘re talking about, but I don‘t believe she‘s from Seattle. I think she‘s from some podunk village somewhere in rural Washington. And she doesn‘t know what she‘s talking about, so she should refrain from pronouncing judgement.‖
Bella‘s cheeks flamed. ―That‘s an ad hominem objection. Her place of origin doesn‘t diminish her credibility. And Dante and his family were from a podunk village, too. Not that Dante would ever admit it.‖
Edward‘s shoulders shook slightly as he tried to control himself.
―I‘d hardly call the Florence of the fourteenth century podunk. And with respect to the mistress, that‘s just shoddy research. In fact, I‘ll go further. That woman‘s head is filled with nothing more than appalling rubbish, and she doesn‘t have a shred of evidence for her conjectures.‖
―I wouldn‘t dismiss her evidence out of hand, Professor, unless you‘re prepared to discuss it in detail. And you haven‘t given us an argument, just an abusive attack,‖ she countered, arching an eyebrow at him and trembling slightly.
Peter took her hand underneath the table and squeezed. ―Stop it,‖ he whispered, so low only she could hear. ―Right now.‖
Edward‘s face reddened slightly and he began to breathe through his mouth.
―If that woman had wanted to know how Dante truly felt about Beatrice, she knew where to find the answer. And then she wouldn‘t be shooting her mouth off about things she knew absolutely nothing about. And making herself and Dante look ridiculous. In public.‖
Angela looked from Professor Masen to Bella and then back again. Something wasn‘t right. Something was definitely wrong but she had no idea what it was. But she was determined to find out.
Edward turned back to the board and began writing, trying to calm himself down.
Dante thought it was a dream.
―The language that Dante uses about his first meeting with Beatrice has a dreamlike quality. For various – ah - personal reasons, he doesn‘t trust his senses. He‘s not sure who she is. In fact, one theory is that Dante thought Beatrice was an angel; an angel with brown eyes.
"So later in life, Beatrice is completely out of order in assuming that he remembered everything from their first meeting and in holding that fact against him and not giving him the opportunity to explain himself. For clearly, if he thought that Beatrice was an angel, he would have no hope that she would return.
"And Dante would have explained all of this to her, if she hadn‘t rejected him before he had the chance. So once again, her lack of clarity on this point is her fault. Not his.‖
Bella‘s hand shot up and Edward reluctantly nodded at her and then grew very tense as he waited for her to speak.
―The discussion of their first meeting is patently irrelevant, since Dante must have recognized her when he saw her the second time, dream or not. So why did he pretend not to recognize her?‖
―He wasn‘t pretending. She was familiar to him, but she was all grown up, he was confused and he was upset about other things in life.‖ Edward‘s voice was slightly pained.
―I‘m sure that‘s what he told himself so he could sleep at night, when he wasn‘t on a whoring alcoholic bender in the lobbies of downtown Florence.‖
―Bella, please. That‘s enough.‖ Peter raised his voice above a whisper.
―That has nothing to do with it!‖ Edward inhaled and exhaled quickly as he tried in vain to keep his emotions in check.
He dropped his voice and stared only at her, ignoring the way Peter had shifted his body so that he could come between the Professor and Bella if need be.
―Haven‘t you ever been lonely, Miss Swan? Haven‘t you ever ached for companionship, even if it‘s only carnal and temporary? Sometimes it‘s all you can get. And so you take it and you‘re grateful for it, while recognizing it for what it is, because you have no other choice. Instead of being so high-handed and self-righteous in your assessment of Dante‘s lifestyle, you should try having a little compassion and understanding.‖
Edward snapped his mouth shut as he realized he had revealed far more than he had ever intended.
Bella stared back at him coolly and waited.
―Dante was haunted by his memory of Beatrice. And that made things worse, not better, for no one ever measured up to her. No one was beautiful enough, no one was pure enough, no one made him feel the way she did. He always wanted her; he just despaired of ever finding her again. Believe me, if she had presented herself earlier and told him who she was, he would have dropped everything and everyone for her. Immediately.‖
Edward‘s eyes grew desperate as they bore into Bella‘s wide brown eyes.
―What was he supposed to do, Miss Swan? Hmmmm? Enlighten us. Beatrice rejected him. He only had one thing of value left, and that was his career. When she threatened that, what else could he do? He had to let her go, but that was her choice, not his.‖
Bella smiled sweetly at his tirade and he knew that he was in for it.
―Your lecture has been very illuminating, Professor. But I still have one more question.
So just for the sake of clarification, you‘re saying that Tanya is not Dante‘s mistress? That she‘s just a regular fuck buddy?‖
As Bella‘s provocation floated across the room and into Edward‘s ears, he snapped the whiteboard marker in two. The black ink spread across his fingers like a starless night and his eyes ignited into a brilliant, angry green.
That‟s it. That‟s fucking it.
Peter pulled Bella into his side protectively, curving his body around her as he watched the Professor‘s shoulders begin to shake with rage.
―Class is dismissed. In my office, Miss Swan. Now!‖ He angrily shoved his notes and his books into his briefcase, and then Professor Masen exited the seminar room, slamming the door behind him.
Chapter Notes: Kemfn is Yiddish for "fight."
Edward's poem is a quotation from Dante's La Vita Nuova, section vii.
In his final voice message to Bella, Edward mutters a quotation from Virgil, "Audentus fortuna iuvat," which translates, "Fortune favours the bold."


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