capitolo trentaquattro

Andare in basso

capitolo trentaquattro

Messaggio  simona80 il Sab 12 Mar 2011, 22:18

Chapter Thirty-Four
"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." Victoria leaned back against the vanity in the ladies' washroom of University College, while her client sat crying softly in a small chair to her right.
Bella dabbed at her eyes. "Of course something is rotten! Did you see the way he looked at me? He hates me!"
Victoria tried to form a sympathetic expression, but she was like a dog on the hunt and her extreme focus allowed her very little latitude for emotional responses.
"I meant that what just happened – what Edward did – doesn't make sense." She pulled her Blackberry out of her briefcase, scrolled through her emails and then returned the cursed device to its former resting place.
"I know James. I went out with him a few times. His plan would have been to say nothing and then to file a lawsuit so that he could use a courtroom to cross-examine the witnesses and the evidence. And along the way, he would have hinted that everything was your fault, setting the groundwork for Edward's defence.
"Why didn't Edward follow James' advice?" Victoria gazed at Bella curiously. "I don't understand."
"Do you think he was trying to protect me?"
"Why would he, didn't you just say that he hates you? Besides, it's against his self-interest for him to confess and take the blame when you two could have shared the blame and each received a lesser punishment. With his confession, they'll fire him for sure. He just handed Aro his ass on a silver platter."
Victoria fixed Bella with a stern eye. "Do you know something? Some secret that Edward might worry would come out? Something extremely damaging or possibly criminal?"
Bella shook her head vehemently. Edward's drug use was in the past as was his rampant promiscuity, including his encounter with Professor Pain. Of course, there was the small matter of the black market Botticelli prints, but she would never reveal their existence to anyone. Least of all, to Victoria.
"Are you sure?" Victoria's eyes narrowed.
"There's nothing." Bella sniffled, wiping her nose with a tissue.
Victoria tossed her long, red hair. "Then he must be keeping secrets from you, too. But I can't imagine what would be more damaging to him than losing a tenured position. He has to know that once they fire him no other university will want him. Prospective employers will always assume that he was fired over something egregious, even if everything is kept secret. He basically begged the VOLTURI to end his academic life, but why?"
"You don't think he did it to protect me?" Bella asked again, stubbornly.
Victoria smothered a patronizing smile, for really, it would have been inappropriate to smile at that moment.
"No, I don't. Human beings are selfish and martyrs are crazy. Professor Masen isn't crazy. The only explanation for his behaviour is that he was protecting himself – hiding some secret that we will probably never uncover. Something not even his lawyer knew about. Edward went rogue and took James by surprise. Otherwise, we'd still be sitting in there."
Bella stood at the sink and washed her face and hands, trying to make herself appear presentable.
Victoria sighed.
"I don't mean to be calloused, but I really don't think you should be crying over Edward Masen. I don't think you should cry over any man, but especially not him."
"What are you talking about?"
"I'm sure he was amused by you and he might have said pretty things to tickle your ears so you'd screw him and keep your mouth shut. But men like him can't be trusted. And they never change." She continued hurriedly as she saw the horrified expression on Bella's face.
"I wasn't going to mention this, but a friend of mine hooked up with him a couple of times. They met at Lobby about a year ago and ended up fucking in the washroom. They exchanged numbers and got together once or twice and then he stopped calling.
"One day last October, he called her. Out of the blue. He said that he needed to see her that night. One more hook up and then she never saw or heard from him again. It was as if he vanished." Victoria measured Bella's reaction.
"Why would you want to be with someone like that? He was probably seeing other women the entire time he was with you. You're lucky you aren't being expelled because of him and you're damn lucky to be able to cut your losses now."
"You don't know him. Don't judge him." Bella's voice was quietly aggressive.
Victoria simply shrugged dug around in and her briefcase for her lipstick.
Bella closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to process these new revelations.
Edward and I started getting close in October … was he sleeping with someone else when he was sending me flowers and emails?
Was he sleeping with someone else after I told him I wouldn't share?
Bella made a retching sound and stumbled into one of the stalls, heaving the contents of her stomach into the toilet.
She didn't know what to believe. Her heart told her to believe Edward, but she couldn't deny the fact that Victoria had planted a seed of doubt in her mind.
Once Victoria helped Bella clean up and compose herself, they walked out into the hallway and headed for the stairs, hoping to make their escape.
James and Edward were doing the same thing. Neither of the men looked happy.
"Edward!" Bella called to him hesitantly.
James glared in her general direction. "You can't talk to her, Edward. Let's go."
"Edward?" Bella looked over into conflicted green eyes. He didn't look disgusted anymore; he seemed worried and possibly afraid.
"Haven't you done enough damage for one day?" spat his attorney, taking a menacing step in Bella's direction.
"Don't speak to her like that." Edward moved to stand in between them, shielding Bella with his body.
"Listen you assholes, Aro and his minions are about to come through that door any minute and I'd prefer to be gone before that happens. So whatever conversation you need to have, make it quick," Victoria snapped.
"Over my dead body." James glowered. "They shouldn't be talking to each other. At all."
Edward shot his lawyer a look of warning and then gritted his teeth, turning around to face Bella.
"What's going on? Why did he say you shouldn't talk to me?" Bella wiped at her eyes, at tears that welled up against her will.
"You were not sensible of your own distress," Edward leaned forward to whisper in an urgent tone.
Bella crossed her arms in front of her chest. "You don't get to make that kind of judgement, Edward! We were supposed to be partners. We were supposed to face this together."
"You aren't partners anymore. Aro ended your affair today." James took a step closer to Victoria and turned his ire towards her. "Your client will be receiving a letter from the VOLTURI directing her to cease all contact with Professor Masen. No texts, no emails, no telephone calls, nothing."
James glared at Bella. "They aren't kidding. And the moment you violate this directive, I will slap a restraining order on you and I will report you to the Tribunal."
"James," Edward growled.
"Cut the theatrics, Edward. Don't act as if you didn't agree to this only ten minutes ago."
James gave Bella a cutting little smile. "Oh yes, that's right. Your sugar daddy here promised to break things off with you immediately. If either of you violates this condition, the VOLTURI will revisit their decision – with both of you."
He pointed a finger inches from Bella's nose. "They might change their mind and decide to expel you after all. An act I'd welcome, by the way, especially after your pathetic little display in there. What, exactly, were you trying to accomplish by emotionally vomiting all over the VOLTURI? I knew you were naïve, but just how stupid are you?"
"James, take your finger out of Miss Swan's face or I will separate it from your body." Edward's voice dropped menacingly. "You do not speak to her like that. Ever. Do I make myself clear?"
James closed his mouth.
And then he swallowed.
Victoria used this as an opportunity to put him on the defensive.
"My client is better off without the theatrics of either one of you. Don't pretend you weren't going to throw her to Aro to save yourselves! Bloody cowards.
"She won't violate the directive. And don't even think about escalating this with a restraining order, James. If you go toe to toe with me you'd better make sure to give it everything you've got, because you won't get a second chance."
James muttered an oblique curse in response, but said nothing.
Bella turned to search Edward's eyes. But his mask was firmly in place.
"Please tell me he's lying. Please tell me you didn't agree to break up with me."
"You just don't get it, do you? This entire situation is your fault. If you had just kept your mouth shut, we could have stonewalled and then sued them. Come on Edward. If Aro sees you speaking to her, our agreement is off." James tried to separate the couple as a noise inside the meeting room alerted them to the fact that the VOLTURI were about to recess.
"Did they fire you?" Bella asked quietly.
Edward gave her a pained look and then shook his head.
"What kind of deal did you make to bring that about, James?" Victoria hissed. "Did you have to sell your soul to Aro? Or maybe your body?"
"Shut up, Victoria." James glared at her.
"So you kept your job, but you can't talk to me? What about last night, Edward?" Bella reached out a trembling finger towards his hand.
Edward pulled his hand out of her reach and then glanced sideways at James and Victoria, shaking his head at Bella.
"You promised you'd never fuck me. But what about last night? No words, no 'I love you,' not even a note or a text this morning. Is that all it was to you? A goodbye fuck?" Bella's voice caught on an involuntary sob. "Who's the Angelfucker now?"
Edward flinched.
It was more than a flinch; actually, it was more like a reel backwards from a punch. He closed his eyes and groaned softly, shifting his weight to his heels as his fists clenched at his sides.
Everyone watched as his skin took on a ghostlike pallor.
"You wound me, Isabella," he whispered. "And that remark was beneath you."
"What else am I supposed to think, Edward! You made a deal to keep your job that requires you to dump me, and we can't even talk about it. How could you do this to me?" she cried.
His eyes flew open and they were a brilliant, livid green.
"You think that I'd just show up, fuck you, and that would be how I would say goodbye?"
Now he had lost his temper.
Bella watched his fists shake as he fought to maintain control.
"I guess I'm not the only one making judgements here, Isabella. Except mine are far more charitable." He leaned forward so that his nose was only inches from hers and then dropped his voice so it was almost inaudible, even to her. "I did not fuck you. I've never fucked you."
He pulled back slightly so that there was some distance between them. And he drew a long, unhurried breath.
"You had no idea what you were doing in there. You were throwing your life away for nothing … all those years of hard work, everything you dreamed of and ever wanted was going to be taken from you in one afternoon and you would never be able to get it back.
"Think what you will about me, Isabella, but there was no way in hell I could sit back and watch you commit academic suicide." He straightened up and unclenched his fists. "And I would do the same thing tomorrow and the next day, and the day after that. For eternity."
Bella leapt forward, eyes blazing.
"You don't get to make those decisions for me. It's my life! They are my dreams. And if I want to give them up for something better, something infinitely more valuable, who the hell are you to take that decision away from me?
"You're supposed to love me, Edward. You're supposed to support me when I decide to stand up for myself. Isn't that what you wanted me to do? And instead, you cut a deal with them, a deal that means that we can't be together anymore!"
Edward glared at her.
"You curse my intervention now, but take a look at your own life. You've been intervening to keep me from destroying myself again and again. When we first met, when we met the second time, the night you showed up to save me from throwing my career away at The Vestibule."
Edward's tone shifted to sarcasm. "Are you the only one worthy of martyrdom, St. Valentine? Or the only one who can play the guardian angel? I suppose that next you'll be telling me that I should have been righteously angry at you for preventing me from fucking that malicious bitch?"
"Would you two shut the hell up about fucking?" Victoria interrupted them. "Aro will be walking through that door any minute. Come on, Bella. We need to go. Now."
Victoria tugged on Bella's elbow while James tried to step in between the two quarrelling lovers.
"Let her go, Edward. You're in enough trouble as it is." James was speaking firmly in Edward's ear and placing a light hand on his shoulder to move him backwards.
"So that's it? Just like that? Aro says we're over and so we're over? When have you ever followed the rules, Edward? And now you decide to follow them?" Bella asked, still furious.
Edward's expression changed immediately.
"I have no choice, Héloise," he whispered. "Please wait –."
Bella was swift to interrupt him. "I thought my name was Beatrice, Edward. Of course, Abelard abandoned Héloise to keep his job. So I guess the name is more than apt."
"Héloise," he repeated, stubbornly. "Read my sixth letter. Paragraph four. Before July first. Please."
Edward's face froze as Victoria pulled Bella away.
The two women hurried down the stairs just before the great wooden doors to the Tribunal meeting room opened and the VOLTURI began to file out.
Bella didn't bother to turn around to take one last, long look at Edward. She was too busy trying to see the steps through her tears.
-x-x-x-x-
After Victoria dropped her off at her apartment, Bella went to bed. She slept off and on for three days, pausing only to allow herself some insufficient nourishment, or to use the bathroom, or to drink a cup of lemon flavoured NeoCitran in order to coax more sleep from her body.
Sleep was a welcome escape from her reality, except at night. In the dark, she found herself haunted by various nightmares, all involving the morning after her first evening with Edward in the meadow. She was alone and lost and he was nowhere to be found.
Edward had left her.
To keep his job.
On Wednesday afternoon, Bella finally came to herself and began looking for Edward's sixth letter, so that she could read paragraph four. But she wasn't sure what he meant by letter. Did he mean emails? Or texts? Or both?
If Edward was counting the emails, cards and notes that he had written to her from the very beginning of their relationship, then by her calculation the sixth letter was a note he had left her the morning after their horrendous fight in the Dante seminar.
Luckily, she had kept it.
Isabella,
I hope you'll find everything you need here.
If not, Alice stocked the vanity in the guest washroom with a number of different items. Please help yourself.
My clothes are at your disposal.
Please choose a sweater as the weather has turned cold today.
Yours,
Edward.
Bella wasn't exactly in the best frame of mind to be embarking upon a detective mission or to engage in any elaborate decoding of messages. Nevertheless, she turned her attention to the fourth paragraph and tried to figure out what Edward had been trying to communicate to her.
He had lent her the British racing green sweater, but she didn't have it anymore. Was he trying to turn her attention to one of the clothing items he had bought her?
Bella went to her closet and her dresser and pulled out every item of clothing he had ever bought her or that she had borrowed and then she placed them all on her bed.
But there didn't appear to be anything special about any of those items.
Was he trying to tell her to weather the storm?
Was this his clever way of saying goodbye?
Why didn't he just send me a quick text to tell me what he wanted to say? Aro would never have known.
Bella didn't have the energy to figure out Edward's riddle. Like everything he did, it was pretentious and complicated. And being depressed over their separation wasn't helping her mental acuity.
Part of her wanted to tell him to shove his letter.
While she was skipping Professor Leaming's class that afternoon, she quickly scanned her emails and incoming texts to see if Edward had contacted her.
He hadn't.
And her voice mail inbox was empty.
She sent a quick, neutral email and a text to Edward and was stunned when within moments, both were returned to her as undeliverable.
Feeling bolder, she called his iPhone.
His number was no longer in service.
She experienced the same result when she telephoned his landline in his apartment.
This is really happening, she thought. He won't talk to me.
She quickly showered and decided that she was going to confront him in his apartment.
She was not going to allow Edward or Aro to make all the decisions concerning their relationship (or lack thereof). She was going to speak to Edward directly, the will of the VOLTURI be damned.
And if Edward spurned her, she would know in her heart that their relationship really was over. At least she'd be able to say goodbye…
Two hours later, Bella walked into the lobby of the Manulife Building, carrying several large shopping bags full of Edward's gifts, with the messenger bag slung over her shoulder.
She hadn't packed her iPhone, because it was the only telephone she had and Edward had destroyed her old cell phone the night that Jacob called her.
But she packed everything else – clothes, including the corset, shoes, the picture she always kept under her pillow, the photo album, the reproduction of the Botticelli prints, the books he had lent her, the flash drive of their very heated tango against he wall, (a tango that made her cry when she finally watched it that morning), and then finally, Esme's diamond earrings. She removed the studs from her ears and placed them in their little box. Edward has said that they were his heart.
What reason did she have to keep them if he could be parted from her so readily?
She only hoped that like the Spartan king, Edward had thrown himself into the line of battle in a final show of chivalry, rather than giving her up to save his job.
She would far rather he had come home with her carrying his shield than under it.
She waved to Edward's concierge, who recognized her, and then walked towards the security doors, flashing the security pass she always kept on her key ring.
The doors wouldn't open.
She tried again.
Nothing.
She tried three more times in increasing frustration, but her security pass would not work. Finally, she walked back to the concierge who tested her pass and then handed it back to her.
"It's been disabled. Let me call Professor Masen."
As Bella's cheeks flamed scarlet in embarrassment, the concierge telephoned Edward on the house phone. Bella strained to see if she could hear Edward's voice, but she couldn't.
The concierge covered the mouthpiece of the telephone in order to speak to her.
"He says he's sorry he can't see you."
Bella blinked back tears. "Then let me talk to him," she said quietly, holding her shaking hand out.
The concierge asked Edward if he would speak to her, and this time Bella heard his voice.
It sounded strained. "Tell her I can't. Not now. Tell her I'm sorry. Please."
"Edward, please talk to me," she begged, but the concierge just shook his head and hung up the telephone.
"I'm sorry." He seemed just as uncomfortable as she.
Bella took a few steps back from his desk and then just sort of stood in the centre of the lobby, mired in confusion.
She didn't know what to do.
She didn't know where to go.
It's over.
Bella began to wipe her free falling tears with the sleeve of her pea coat, and then her nose began to run. She put the shopping bags down and started rummaging through her pockets for a Kleenex. Of course, there was none to be found.
Which only make her cry harder.
"Here," a kind voice at her elbow said, holding out a man's white handkerchief.
Bella took it gratefully, noticing the embroidered initials S.I.R. on it as she wiped her nose.
She turned to give it back to its owner, but a pair of hands made a motion that she should keep it.
"My mother is always giving me handkerchiefs. I have dozens."
She looked up into a pair of kind brown eyes that were partially hidden behind a pair of rimless spectacles and recognized Edward's neighbour.
He was wearing a heavy wool coat and a navy beret, which, because of his age and heterosexuality could only be explained by the fact that he was French.
"Is something wrong? Can I help?" His lightly accented voice cut through her haze.
"Edward won't see me."
The neighbour frowned.
"Are you sure? But you're his …" He looked at her expectantly.
Bella shook her head. "Not anymore."
The neighbour pursed his lips together. "But you're here. Surely he wouldn't turn you away without at least speaking with you."
"The concierge called him. He wouldn't let me come up."
The neighbour looked puzzled and then he looked annoyed and began muttering something in French. Something that sounded a good deal like cochon.
"And the bags?" He pointed to the piles of stuff she was carrying.
"They're his."
The neighbour's eyes alighted upon a patch of pink lace that was peeking out of one of the bags. He raised his eyebrows in a silent question and Bella blushed.
"Or he bought them."
"Were you trying to return them?"
"I wanted to talk to him, to ask him why. But he won't let me."
Bella began to cry again and the neighbour waited patiently while she composed herself, politely averting his eyes.
What a jackass. Finds the most beautiful women and then treats them as if they were disposable hand wipes. Look at what he's reduced her to – and she was the nicest yet, he thought.
"Um, I could return these things for you, if you want," the neighbour said softly. "I could also deliver a message. He tends to drop by my apartment when he runs out of milk. Which is fairly frequently."
Bella nodded.
She handed everything to Edward's neighbour, including the cheque she had written for the unspent remainder of the M.T. Masen bursary and the cost of her iPhone.
She now had very little money left, but at least she had almost settled her accounts with him.
It made her feel like less of a whore.
Which is exactly how Angela would have painted her in the gossip around campus. And how James had spoken of her after Edward's confession.
She wasn't exactly sure how she'd ever get the courage to return to the University now that everyone thought she'd slept with Edward to get ahead. But she'd think about that tomorrow …
The neighbour cradled the bags in one of his hands and then paused.
"What are you going to do now?"
She looked around. "I should go home, I guess."
"But it's dark. Did you drive?"
"No, I walked. It wasn't dark when I left."
The neighbour shook his head. "You should take a cab. I'd accompany you myself, but my mother is visiting. She's upstairs, actually." He grimaced slightly.
Bella's cheeks reddened. "Um, I don't have any cash. I can just walk. It's only a couple of blocks and I need the fresh air."
The neighbour frowned.
"If Edward were in his right mind and not behaving so rudely, he would send you home in a taxi. I'm sure he wouldn't want you walking around downtown at night alone. And I'm certainly not going to have your safety on my conscience. Please."
He gestured to the front door and she followed him, wiping at her nose with his handkerchief.
The neighbour flagged a taxi and opened the back door for her.
"I can't," she said.
"Please. It will be a mitzvah for me to do this and I'm in need of a blessing." He smiled at her as he pulled out his wallet and handed the driver a couple of bills.
Bella didn't know a great deal about the concept of mitzvah, but truthfully she was too tired and too overwhelmed to get into a rabbinical debate with him.
"Take this young lady where she needs to go and please wait for her to make sure she enters her home safely." The cabbie took the money and agreed, and Bella slipped into the backseat.
"Should I give Edward a message? Other than the one I'm intending on giving him from myself." The neighbour looked grim as he leaned inside the cab.
Bella was quiet for a moment, and then she swallowed hard.
"Just tell him that I will always love him.
"And that he finally broke my heart."
The neighbour gave her a reluctant, pained nod before he closed the taxi door behind her.
Bella rested her head back against the seat, closed her eyes, and meditated on how surprising the universe was – how in the midst of her suffering there was still goodness and charity and the wonder that was a mitzvah.
x-x-x-x-
Later that evening, Edward sat alone in his apartment, shrouded in darkness. The only light visible came from the blue and orange flames that flickered in his fireplace.
She had returned everything he'd ever given her. Every single God damned thing including most of Maia's bursary, and Esme's earrings. She might as well have returned his heart to him with a stake in it.
If he had been in a better frame of mind, he would have pondered how he was going to explain his sudden separation from Isabella to his adoptive father and sister, especially against the back drop of Alice's wedding plans.
But he wasn't.
He was surrounded by her. Completely surrounded by her memory and her ghosts.
Closing his eyes, he swore he could smell her scent or hear her laughter echoing down the hall. His bedroom had become like a shrine to her, which was why he was sitting in front of the fire. He couldn't bear to look at the large black and white photographs of the two of them adorning the walls. Especially the one that hung over his bed – Isabella in all of her magnificence, lying on her stomach with her naked back exposed down to her two dimples, partially wrapped in a white sheet, gazing up at him in adoration with sex mussed hair and a relaxed smile …
But in every room there was a memory of her – some of them joyous and others bittersweet, like dark, dark chocolate without enough sugar.
So in order to punish himself for his sins, which were legion, he sat still like a statue, bathing in her lingering presence. And when the pain was almost too much, he bore down on it like a sword and opened the small photo album she had returned, allowing his fingers to trace the soft contours of her face, her lips, her neck, the tender skin underneath her eyes that was surely wet with tears now …
'He finally broke my heart.'
Edward downed his third shot of Scotch and then with a curse, threw the crystal glass into the Inferno …
-x-x-x-x-
Katherine Picton took her time walking from her stately brick home in the Annex neighbourhood to the Centre of Medieval Studies on Bloor Street.
It was snowing. It was windy. And she was a retiree.
So she dressed sensibly and warmly in hiking boots, black trousers, and a wool and cashmere coat with a matching hat. Clutching a bottle of expensive Scotch with one of her gloved hands, she walked the several blocks to the University slowly but with purpose.
This is all Aro Pritchard's fault, she thought. Well, most of it.
Katherine wished that Aro had had to walk his bony fascist ass through the drifting snow in order to right a wrong.
When she finally arrived at the Centre, she made her way to the office she wanted and then rapped on the door three times, loudly.
A sound that approximated that of a bear with a sore posterior emanated from inside the office.
Quite undeterred, she knocked again, rather obnoxiously.
Loud, angry footsteps reverberated through the air and the door was suddenly flung open.
"What the hell do you –." Professor Masen stopped abruptly when he caught sight of the small but important personage who was standing outside his door.
She held up the bottle of Lagavulin with a patient smile. "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts."
"Katherine," he murmured, smiling smally. "Forgive my rudeness."
He leaned forward to press his lips to her wrinkled cheek.
Katherine smiled at him again and then entered his office, pulling the door closed behind her. "I think we need to have a little chat."
-x-x-x-x-
Peter was no longer Professor Masen's research assistant. At least, in the short term.
The week after the Tribunal interviewed him, he had bumped into Masen at the mailboxes in the Centre and told him that he needed some time off. Masen had been cold and terse, telling him that he was leaving the country anyway, and that if he wanted to be reassigned to another professor he should speak with Professor Santos.
As long as he didn't have to be in the same room as Masen, Peter didn't give a flying fuck if he worked or not.
It could be said that Peter was angry, and he was. His anger was directed at the most evil man on the planet, Masen, who had verbally abused and then seduced his young friend before callously dumping her. Or so he'd gleaned.
If Peter had been a fan of Jane Austen, he would have likened Professor Masen to Mr. Wickham. Or perhaps, to Willoughby.
But he wasn't.
Nevertheless, it was all he could do not to pummel Masen senseless with his fists and give him the ass whipping he had been in desperate need of all year.
In addition to his anger, Peter felt betrayed. And foolish.
For God knows how long, Bella had been involved with a man called Anthony.
Anthony.
Edward Anthony Cullen Masen.
Perhaps she had wanted Peter to know, to figure it out. But it had never crossed his mind that Anthony was, in fact, Professor Masen. He'd told her secrets about him, for God's sake. Secrets about Jane. And all the while she was sleeping with him. No wonder she had sworn up and down that Anthony hadn't bitten her neck, that it was some other asshole.
A likely story.
Peter thought of Professor Masen doing depraved things to Bella, and her small, small hands, who was sweetness and innocence personified with blushing pink cheeks.
But perhaps she wasn't, really.
Perhaps the real pain of his betrayal was the realization that the innocent Miss Swan had shared a bed with a monster that got off on pain, who had been a partner of Jane Singer.
Perhaps Bella wanted that lifestyle. Perhaps she and Edward invited Jane into their bed, as well. After all, Bella had picked Victoria Weston to be her attorney. Didn't that mean that she was familiar with Professor Pain?
Peter didn't have the words to describe his reaction to that surprising revelation, except for the conclusion that Bella was not who he thought she was.
Despite his rather visceral reaction, when Professor Leaming telephoned him at home a week later to say that Isabella had missed two seminars in a row, he grew slightly concerned.
Leaming had said that Isabella wasn't answering her telephone or responding to emails and that no one associated with Italian Studies or Medieval Studies had seen her in over two weeks. Not only that, but the
seminar only had two more meetings left and Isabella really needed to attend both of them or her final mark in the course would suffer.
Reluctantly, Peter agreed to check on her, and so that is how he found himself buzzing her apartment on a cold Thursday morning in mid-March.
Of course, she didn't answer.
Undeterred, Peter waited and when a neighbour exited the building, he went inside and knocked loudly on her door.
He knocked several times until a hesitant voice called to him. "Who is it?"
"It's Peter."
"I'm sorry, Peter. Go away."
Peter would have done just that, but her voice was so sad, so pathetic. Despite his anger, he couldn't abandon her.
Not the way that bastard already had.
"I'm not going anywhere until I see you. Professor Leaming called me at home to ask me to check on you and I won't leave until I know for sure that you're alright. Just let me in for a minute and then I'll leave you alone." He paused. "I have your mail."
"Peter, I can't." Her voice sounded so small, so broken.
"I'm not leaving 'til I see you and if I have to wait in this hallway all day, I'll do it."
When Bella didn't reply, he groaned softly and lowered his over two hundred pound frame to the carpeted floor, preparing himself for a very long day.
He heard the shuffling of feet in her apartment and then nothing.
"Rabbit," he called to her softly. "It's just me."
The shuffling of feet came closer to the door.
He sighed loudly and shook his head, placing his palm flat against the dark wood.
"I know he hurt you. I just came to see if you're okay, and then I'm going to leave. Just five minutes, Rabbit. That's all I need."
Peter heard the sounds of sniffling and he knew that she was crying.
"I know something that will cheer you up. Angela Webber is out of the program. Masen refused to supervise her and so did Katherine Picton. Angela filed a lawsuit against the University, accusing them of discrimination. And she and Masen had a huge fight. It was like Clash of the Titans: Bitch vs. Bastard."
A scraping sound echoed in the hallway and then the door slowly creaked open.
"Hi," said Peter, looking up into the face of a woman he did not recognize.
She looked like a girl really, pale skinned against dark hair that was messily pulled up into a ponytail. Purple circles rimmed her eyes, which were red and watery.
As Peter stood and gazed down at her, she appeared so much smaller. Frailer. He could tell that even in the short time since the Tribunal she had lost several pounds. He wondered if she was eating.
"Can I come in?"
She opened the door more widely and Peter walked into her small studio.
As Bella closed the door, he looked around. He'd never seen it so disordered. Dishes were abandoned haphazardly on every surface, her bed was messy and unmade and the card table was straining under the weight of papers and books.
At least she has been working on her thesis.
"Peter, if you came here to tell me how stupid I've been, I don't think I can deal with that right now." Her chin wobbled slightly, but she tried to sound brave.
He shuffled her mail from one arm to the other and scratched at his sideburns.
"I'm not here to make you feel bad. But I can't say I wasn't upset when I found out you'd been lying to me."
She looked down at her purple woolly socks and wiggled her toes awkwardly.
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
He cleared his throat.
"Um, I brought your mail. You had a stack of stuff in the mailbox outside and I also brought your mail from the Centre."
Bella inhaled sharply and took a step backwards.
He held up a hand as if to reassure her. "There was nothing in your mailbox at school to worry about. Just two textbooks."
"Why would someone send me textbooks? I'm not teaching."
"Textbook reps sometimes get a little overzealous with the exam copies." He gestured with his free hand. "Where should I put them?"
"Just put everything on the table."
Peter did as he was bidden while Bella busied herself by beginning to retrieve the cups and bowls from around the apartment and stacking them neatly on top of the microwave.
"What kind of textbooks?" she asked as she continued to clean.
"Primary sources. Some medieval book and Homer's Odyssey."
"Why would someone send me those? I work on the Renaissance."
Peter shrugged. "Why didn't they send you Virgil's Aeneid? That's a book everyone could use. Sunt lacrimae rērum et mentem mortālia tangunt."
He winked at her and she smiled.
His heart skipped a beat.
"Bella, I didn't mean to look through your personal mail, but there was a letter in the mailbox outside from the VOLTURI."
Peter caught her before she toppled over. He grabbed hold of her elbow and helped her to a chair.
As his large hand moved to encircle her wrist, he noticed a few things. Her skin was cool and almost translucent over blue veins. And her wrist seemed smaller than he remembered, as if he could encompass it with his hands twice over. Her pulse, which moved beneath his fingers, was weak and uneven.
Bella was sick.
"When was the last time you ate something?" His voice grew gentle.
"Um, I think I had something yesterday. I haven't been hungry."
"You think?"
Peter swore loudly and then walked over to the tiny refrigerator, opening it without permission.
It was almost bare but he found a few small juice boxes, the kind that children take with them to school.
"Bella, what the hell have you been eating? There isn't any food in your fridge!"
She didn't bother to respond.
"Here." He punctured one of the boxes with its accompanying straw and handed it to her. "Drink this before you pass out."
Bella did as she was told and felt slightly better as the sugar in the orange juice hit her system.
"How much weight have you lost?"
She avoided his eyes as she sipped her drink. "I don't know."
"Well, you look terrible. Like a skeleton.
"You need to get out of here and have a hot meal. Why don't you take a shower and when you come out we'll go to lunch. My treat."
"Peter, I don't think I can read that letter." She put the juice box down on the table and placed her face in her hands.
"Then I'll do it. I'll read it while you're in the shower and I'll give you the condensed version when you get out. But Bella …" He paused and brushed at his mouth with the back of his hand. "You need to go outside and get some air. This place is depressing. It's like Miss Havisham's house."
Bella looked up at him curiously. "Does that make you Pip?"
Peter shook his head. "It makes me a nosy jerk who is interfering in someone else's life.
"That sounds like Pip," she murmured.
"Bella, the semester ends in two weeks. If you don't go back to class, you're going to ruin your grade point average. And what about your thesis? It's probably due April first."
"Katherine has to turn the grade in for my thesis on April twenty-third. She wants the final draft by the ninth."
"Then you've got to get moving. Now isn't the time to wither up and hide if you want to keep your place at Harvard. Go on and clean up and I'll wait. There are a couple of good brunch places down on Queen Street. We'll take the subway."
Bella looked up at Peter, into concerned dark eyes.
"Why are you being so nice to me?" she breathed.
"Because I'm not a flatlander, I'm from Vermont." He grinned wryly. "And because you need a friend right now."
Bella smiled in gratitude.
"I never stopped caring for you," he admitted, softly.
She pretended she didn't hear his declaration and changed the subject.
"Do I really look like a skeleton? Who needs a shower?" She ran her fingers through the end of her ponytail and then smoothed the wrinkles out of her flannel pyjamas.
"Sweetie, considering what you've been through, you look pretty good. But if we're going to go out, you should at least wear something other than rubber duckies." He smirked at the design on her pyjamas.
Bella blushed.
She disappeared into her closet to find some clean clothes to wear, taking her juice box with her. She hadn't done laundry in two weeks so her choices were limited, but at least she had something halfway presentable for a casual meal, even if it was only a yoga outfit.
She walked to the bathroom and then turned around. "Peter?"
"Yes?"
"Thank you."
"You're welcome." His voice was gruff and he looked away.
While she was in the shower, Peter took it upon himself to clean up her apartment, or at least, to tidy it. He knew better than to touch her thesis materials, so he left them alone, choosing rather to make her bed and pick up things from the floor.
When he was finished, he shelved the two books he had brought with the others on her bookshelf and then sat down in a folding chair to look over her mail.
He quickly disposed of all the flyers and junk and then stacked what looked like bills into a neat pile. He noticed that there weren't any letters of a personal nature from anyone, including a certain rakish Professor.
"Thank God," he muttered.
He slit open the VOLTURI envelope with one of this thick fingers and then hastily removed the letter.
In the shower, Bella was using a new shampoo. She was sickened by the scent of strawberries and so she no longer used the products she had preferred since she was a teenager. Instead, she tried something Charlie had given her at Christmas – shampoo and body wash scented with English lavender. Yes, it was a mature scent for so young a person, but the scent of berries brought up too many painful memories. And if she was going to share a meal with Peter, she couldn't be heaving and vomiting.
After she dressed and dried her hair, she put the hair dryer back in its proper space on the open shelf under the vanity, next to a box of unopened tampons.
She covered her under eye circles with concealer, and pinked up her pale cheeks with blush, and when she was satisfied that she no longer looked like a youngish version of Miss Havisham, she joined Peter at the card table.
He greeted her with a smile.
"That's better," he said in a low voice. "You look healthier. How do you feel?"
"Pretty good." Her eyes darted nervously at the two-page letter he held in his hand. "So?"
"There's nothing here for you to worry about. It's only a description of the proceedings and the Tribunal's judgement, stating for the record that you were cleared of all accusations. That's important, Bella. If anyone gives you shit about what happened, you can produce this letter. The proceedings of the Tribunal are supposed to be confidential, anyway, so I don't think this situation will follow you to Harvard.
"There's also a statement here telling you to you keep all of your contact with the Tribunal confidential and to cease all contact with Masen immediately, which I guess you've already done."
Bella nodded sadly. "He won't see me. Or talk to me."
Peter sighed and hung his head. "Don't you think that's a good thing?"
"No."
"Jeez, Bella, the guy seduced you for kicks and then dumped you. What more abuse from him do you want?"
She looked over at him, eyes blazing. "Don't talk about him like that! That's not how it was."
Peter looked at her, at her sudden show of anger, and was impressed. He'd rather have her angry than sad.
"He wasn't like that, Peter. He loved me."
He just loved his job more.
Peter bit back a disparaging remark and held up his hands in retreat.
"Anyway, there's nothing here for you to worry about. I received a similar follow-up letter after I testified in front of the Tribunal. They want to be sure these things remain secret.
"The rest of your mail looks like bills."
Bella seemed visibly disappointed by that fact, but said nothing.
"We should go now. And you should probably wear a hat. It's cold out."
A few minutes later they were outside, walking towards the Spadina subway station.
"Have you seen him?" she asked quietly.
"Who?"
"You know who."
Peter groaned. "Do you really want to hear about him? Wouldn't your rather forget?"
"Please. I – I still love him, Peter."
He looked over just as a tear squeezed out of one of Bella's eyes, sliding slowly down her now rosy cheek.
So help me God, I'm going to kick that Studentfucker's ass.
"Masen had a major altercation with Angela last week. I was in the office talking to Mrs. Cope and we heard them shouting in the hallway. They put on quite a show."
"What happened?"
"Angela was trying to convince him to continue supervising her dissertation. Apparently, he'd been ignoring her since she started this whole business with you two. When he wouldn't give in, she started screaming at him."
Bella's mouth hung open a little as she tried to imagine the scene Peter was describing.
"It was unreal. Masen cussed her out – called her a whore and a malicious bitch and said that if she came near him again he'd have her arrested. Said he was going to file a restraining order against her. She went ballistic."
Bella stopped and closed her eyes in horror. "What did she say?"
Peter stood beside her, silently.
"Peter?"
"Bella, she was spewing a lot of stuff. She was raving like a lunatic and Masen was shouting right back at her. Finally, Mrs. Cope called campus police. I think they dragged Angela out by her hair. Good riddance."
"So everyone in the building heard what Angela thinks of me? And Edward?"
Bella opened her eyes so that she could read Peter's reaction.
"Not everyone. Only the people who have offices on that floor who were around at that time and had their doors open. Listen, she's a complete nut case and no one who heard her would believe anything she said. She's just a disgruntled grad student who has gone off the deep end.
"When it was over, Professor Santos took me aside and warned me to keep my mouth shut about anything having to do with the two of you."
"Why are you talking to me about it then?"
Peter frowned. "Because Angela is angry and might decide to show up on your doorstep. I assumed Masen or Santos would have told you about it already, but I guess they didn't. Cowards."
"It's possible Professor Santos tried to warn me. I haven't been checking my messages. Or my email."
"I know. That's why Professor Leaming asked me to see you. In person." He sighed and stared straight into Bella's eyes.
"But I'm also here because I want the truth. I know you lied to me. I was dragged in front of the Tribunal because of those lies and it was not a pleasant experience. Now that I've heard Angela's twisted version of the events, I'd like you to tell me what really happened."
Bella looked down at her boots and resumed walking.
"What happened to Edward after Angela yelled at him?"
Peter fell into step next to her.
"I think he filed a restraining order. Mrs. Cope asked me to keep an eye out for Angela and any communication from her, since I was Masen's research assistant."
"Was?"
Peter laughed.
"What makes you think I want to work for that asshole anymore? I'd rather work for Aro Pritchard. And I hate that fucker."
Bella leaned over to grip his arm. "Peter, I'm so sorry. I never wanted you to lose your job."
He gave her a half-smile. "Who said anything about losing a job? They're still paying me. Masen is gone, Bella. He left the country. I'm trying to finish my dissertation so I can get out of this cuckoo's nest before someone tries to end my career. So far, Masen hasn't dumped me yet but I have a feeling I might be next. And then I'm screwed. Unless you can persuade Professor Picton to supervise me."
She gasped. "He left the country?"
Peter frowned. "You didn't know that? That's why I'm not doing research for him right now. Santos has some of the teaching assistants from Italian Studies covering Masen's undergraduate class while he's gone."
Bella released his arm and her shoulders slumped.
"Do you know where he went?"
"To hell, I hope." His voice was unexpectedly cheerful. "But no, I don't know. Everything having to do with either him or you is shrouded in secrecy now. And when he told me he was leaving, he was pissy with me."
Bella inhaled slowly and the two of them continued their walk.
"I guess he didn't say goodbye."
"The last thing he said to me was that I wasn't sensible of my own distress."
Peter snorted. "Pretentious Studentfucker."
"What?"
"He stomps on your heart and then he has the balls to quote Hamlet? Unbelievable. And he misquoted it. The jackass."
Bella blinked in surprise. "I didn't recognize what he said. I thought it was just – Edward."
"Shakespeare was a pretentious fucker, too. That's probably why you couldn't tell the difference. Not only is the line from Shakespeare but it's also highly insulting. It's from Gertrude's speech about the death of Ophelia. Listen,
"There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;
There with fantastic garlands did she come
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them:
There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up:
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes;
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element: but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death."
Bella's face grew very white.
"Why would he say such a thing to me?" she whispered.
"Why would he compare you to Ophelia? She was crazy! If anyone is Ophelia in this story, it's Angela. Although she's probably more like Lady Macbeth."
Peter felt it necessary at that juncture to reiterate his list of favoured profane adjectives with respect to Masen.
"Ophelia's insanity is caused by Hamlet's rejection. He's cruel to her and tells her that he never loved her. And she goes mad. Although there is a debate about whether her death counts as a suicide or not."
Bella shook her head. "Both Thomas Aquinas and Dante would have said not. If she was incapable of understanding her own distress, then it wasn't a suicide. She was sick."
Peter grimaced.
"Was Edward worried you'd do something – dangerous? Like jump off a cliff?"
Peter was growing progressively more agitated as his undergraduate knowledge of Shakespeare came flooding back to him. (The benefit of a liberal arts education)
Bella feigned surprise at his question.
Edward must think I'll be like Tanya. That I'll try to kill myself because he left me.
"I don't know what he thought. He just mumbled something about me trying to commit academic suicide right in front of him and that he wouldn't let me."
Peter seemed relieved. Marginally.
"Masen continues to be an ass. Mary Pipher wrote a book called Revivng Ophelia. She talks about the ways in which contemporary society crushes the spirits of girls – and much of it is done by men behaving exactly the way Masen behaved towards you."
Bella looked over at Peter inquisitively. "How do you know this?"
He sighed. "There was this girl – back home. I took a course in Women's Studies at St. Mike's because she asked me to."
He gazed at Bella sharply. "Don't ask."
Bella laughed softly but said no more on the subject.
The two friends were quiet for the rest of their journey, just until they approached the doors of the subway station.
"There's something else, though." Peter paused uncomfortably.
She tried to search his eyes, but he looked away.
"You have to tell me, Peter. No matter what it is, I need to know."
"I wasn't going to say anything. You've suffered enough. But the last time I saw him, he was …"
"He was what?"
Peter stopped on the sidewalk and turned Bella so that she was facing him, resting his hands gently on her shoulders.
"He said he was leaving the country. And he was wearing a wedding ring."
~*~
RevelanT SToRy exTRa’S:
Peter's Latin is a quote from Virgil's Aeneid, "Sunt lacrimae rērum et mentem mortālia tangunt," which is translated, "These are the tears of things, and our mortality cuts to the heart."
The quotation from Shakespeare's Hamlet is from Act 4, Scene VII.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L78yxtMPqtg "Ghosts of You," by Chantal Kreviazuk

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