capitolo trentacinque

Andare in basso

capitolo trentacinque

Messaggio  simona80 il Sab 12 Mar 2011, 22:50

Chapter Thirty-Five
"Was the wedding ring from Tiffany's?" Bella's voice was quiet as she and Peter sat across from one another at a hip but retro café on Queen Street.
They had travelled in relative silence on the subway so that Bella could wrap her mind around Peter's stunning revelation.
"How should I know?"
Peter watched Bella cringe away from him and he immediately repented.
"I'm sorry, Bella. I shouldn't talk to you like that." He reached over to take her hand and squeezed it gently before releasing it.
"It's just that guys don't notice that kind of thing. I only saw it for a minute. I think it was silver.
"I probably shouldn't have mentioned it to you." He hung his head in shame. "I guess if it were me, and someone had broken up with me and then gotten married right away, I'd want to know."
"It's alright, Peter. I know you meant well."
They exchanged a sympathetic look and then ordered their meals.
I don't care if Edward is wearing a ring or not. I refuse to believe that got married only a few days after the Tribunal. It doesn't make sense. He told me he loved me a thousand times and he never once said the word marriage. Who could he have married? Tanya?
Bella shook her head minutely.
"Tell me why you stayed in your apartment for two weeks without human contact." Peter's voice broke into Bella's internal monologue.
She wouldn't say it aloud, because she wouldn't mention such a thing to Peter. But one of the reasons she had been so upset, apart from the loss of Edward, was the loss of what he represented – the attainment of her high school crush, the loss of her virginity, the discovery of what she thought had been a deep and reciprocated love …
When she thought of the first time he made love to her, she wanted to burst into tears. No one had ever treated her with such rapt attention and gentleness and beauty.
He was so worried about hurting her and making sure that she was relaxed and pleased. He was insistent on telling her that he loved her, over and over again as he moved towards his orgasm. The first one that he would have with her, because of her…
Edward staring into my very soul, moving inside me, telling me that he loved me while showing me with his body exactly that. He must have loved me. I'm just not sure when he stopped. Or rather, when he chose to love his job more than me.
Peter sat quietly, expectantly.
But her memories played over and over in her mind, distracting her – the sight of Edward's naked body, or his smile, or the look in his eyes when he touched her and the sounds that came from his mouth … the way he called her name …
If this is how Ophelia felt when Hamlet directed her to a convent, I finally understand her madness.
Peter cleared his throat good-naturedly and Bella smiled her apology.
"Sorry. I've been zoning out lately.
"Um, I stayed at home because I felt safe there. I was crying a lot and didn't want people to see me. I tried to work on my thesis, but some days it only made me cry harder and I'd just go to sleep in the middle of the day. It's pretty difficult to write about love and friendship when you've just lost both."
Peter closed his eyes and groaned, as if he were the one in pain.
"I tried to go and buy some groceries. I got as far as the produce section in the Dominion store over by Spadina. And, uh, I walked past a display of mangos and burst into tears." She bit her lip bravely. "Um, he took me to Belize for Valentine's Day and while we were there he played this song called Mango by Bruce Cockburn. I found myself standing in the middle of all of these fruits and vegetables bawling my eyes out."
She blew a breath of air out through her lips, making a slow, whooshing sound. "I looked like an idiot."
Peter laced her small fingers between his own, being careful to be gentle with her. "You're not an idiot."
"No, I'm just a coward. I thought I was braver than I used to be, but I'm not. I'm the same old Bella Swan, unable to face her problems. I just – froze – when I thought of seeing the people at the University. Angela, Professor Leaming, him …
"I thought everyone would be talking about me. Saying that I slept with him and that's how I got into Harvard. Or how I got here in the first place." Bella fidgeted with the silverware on the table with her free hand. "School has always been the one place I succeeded. If they take that away from me …" She fanned her hand to cover her eyes. "Everyone must think I'm a whore."
Peter leaned over the table swiftly. "You are not a whore. Do you hear me? Don't say that. And I'd punch someone's lights out if they ever said anything like that about you."
Bella smiled her gratitude but said nothing, wiping an errant tear away.
"The only whore around here is Angela Webber. You just fell in love with the wrong person, that's all. But it's not the end of your life. You have a lot of good things to look forward to, like graduation and going to Harvard. And some day, when you're ready, you'll find someone who will treat you properly. Someone who won't be so selfish. Someone worthy of you."
She wiped away another tear and he squeezed her fingers ever so slightly.
"Why do you think that school is the only place you've ever been successful? I don't think that's true."
Bella laughed bitterly. "My family is a shambles. My personal life is a disaster. I've never done anything creative or important, like paint a picture or write a novel. The only thing I can do is think about Dante and write boring essays about him that no one will ever read."
"Bella, sweetie, can you give yourself a break?"
He took her small hand in both of his.
"The way you've just described yourself, Bella Swan is simply a brain inhabiting a body. And that's false. You're a person – with a mind and a body and emotions and desires. You aren't reducible to what you do, although actions are important. You're so much more than just a mind that writes essays."
He paused and waited for her to look up into his dark eyes, which were darker still with concern and the beginnings of remorse for having judged her so harshly.
"You're kind and gentle. You're funny and bright. And when you're pissed off, you're feisty and sexy as hell."
She blushed and lowered her eyes.
"I'm not kidding. That day you took Masen on in the seminar room – it was a total train wreck, but I would pay money to see it again. You are the only person I've ever seen stand up to him, other than Angela, who is crazy,
and Professor Pain, who is twisted. As much as I was afraid of what he'd do to you afterwards, your spunkiness was impressive."
"I lost my temper. It wasn't one of my finest moments."
"Perhaps not. But it showed me something. It showed Masen something. Underneath that shy exterior, you are a bad ass. And you just need to let that bad ass come out every once in a while. Within reason, of course."
He was grinning at her now and slightly teasing.
She couldn't help but return his expression.
"Instead of crying and hiding in your apartment, you should be pissed off at that douchebag. He left you, remember. You didn't do anything wrong. And why would you pine over someone who doesn't want you anymore?
"Get angry! Throw things. And then live a wildly successful, happy life in which you make all your dreams come true. And the next time you see him, tell him to go fuck himself. That he had the greatest woman in the world and he let her go."
"It's hard to be angry when you're sad," said Bella quietly.
"I understand. But please, no more reductionistic bullshit about how you're only good in school. You're a nice person with a big heart and you're good to your friends and even to your enemies. Masen included."
She thanked him quietly and withdrew her hand, focusing her attention on her coffee cup.
"Just so you know, the only rumours I heard around the University were about Masen. People were saying that he did something unethical and got nailed for it by the University administration. No one has connected the two of you together except Angela, and who's going to believe her? She's unstable.
"Regardless, I understand why you're worried about your reputation. Do you know this quotation? From Othello?
'Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.'"
Bella looked at Peter with appreciation. "I'm beginning to feel as if I should have paid more attention to Shakespeare when I was at Seattle U."
"If Masen cared for you at all, he would have tried to protect your reputation. Luckily, the Tribunal did it for him. You don't need to worry about it. No one knows what happened and no one is going to know."
"Except for Angela, you, Professor Santos, Mrs. Cope and Katherine Picton," Bella muttered under her breath.
As they finished their meals and savoured their coffee, Bella quietly told Peter an extremely edited account of her affair with Edward, beginning with his invitation to accompany him to Italy. She acknowledged that she was a friend of his sister, explaining that with the age gap they didn't really know each other back in Forks. She even mentioned how Edward had saved her from Jacob when she was home for Thanksgiving and that he paid to have the bite mark removed from her neck.
Which surprised Peter immensely.
It was strange, perhaps, but Bella felt comfortable talking to Peter. He wasn't as intense as Edward, of course, and far less mercurial. He was a good listener and a good friend.
Even when he was scolding her for choosing Victoria Weston as her attorney.
Of course, when she revealed that Victoria had been chosen by Edward, his ire shifted back to its original target.
"I'm going to ask you something personal. If you don't want to answer it, just say so." Peter shifted on his side of the booth, looking around hastily to ensure that no one was eavesdropping.
Bella nodded.
"Is Edward still involved with Professor Singer? Did you see her – socially while you were with him?"
"Of course not! Peter, that woman terrifies me and Edward knew it. He tried to keep me away from her, even at Segovia."
Peter's stiff expression relaxed somewhat.
"I know you don't think very highly of him. But that's because you don't know him. He wears a mask to keep people out. And yes, I know he can be formal and cold, especially with his students. But he told me his involvement with Singer was temporary and that it ended a long time ago. And just so we're clear, Peter, I believed him." Bella said that last few words with no little intensity.
Peter rubbed at his chin thoughtfully and then nodded.
He wrapped his hands around his coffee mug and leaned across the table again.
"I already told you that I had to file a complaint against Professor Pain last year. Victoria Weston was her attorney.
"I was sitting in on Singer's Medieval Torture seminar because I hoped she would be covering material that would relate to my dissertation. Instead, she took it as an opportunity to hit on me.
"At first, I just brushed it off. But it became creepier and then I received this strange email from her. She was careful to make her language ambiguous, but anyone who had been in her seminar would have understood that she was propositioning me. So I filed a complaint.
"Unfortunately, Dr. Davenport sided with her. He tends to favour the faculty. And Victoria Weston did a hell of a job convincing Dr. Chow that I had misunderstood the email and that I was embellishing my reports of what she said to me in person. It was my word against Singer's and she played her part extremely well.
"The only person on my side at the Tribunal was the Vice-President of Diversity. She brought up emails that Singer had sent to other people and argued that there was a pattern. But Dr. Pritchard sent us out as soon as she mentioned them. So I have no idea who they were to or what was in them.
"Professor Pain was given a warning and told to stay away from me. I was told to avoid her, too. And I never heard from her again. But I always wondered who else she went after. And I was hoping that she didn't go after you and that Masen would have protected you from her."
"He did, Peter. I haven't had any contact with her at all. And he hasn't either. I'm really sorry that happened to you."
He shrugged. "It's over and I'm fine. It still pisses me off that she got away with it. That she's still getting away with it. That's why non-fraternization policies are in place – to protect students and their academic careers and also to protect the faculty."
"Jane Singer shouldn't have had that protection," said Bella defiantly.
"The policy isn't for someone like her. It's for someone like Jennifer Leaming. She's intelligent, attractive and funny. What if someone were to hit on her? Make her feel uncomfortable?"
Bella's mouth dropped open. "Did that actually happen?"
"Not that I know of. But it shouldn't. The policy exists to protect her. She's a nice lady. She should be able to do her job without some asshole student harassing her."
Bella shook her head and they were both quiet for a moment or two, sipping their coffee.
She soon found herself glancing over his shoulder.
Peter turned around. "Are you alright? Do you know someone over there?"
Bella smiled a little. "Um, no. It's just that they seem to have what looks like a lemon poppy seed cake over there. I haven't had something like that in a long time. Esm- um, a friend used to make it."
Peter smiled in return. "Hold on a minute."
He walked over to the counter, where the desserts sat like museum pieces under glass, and returned a moment later with a large slice of cake on a plate, and a fork.
"For Miss Bella."
"Thank you, Peter."
He glanced at her keenly as she picked up the fork to eat.
"I'm glad you're eating dessert. You've gotten skinny."
Bella glanced down at her body between bites of cake. "I've lost a few pounds."
"You could totally drink two percent milk if you wanted," Peter said with a wink, quoting a cult favourite movie.
"Bow to your sensei," Bella quoted back and the two friends laughed again.
After she had finished her treat and was smiling as she savoured her second or third coffee, Peter looked at her for a moment.
"It's not your fault he used you," he said, softly. "And even though I don't like him very much or how he lives his life, I realize that you loved him. And I'm sorry he hurt you."
"I love him still," Bella whispered.
Peter sighed. "It's possible that in his own fucked up way he loved you, too. But you know, some people aren't capable of loving another person properly. It's like their heart is too small or their ego is too big.
"I'm not going to give you the clichéd bullshit about fish in the sea and men being like buses. I know what it's like to lose someone and it sucks. Even if they were a jerk when they left.
"But in the short term, you have to finish up the semester, complete your thesis, and then get out of Dodge. Maybe it's good you have a thesis to write. It will give you something to do. And I meant what I said about helping you with your translations. All you have to do is ask."
"I'm sorry I lied to you, Peter." She looked up at him with watery eyes.
"I understand why you did. I'd probably have done the same."
"I feel lost."
Peter sighed and moved to hold her hand again.
"You aren't going to feel that way forever. I promise."
-x-x-x-x-
By the time Bella returned home from her excursion with Peter, her mood had improved considerably.
She didn't feel well, mind you, or whole. For how could one be whole when one's other half has rejected them?
Nevertheless, in a much better frame of mind and bolstered by Peter's encouragement to face the future and not the past, Bella checked her email.
There was nothing from Edward. But there was an email from Victoria, dated a week earlier.
Dear Bella,
Why aren't you answering your telephone?
Every time I call you I get your voice mail.
I just received a VERY interesting call from James Greenspan.
He notified me that he has filed a restraining order against Angela Webber on behalf of Professor Masen.
James wanted to warn you (through me) that this Webber woman might decide to trouble you, as well. Apparently, she is suing the University for discrimination and she began an altercation with Masen somewhere on campus.
James was insistent that I warn you to be careful.
(Which I thought was rather chivalrous, and therefore, unlike him)
I can't file a pre-emptive restraining order, so at the moment there is nothing I can do other than to notify Aro Pritchard of my concern that Angela might try to target you, which I have already done. And to warn you to be careful when you are in and around campus.
I don't know this person and so I don't know if she is dangerous or not or if she will attempt to confront you. Just keep your eyes open and be careful.
If she approaches you, don't engage her. Call the police. And then call me.
I'm sorry things didn't work out the way you hoped.
But truthfully, things could have been a hell of a lot worse,
Victoria Weston.
Bella contemplated the strange state of affairs that was the description of James as chivalrous and then filed that musing away for later.
-x-x-x-x-
After a productive weekend, Bella was heartened enough by the progress she had made on her schoolwork to have the confidence to return one of Siobhan's telephone calls.
Siobhan had wondered why Bella stopped coming to her weekly therapeutic sessions.
Bella shyly explained that she and Edward were no longer together and that he had been paying for her therapy, to which her therapist responded that Edward was continuing to pay for her therapy – indefinitely.
Luckily, both women agreed that it would be inappropriate to allow him to continue footing the bill, especially since he had effectively created the new, pressing reason for Bella to continue with therapy. So Edward's money was unceremoniously returned to him and new fees were assessed on a sliding scale, geared to Bella's income.
In other words, Siobhan would charge Bella a ridiculously low fee in keeping with her fixed income as a student and be perfectly happy to do so.
That was how Bella found herself sitting in Siobhan's office on Tuesday afternoon.
She began the session by expressing genuine sympathy for Bella's loss, and identifying it as "the death of a dream." She affirmed Bella's need to grieve and then asked her to divulge as much or as little of what precipitated their separation as she was able.
Bella told her everything she knew.
It was a good thing Siobhan had cleared her calendar for the afternoon.
"I'm very sorry that that happened to you. How do you feel about it at this moment?"
Bella closed her eyes, trying to process the question.
"My feelings are all over the place. I feel sad. I'm angry with him and with the University. Part of me is angry at myself for getting involved with him. Maybe I should have waited until I graduated. Or not gotten involved with him at all. I don't know.
"Maybe I shouldn't have answered the Tribunal's questions and just kept my mouth shut. But I thought that we had an agreement that we were going to see things through together and I wanted to tell the truth. I was tired of hiding. Then he changed his mind. And that hurt."
Siobhan nodded.
"Those are all reasonable reactions to what happened. I won't excuse his behaviour but I will say that when people are afraid or threatened, they often react with a kind of default defence mechanism rather than from a well-thought out plan. It's possible that when Edward felt attacked, he reverted to his default way of dealing with stress."
She gave Bella a serious look. "I'd like to table our discussion of the Tribunal your for today. Instead, I'd like to focus on you and how you are coping with this change. And then I'd like to discuss ways in which you can deal appropriately with what happened.
"In meaning-centred therapy, we work with a client's existing belief system to help her see how her beliefs and values can enable her to find meaning in all of her circumstances, both good and bad. I think I read in your file that you're a Catholic, is that right?"
Bella nodded. "I'm not a very good one."
Siobhan smiled reassuringly.
"I'm not here to judge whether you are a good Catholic or not. What are some of the key beliefs that you have through your faith that give you comfort?"
Bella thought about this for a minute.
"Do you mean like the Nicene Creed?"
She prepared herself to recite it but the look on Siobhan's face indicated that that wasn't precisely what she was looking for.
Bella quickly regrouped.
"I believe in God. I believe in prayer. I believe that bad things happen to everyone, but there is always goodness, too. Sometimes you have to look for it, but it's there. Sometimes I think everything happens for a reason, and other times I'm afraid to think that. So I don't know …"
Siobhan nodded.
"You mentioned a couple of things that I think are very interesting. First, your belief in a higher power. Second, your belief that along with the bad there is always the good. What if you spend this week focusing on those two things – reaching out to you higher power and acknowledging that many things in your life are beyond your control. And then focusing on those things that are in your control – looking for the good every day, in every situation. Do you think you can do that?"
"I think so. Yes."
"Good. This week, I'd like you to spend twenty minutes every day worrying. Just worry about anything and everything, but only for twenty minutes. And when you're finished, I'd like you to write down your worries. Will you do that?"
Bella laughed, but without amusement. "I worry all the time. Worrying isn't a problem."
"Exactly. But what you're going to do this week is control it. Any time a worry pops into your head during the day, I want you to acknowledge it and then set it aside, realizing you'll worry about it during your worry session.
"After you've written down your worries, I'd like you to spend about ten minutes thinking about or talking to your higher power. Think about what he represents in your life, what you believe about him, anything you want to say to him or ask him about. And then I'd like you to write those things down, too.
"Finally, I'd like you to spend about ten minutes thinking about all the good things you've seen that day or just in your life, generally. I want you to focus on them and how they make you feel. And once again, when you're finished, I'd like you to write them down. Do you think you can do that?"
Bella seemed puzzled. "Of course. But what does this have to do with my boyfriend leaving me?"
Siobhan smiled at her patiently. "Everything and nothing. Remember, our focus in these sessions is you. We want you to be healthy. And these practices will help you manage your worries and also encourage you to focus on those things that bring you joy and make you grateful.
"You've suffered a real disappointment. I'm not going to diminish the gravity of the pain you're suffering and I'm not going to tell you that these sessions will magically take that pain away. They won't. Grief is a process and it's a process that takes time. But I believe that I can help you to heal.
"So far, you've dealt with your grief by withdrawing from the world and manifesting symptoms of depression. I'm asking you to be stronger and braver and more determined than you have ever been. I'm asking you to fight the darkness. We'll see how you do this week and then we'll re-evaluate things in our next session."
Bella nodded.
Siobhan walked over to her floor to ceiling bookshelves and perused her collection for a moment before retrieving a paperback.
She handed it to Bella.
"While you're focusing on your higher power, you might find it helpful to incorporate some meditational literature into your daily schedule. I'd recommend this book, The Way of a Pilgrim."
Bella turned the volume over in her hands.
"I've never heard of it."
"It's the story of a Russian Orthodox man who goes on a journey to learn how to pray without ceasing. It's very inspirational and it will open your eyes to a simpler way of life. J.D. Salinger talks about it in his book Franny and Zooey. "
Bella raised her eyebrows in surprise. The combination of J.D. Salinger and Russian Orthodoxy seemed to her to be highly suspect.
But Siobhan was the doctor.
"How do you know all of this stuff? About meditational literature and faith?" Bella looked at her therapist with an even greater admiration.
Siobhan laughed lightly. "Well, these sessions are about you and not me. But I will confess to being a lifelong Presbyterian.
"When I have time, I like to take courses at Wycliffe College at the University. I've studied Scripture and theology and spiritual formation. And when appropriate to the client and the case, I like to incorporate what I've learned into my therapy.
"Sometimes I find the greatest comfort in sneaking into a Catholic Mass somewhere, sitting at the back, and absorbing the mystery. It makes me feel small to look up at the high ceilings and the statues and the stained glass windows. But it also reminds me that I'm made of dust and I can only do so much. God has to take care of the rest." She sighed and smiled. "Sometimes I wonder how many Protestants do the same thing. Covertly, of course."
-x-x-x-x-
Later that night, after having completed her exercises for Siobhan and reading the first chapter of The Way of a Pilgrim, Bella fell asleep.
She felt the bed shift and then a warm body curled around her like a cocoon, drawing her close.
An all to familiar nose nuzzled her neck and the softest whisper of breath blew across her shoulder.
"Edward?"
He hummed into her skin but didn't answer.
"I missed you so much," she whispered, tears suddenly streaming down her face.
Edward was silent as he reached up to wipe away her tears, and then he pressed his lips to her cheeks over and over again.
"I know you loved me." Bella relaxed into their spooned position and closed her eyes. "I just don't understand why you didn't love me enough to stay."
The hands that held her tightly relaxed minutely until they finally disappeared altogether leaving Bella alone and cold in her single bed.
-x-x-x-x-
Bella spent part of her morning staring out the window, drinking tea and contemplating the very strange dream she had the night before.
Edward had returned to her, but he was still silent.
He came back to me.
He hadn't offered an explanation or begged for forgiveness. He had simply rejoined her in her bed and behaved as if no time had passed.
It wasn't really a dream – just a different kind of nightmare.
After a modest breakfast, she decided to check the rest of her emails and text messages and then to go to Professor Leaming's seminar.
As she scrolled through the incoming texts on her iPhone, she received the following from Alice:
Hey Bella!
What's up with Edward changing his cell phone number?
I tried the landline too, but it was disconnected.
Maybe he doesn't want students calling him at home and harassing him …
Ha ha.
Send me his digits.
And I've picked out the bridesmaid dresses – a brilliant blue that will look great on you and Rose!
(even in her post-pregnancy state)
I'll send the link thru email and you can tell me what you think.
You'll have to email me your measurements so I can order the dress.
Love you,
Alice.
Bella 's first, base instinct was to close the text and to ignore it.
That's what she did when Jacob and Leah humiliated her. But as Siobhan had impressed upon her, this time she needed to do something different. Something braver.
I need all the friends I can get. I'm not going to avoid Alice and her wedding just because of him.
Bella took a deep breath and typed out a response,
Alice,
The bridesmaid dresses sound beautiful.
I'll make sure to send you my measurements.
I'm sorry I don't have Edward's new numbers.
He dumped me.
Two weeks ago.
B.
It took exactly one minute and forty-five seconds for Bella's iPhone to ring, indicating a call from Alice.
Unfortunately, Bella's courage gave out at that moment and she didn't answer.
The following text arrived shortly thereafter:
I'm going to kill him.
-A
-x-x-x-x-
Edward strode through the misty blackness into the woods behind his house.
He had brought a flashlight, but he almost didn't need it. He knew the woods so well that even drunk or coked out of his mind he could find his way to the meadow and back again.
He was good at navigating his way in the dark.
When he arrived at the meadow he stood on its periphery, eyes closed, as the chilled rain washed down on him. If he opened his eyes and squinted through the mist, he could almost see her – the outline of a small, thin teenage girl resting her head on a younger man's chest, the new couple nestled on an old, wool blanket. Her long, brown hair floated across her shoulders, her arm resting on his waist.
From his position he could barely see the man's face, but he could tell that the man was besotted with the brown-eyed angel in his arms.
Edward stood very still, listening to echoes of memories that were half-dreams …
"Do you have to leave?"
"Yes, but not tonight."
"Will you come back?" Her voice was almost a whimper.
"I'm going to be thrown out of Paradise tomorrow, Beatrice. Our only hope is that you find me afterwards. Look for me in Hell."
Edward closed his eyes and allowed the rain to wash over him.
Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote that Hell is other people.
But Edward knew better.
Hell was an abode of his own creation.
-x-x-x-x-
He had just returned from the meadow and was standing shirtless in the almost bare living room, drying his hair with a towel and fumbling with the stereo. That evening he was in the mood for raw and painful music. Which meant, at that moment, that he was listening to Blood of Eden by Peter Gabriel.
Midway through the chorus, the telephone in the kitchen began to ring.
He paused.
He had forgotten that he hadn't asked Carlisle to cancel the telephone service when he moved to Seattle. Striding purposefully into the kitchen, he picked up the phone.
"Hello?"
"Son."
Edward reluctantly responded. "Carlisle. How did you know I was here?"
"I didn't. It was a guess. You're lucky I found you before Alice did."
Edward walked into the living room and turned down the stereo before slumping into an old chair. "Why is that?"
Carlisle exhaled heavily into the phone.
"Bella told Alice that you left her. When Alice tried to contact you she discovered you'd changed all of your numbers. And you didn't respond to her emails."
"I receive between forty and fifty emails a day. I'm behind on my correspondence."
"Do you want to tell me what happened?"
Edward rubbed at his eyes with his free hand and then kept his eyes closed.
"Not particularly."
"Ah," said Carlisle. "Would you rather tell Alice?"
"No, Carlisle, I wouldn't. I'm sorry I didn't send you all my new numbers. I'll email everyone tomorrow and fix it."
"Thank you. Alice has been preoccupied with wedding plans but this news from Bella has really upset her. She told me she was flying to Toronto to see you – to try to fix things."
Edward sprang to his feet. "Listen, it is very important that Alice not try to fix things. Please. I'm glad that she's in touch with Bella, but I'm on a … a bit of a leave right now."
"Are you alright?"
"I'm fine." Edward's voice cooled immeasurably.
"You are my son, and I love you. But this family loves Bella, too. You led me to believe that you were serious about her. Alice spoke with Bella tonight and was told that you cut off all contact with her. Why would you treat her so poorly? She doesn't deserve that."
Edward gritted his teeth.
"It isn't as simple as it sounds. I …" His voice trailed off uncertainly.
"She told Alice you chose your job over her."
"Fuck!" exclaimed Edward.
"Is that a denial?" asked Carlisle dryly.
His son fumed into the phone.
"This is a very difficult situation. There are complicated considerations at work here that I can't divulge."
"Are complications an excuse for cruelty?" Carlisle's voice was calm but rather pointed.
He cleared his throat awkwardly.
"Alice also tells me that Bella was innocent when you began dating her. Which means that you seduced her before you abandoned her. That is a far greater sin than simply ending a relationship, for she can never get her virginity back.
"I expected more from you, Edward. Much more. You disappoint me."
"Carlisle, if you want to think the worst of me, then so be it. I returned to Forks to get away from things, to be able to think. You aren't helping."
"Then let me help you."
Edward held his breath.
"I can't."
"Is this about Tanya? Have you left Bella for her?"
"Of course not!" Edward snapped.
"That why did you leave Bella? Have you found someone else?"
Edward paused.
"I'm not going to respond to that, Carlisle."
"Do you have any idea how far she retreated into herself when Jacob hurt her? How much more you are damaging her? You're undoing all of Esme's hopes and all of the progress Bella has made."
"Carlisle ..." Edward's voice held a warning.
A warning that his adoptive father ignored.
"Bella trusted you, she loved you and she gave herself to you. And you've thrown her gift back in her face. As if it were worthless. As if she were worthless."
"She is not worthless. I never treated her as if she were worthless." Edward dropped his voice to a whisper. "And I treasured her gift."
"Edward, do you remember the story that Nathan the prophet told to King David?
'There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it
grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
'Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.'"
"Don't quote Scripture to me!" Edward growled.
"I think the analogy is clear. You could have chosen any number of women as sexual partners, but instead, you chose Bella. Bella, who is the pride and joy not only of your family, but also of her father. She is all he has and you used her and cast her aside when you could have had anyone."
"Carlisle, I never acted out of malice. My intentions were good."
"Your intentions might have been good, but what about your actions? You treated Tanya far better than you treated Bella. You were willing to marry Tanya."
"I will have to live with my actions for the rest of my life," Edward said in a low voice.
"What's that?"
"I didn't mean to hurt her."
"Then do what's right. Explain things to Bella, ask for her forgiveness and try to make amends. Forget about the complications and do what's right because it's the right thing to do."
Carlisle sighed deeply, the sigh of a father who has gone without sleep in order to worry over and pray for his lost son.
"Rose tells me that Jacob is finally in prison. I'm sure Bella must be relieved that she didn't have to suffer through a trial."
Edward was surprised by Carlisle's news.
"I'm not sure she knows about it. She never mentioned anything to me and I haven't spoken with Emmett and Rose since Christmas."
"Your brother and your sister are going to want to have strong words with you. And we have a wedding in August. What are you going to do about that?"
"I don't know," said Edward honestly, rubbing his eyes in despair.
"While you're in Forks you had better steer clear of Charlie. He isn't going to take this news lightly."
No, he isn't, thought Edward.
"When is Alice going to Toronto?"
"Soon. She wanted to talk to you first but it doesn't look like that is going to happen."
"Listen, you need to give Alice a message from me. Something important."
"I'm listening."
Edward groaned from the depths of his soul and grasped for the right words.
-x-x-x-x-
After haunting an almost empty house with both music and moroseness, Edward retired to his old room upstairs like a restless ghost.
He reclined on his back, in the centre of the bed, staring up at the ceiling.
It was a passing fancy, he knew, but he swore he could smell Bella's scent on his pillow and that if he closed his eyes he could hear the gentle tide of her breathing rising and falling.
He toyed with the platinum band on his left hand, twisting it over and over again.
And then because he couldn't quiet his mind enough to sleep, he sat at his desk and opened his laptop, determined to work on his next lecture, which was, sadly enough, on Dante's writings after the death of Beatrice in La Vita Nuova.
Just before collapsing in the early hours of the morning, he scrolled through the photos on his iPhone, alighting on a picture had had snapped of a young woman sleeping in a white bed in Florence.
The small, contented smile on her face gave lie to the suggestion that she regretted giving herself entirely to her beloved the night before.
I'm sure that she regrets it now…
She must hate me.
Edward stumbled to the bed and fell into a dreamless sleep.
-x-x-x-x-
Friday night found Bella at Peter's apartment.
It was a modest one bedroom a block or so away from her tiny hobbit hole.
She had spent the day working on her thesis and had made quite a bit of progress, progress she attributed to Peter's generous intervention the week before.
So now she found herself curled up on Peter's futon, drinking a Samuel Adams beer and eating pizza, preparing to watch the film Napoleon Dynamite, because they both found it more than slightly amusing.
Although tastes differ.
"What's July first?" she asked between bites of pizza.
"Canada Day. Like our Fourth of July. Why?"
"It came up at the Tribunal. But I don't know what it means."
Peter shrugged. "I don't know either. The semester is over long before that. When were you planning on moving?"
"I don't know. My lease is up the end of July but I was hoping to persuade my landlord to let me leave in May."
"What about graduation? It's in mid-June."
"I wasn't planning on going."
Peer placed his beer down on the coffee table and angled his body so he could see her better.
"Bella, you have to go to graduation. Even if it's just for your family."
She shook her head and took another sip of beer, enjoying the way it unwound and relaxed her.
"My dad doesn't care. He saw me graduate from Seattle. He isn't going to come all this way to see me walk across a stage. He'll save that trip for Harvard."
"You should at least give him the option. My parents would have killed me if I'd skipped one of my graduations. Why don't you want to go?"
"I don't want to have to walk in front of all those people, people who might be gossiping about me. I don't want to run into him."
Peter shook his head. "Masen never goes to graduation. He's usually in Italy doing research by then. And like I said, he's gone. No one knows when he's coming back. Although I've been told he's still my supervisor. So he hasn't dum-"
Peter thought better of finishing his sentence and worked on his beer instead.
And then he changed the subject.
"I was planning on heading back to Vermont in June. I'm going to be working on the farm for the summer. You know, Bella, you could drive down with me. I could help you move."
She placed her slice of pizza on a plate and dabbed at her mouth with a paper napkin.
"You have enough to do. Maybe my Dad will come and help. Although I haven't spoken with him in about three weeks."
"It's not a problem. We could head to Burlington and if you have time, you could stay with me at the farm for a day or so and I could show you around. And then we could drive down to Boston to get you settled. Are you going to live in residence at Harvard?"
"I don't know. I think they sent me something saying I couldn't get into the residence halls until August. So if I spend the summer in Boston or Cambridge, I'd have to find an apartment."
"My friend's younger brother lives in Boston. He's at Boston College. Let me talk to him and see if he knows of a place you could sublet. I think half the population of Boston is under twenty-five. There are a lot of students there."
Bella looked over at him and smiled.
"You'd do that for me? Help me move and find an apartment?"
Peter rolled his eyes. "Isn't that what friends do? Especially since you're moving to my neck of the woods. Although, I'd expect to be paid. In beer. I like Krombacher, by the way."
He grinned at her and she grinned back.
Half way through the movie, which they had both seen before on more than one occasion, she was asleep on his shoulder, their bodies close together on the futon, his arm around her.
Peter stroked her hair a couple of times, admiring her quiet beauty.
She was peaceful now. And even though there were moments when he could have sworn that she stirred and mumbled Masen's name before burrowing her head in his chest, he was unwilling to take away her peace and wake her up.
As he watched her he realized that he had a decision to make.
If he were going to be Bella's friend, a true friend, then he would have to suppress his romantic feelings for her. He couldn't kiss her or try to move things forward emotionally. It was far too soon for that. And it was quite possible she'd never want him, even when her broken heart was mended.
But Bella needed a friend, she needed him. And he was not going to abandon her in her time of need, even if it was going to be painful to set aside his true feelings.
So instead of pressing a chaste kiss to her forehead, or holding her in his arms all night on the futon, he carried her into his room and placed her in the centre of the bed. He tenderly covered her with the sheet and blankets, making sure that she was comfortable, and then he picked up an extra pillow and a quilt and retreated to the living room.
He'd make himself comfortable on the futon, while his sad but resilient friend slept soundly in his bed.
-x-x-x-x-
It was easier to show her face at the University with Peter beside her, although after the first couple of times Bella felt that she didn't really need the moral support anymore.
Professor Leaming welcomed her back to the seminar warmly and of course, there was no Angela Webber or he to be found.
So Bella found herself easing back into her normal routine, enjoying the defined schedule and purpose that her education gave her. And the growing sense of accomplishment she had as she came closer and closer to finishing her thesis.
The following Friday, Peter had invited Bella to accompany him to dinner and a movie so she wasn't surprised when he appeared at her apartment at six o'clock.
Except that his hands were full.
"This is for you," he said almost gruffly, holding a fish bowl out to her.
She took the bowl from his hands and gazed at it for a moment.
"Thank you. But why?"
"Everyone needs a betta."
She laughed and invited him into her apartment so that she could place the fishbowl on her card table. Peter also handed her a package of fish food and a small net.
The fish had been hovering hesitantly over the rocks in the bottom of the bowl but once the water settled, he began swimming slowly, investigating his environment.
"I thought he could keep you company." Peter glanced over at the dead plants on Bella's windowsill.
She blushed.
"Thank you. He's beautiful. Lovely plumage." She leaned over to admire the indigo colour of the fish and the shock of scarlet on one of his feather-like fins.
"We always had pets on the farm. It's good to have someone to look after. Someone to come home to." He smiled at her and she returned his smile shyly.
"Does he have a name?" she asked.
"No. You can name him."
"Okay. I'll call him J.D." Bella returned her gaze to the fish, who decided at that moment to swim toward her to say hello.
Anthropomorphically speaking.
"J.D.? As in Jack Daniel's?" Peter was incredulous.
She giggled. "No. J.D. after J.D. Salinger. Except I think he'll be easier to get along with. And less reclusive."
"He's also alive.
"I hate to break it to you, but bettas are reclusive. They're very territorial and so you can't put another fish in with him because he'll attack it. And I doubt he's going to write epic novels from that fish bowl. He lacks opposable thumbs."
Peter reached over and pulled her into a hug as she dissolved into giggles.
"Thank you," she said, grinning up at him.
"You're welcome." He reached up a tentative hand to push her hair behind her shoulders, but then thought better of it.
"Where are your Dante and Beatrice figurines?" he asked, covering the reason for his hand movement.
She quickly disentangled herself from Peter's arms and gave her full attention to J.D.
"Um, I put them away."
"Don't you like them?" His voice softened measurably.
She gave him an apologetic look.
"Oh no, I like them. It's just – it was making me sad to look at them."
"Bella?" He took a step closer to her. "Why do they make you sad?"
"Um, they had a tragic love story. Sometimes I identify with Beatrice."
"You mean Dante."
She looked over at him, feeling slightly flustered. "Um, that's right. I mean Dante."
Bella dropped her voice as she stared down at her shoes. "I'm not Beatrice anymore."
"I think you're closer to Penelope."
"Penelope from The Odyssey?" She shook her head. "I hope not."
"Penelope waited for the right man."
"She waited twenty years for a husband who left her. And cheated on her while he was gone."
"The point of the story is that she believed in love and she waited for it. And eventually, it arrived. She never settled. And neither should you."
Peter stared into her eyes fixedly and then quickly looked away, worried that he had overstepped his bounds as a friend.
Luckily, at that moment, Bella's iPhone rang and saved them both from further embarrassment.
Bella picked up the phone.
It was from a local number she didn't recognize.
Immediately, her heart leapt into her throat.
Edward?
"Hello?"
"Hello, Isabella. This is Katherine Picton."
Relevant Story exTRa’S:
Scene from Othello
Peter's quotation is from Shakespeare's Othello, Act 3, and scene 3.
Carlisle's Scriptural quotation is from II Samuel 12:1-4.
Peter Gabriel – Blood Of Eden https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXtr-iTqMEE&feature=PlayList&p=0708A9C1B9A11CA0&playnext_from=PL&playnext=1&index=50
Bruce Cockburn – Mango https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNH5WMgZpIg

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