capitolo trentasei

Andare in basso

capitolo trentasei

Messaggio  simona80 il Sab 12 Mar 2011, 23:17

Chapter Thirty-Six
In the days that followed Katherine Picton's telephone call, and even in the days before that, Bella found herself easily distracted by her thesis.
Though the subject matter sometimes worsened the never-ebbing ache in her heart, the academic work of building analysis and argument and footnote upon footnote required an intense discipline of the mind. Aided by this discipline, Bella continued to make progress personally. She was able to get out of bed every morning and visit the library or go to her seminars without coaxing or coaching from Peter and she was able to eat three meals a day.
She tried really hard not to listen to too much Tori Amos, for her music had the tendency to make Bella melancholy. Although Past the Mission was a favourite song and it ended up being played a bit too frequently for her neighbour's taste.
She enjoyed the company of J.D. and spent many happy moments watching him watch her, noting with satisfaction that he was happy, too. (For bettas produce bubbles when they are happy and J.D. had already produced a large nest of bubbles within forty-eight hours of becoming her companion.)
She cleaned her apartment of dead plants and tried to clean it of unhappy memories, reluctantly taking the print of Holiday's painting from over her bed and storing it in her closet. She couldn't bear to part with it; she just didn't want to have it hanging over her when she tried to sleep.
Evenings were different.
It was difficult to sleep alone. Not that she had ever enjoyed it or quite gotten used to it after she had become addicted to falling asleep in Edward's arms. But when the darkness came, and her hobbit hole was quiet, she missed him most of all.
Sometimes she would repeat the pretty things he'd said to her or remember the times they'd made love.
I will never take from you. I will only give.
He'd said this to her at Thanksgiving. After that terrible encounter with Jacob.
It troubled her that Edward had actually succeeded where Jacob had failed – in splintering her already injured heart into more than one piece.
And that he had called her Héloise…
The name of a deeply hidden fear.
Héloise, who had been seduced and then abandoned by her teacher and lover and condemned to live in a convent after the birth of their child, never to see her lover again.
Something about a previous conversation with Edward about Abelard and Héloise taunted her, but her memory was short-circuited by a sudden wave of nausea. Bella stumbled to her bathroom in the dark, making it to the toilet just in time to expel that evening's stomach contents.
Later on, she crawled into bed, breathing deeply in the hope that she could relax enough to find rest, and eagerly read the fragments of an ancient poem from an anthology she kept on her nightstand.
"…..You burn me…..
Remembering those things
We did in our youth…
…Many, beautiful things…
…Again and again…because those
I care for best, do me
Most harm…
You came, and I was mad for you
And you cooled my mind that burned with longing…
Eros, again now, the loosener of limbs troubles me,
Bittersweet, sly, uncontrollable creature….
…..but you have forgotten me…
You and my servant Eros….
Like the sweet-apple reddening high on the branch,
High on the highest, the apple-pickers forgot,
Or not forgotten, but one they couldn't reach…
Neither for me the honey
Nor the honeybee…
Yet I am not one who takes joy in wounding,
Mine is a quiet mind….
Like the mountain hyacinth, the purple flower
That shepherds trample to the ground…
Dear mother, I cannot work the loom
Filled, by Aphrodite, with love for a slender boy…
The Moon is down,
The Pleiades. Midnight,
The hours flow on,
I lie alone."
x-x-x-x-
"That son of a bitch!" Charlie Swan swore loudly into Bella's ear. She had to hold her iPhone at arm's length in order to protect her eardrums. "When did this happen?"
"Um, at the beginning of March." Bella sniffled a little.
"And when he broke up with you, he didn't give you any explanation?"
"Not really," Bella lied. She didn't have the energy to describe the events leading up to her separation from Edward, and anything having to do with the VOLTURI Tribunal would just make Charlie angrier.
"When I see him, I'll fix him."
"Dad, please." Bella restrained a sob. The conversation was difficult enough without having to worry about shotguns being loaded and Edward's lily-white tail being hunted through the woods of Forks.
Charlie breathed heavily into the phone. "Where is he now?"
"I don't know. He cut off all contact and then left the country. Only Carlisle has spoken to him. Alice is supposed to fill me in on everything when she arrives."
"Alice is coming?"
"Just for a short visit. She needs to do a couple of things for the wedding and then she was going to see if she could take a few days off work. I'm expecting her either this week or the next."
"Well, that's good."
Charlie had always had a soft spot in his heart for Alice and so he felt relieved that she would be checking up on Bella. He biggest fear was that his daughter would retreat inwardly just as she had when she broke up with Jacob. Although he had to admit, she sounded stronger now than before.
"I hate to say this, Bells, because I know you – cared for him, but Edward is a cokehead. Once an addict, always an addict. Maybe he's using again and he didn't want to put you through that. Maybe he ran into trouble with his dealer in Toronto. Drugs are a messy business and I'm glad he's gone. The farther away from you the better."
Bella didn't cry at her father's words, but her heart clenched.
"Please don't say things like that, Dad. For all we know, he's setting up his sabbatical for next year."
"In a crackhouse."
"Dad, please."
Charlie winced as he heard Bella's voice tremble.
"I'm sorry, Bells. I really am. I want my little girl to find someone good and be happy."
"I want that for you, too," she whispered.
"Well, we're quite a pair." He cleared his throat and decided to change the subject.
"Jacob went to prison. I don't know if you read my email or not but he's going to be gone for a while."
"I read it. I thought I'd feel relieved but …" Bella wasn't exactly sure how to characterize her emotions.
"You don't need to worry about him anymore. Now I want you to tell me about your graduation. I made some money from the sale of the house and I'd like to come and see you graduate. And the rest of the money I want to give you as a graduation gift.
"We should also talk about what you want to do this summer. You're always welcome to come home. Your new room is waiting for you. You can paint it any colour you want. Hell, paint it purple."
She couldn't help but smile.
"Thanks, Dad."
Although Forks was the last place Bella wanted to go at that moment, at least she had a parent and a home, a home that didn't have bad associations with either Jacob or Renee.
Or him.
x-x-x-x-
Spring had sprung.
On the twenty-sixth of March, Bella walked through the melting snow to Katherine Picton's house, clutching a bottle of Chianti.
She was nervous.
Although her relationship with her thesis advisor was cordial, it had never been warm. Katherine wasn't the kind of person to dote or fawn or patronize with undue praise. She was professional and demanding and decidedly unsentimental.
Which meant that she intimidated Bella more than a little.
So Bella was quite concerned when Katherine telephoned her to invite her to dinner. And of course, her first thought was that Katherine had found the latest chapter of her thesis wanting.
Bella stood on the front porch of Katherine's three-story brick home and rang the doorbell. She wiped her palms on the front of her pea coat, trying to dispel the clamminess.
"Isabella, welcome." Katherine opened the door and led Bella inside.
If Bella's small studio was a hobbit hole, then Katherine's house was the abode of a wood elf.
A wood elf with a taste for fine, old furnishings. Everything was elegant and antique; the walls were panelled in dark wood with expensive carpets blanketing the floors. The decorating was aristocratic but spare and Bella noticed that everything was extremely ordered and tidy.
After taking Bella's coat, Katherine graciously accepted the Chianti and then directed her to a small parlour off the front hall. Bella promptly sat herself in a leather club chair in front of the hearth and gratefully accepted a small glass of sherry.
"Dinner is almost ready," Katherine said and vanished, like a Greek apparition.
Bella noticed that there were large books about English architecture and gardens gracing the low coffee table. And the walls were lined with pastoral scenes interspersed with the occasional severe black and white portrait of what had to be the ancestral Pictons.
She sipped her sherry slowly, allowing the warmth of it to slide down her throat and warm her stomach. Before she could finish, Katherine was escorting her into the dining room for dinner.
"This is lovely," she remarked, admiring the fine bone china, crystal and silver candlesticks that Katherine had set atop a crisp white damask tablecloth.
"I like to entertain," said Katherine simply. "But truthfully, there are few dining companions that I can stand for an entire evening."
Bella nodded as if she understood and took her place next to Katherine, who sat at the head of the long, oak table.
"It smells delicious," said Bella, trying not to ravenously inhale the scent of cooked meat and vegetables that wafted heavenward from her plate.
"I tend toward vegetarianism, but in my experience graduate students never eat enough meat. So I've prepared an old recipe of my mother's. Normandy hotpot, she used to call it. I hope you don't mind pork."
"Not at all," Bella said, smiling. But when she saw the lemon zest atop the plate of steamed broccoli, her smile narrowed.
Edward had a thing for garnishes.
"A toast perhaps?" Katherine poured Bella's wine gift into their glasses and then held hers aloft.
Bella raised her glass obligingly.
"To your success at Harvard."
"Thank you," Bella murmured, hiding her mixed emotions behind the act of drinking.
"I'll come straight to the point," said Katherine, once a polite space of time had elapsed and they were more than halfway through their dinner.
"I brought you here to discuss a number of different things. First, your thesis. How is that coming?"
Bella swallowed a parsnip hastily. "I've made a lot of progress. I think you'll be pleased."
"Good. I will give you your latest chapter back tonight, with my comments. But I'll warn you, that chapter is going to need a major rewrite and so will your translations."
Bella's face fell.
Katherine tapped her index finger on the tablecloth.
"Don't despair. What I need from you is the best possible final draft of the entire thesis by April ninth. I can still assess your performance and give you a passing grade even if the draft requires some revisions. I'll just ask you to make those changes before you submit the manuscript to the graduate school for binding."
"Thank you."
"Don't thank me, you're the one who has been working very hard. I know you've had a – setback of a sort. Do you think you can meet the deadline?"
"Yes. Absolutely. And I'll have the draft ready by the ninth."
Katherine smiled and relaxed in her chair. "Good. That allows me to bring up another point."
Bella tore her eyes away from Katherine and reached over to grasp her wine glass, her hand shaking slightly. She had no idea what was coming next.
"I do my best to stay out of people's personal lives. I don't like it when people pry into my life and I offer others the same courtesy. But in your case, I was dragged into something against my will by Aro Pritchard." Katherine grimaced and at the mere mention of his name, Bella shuddered.
"I'm not privy to everything that went on at Aro's McCarthy trial. And I don't want to be." Katherine glanced at Bella meaningfully. "But I know that a jealous graduate student filed a complaint against you that was later found to be malicious and somehow that complaint resulted in the censure of Professor Masen. Professor Masen is a friend of mine, and for reasons I choose not to divulge, I owe him a debt I cannot repay."
Bella nodded and tried to distract herself by nibbling on her food.
"Garrett Armstrong's Department was advertising for an endowed chair in Dante studies this year. I had hoped that Edward would be offered that job." Katherine saw Bella move out of the corner of her eye, but quickly
continued. "Unfortunately, the chair has been offered to someone else. They foolishly tried to lure me out of retirement. And they offered the position to Mark Musa, who is also retired."
Katherine shook her head. "Harvard has a lot of money, which means they think they can hire whomever they want. Although how that dreadful Pacciani man ended up on their short list, I'll never know.
"At any rate, Cecilia Simonetti will be the new endowed chair. They lured her away from Oxford and she will start her appointment this summer. It would be good if you could work with her. Provided all goes well with your thesis, I'll be happy to telephone Cecilia and let her know of your arrival."
"Thank you," said Bella. "That's very kind."
Katherine waved a casual hand. "Not at all."
The two women spent the next few minutes finishing their dinner in relative silence. While Katherine cleared the table, after refusing Bella's repeated attempts to help, Bella sat quietly, finishing her wine.
A part of her had thought, no, hoped that maybe Edward would get the job at Harvard and that in so doing, he would be able to quit his job in Toronto and tell the Tribunal where to put their non-fraternization policy.
Now it was completely out of the question.
Over coffee and a light dessert of bread pudding and Bird's custard, Katherine resumed their conversation.
"I spoke with Edward recently. But be assured that he did not violate either your confidence or the strictures of the Tribunal's Draconian confidentiality agreement. Nevertheless, I am not a fool and I am not blind. It's clear to me that you and Edward were involved and that that involvement has been effectively ended by Aro and his meddling little Inquisition."
No one expects the Spanish Inquisition, thought Bella quite inappropriately, but involuntarily.
"In my last conversation with Edward, it was clear to me that whatever happened with the Tribunal hit him as hard as the death of his mother. And it isn't because he was relieved of his undergraduate teaching responsibilities or his ability to supervise female students. Permanently."
Katherine's eyes narrowed as she took in Bella's surprised expression.
"Did you not know that? Between Aro Pritchard and Professor Santos, they have curtailed Edward's job description. They also cancelled his sabbatical. Which had been well-earned, by the way."
Bella felt tears form at the corners of her eyes. "No, I didn't know."
Katherine sat back in her chair and paused for a moment. "I had to wheedle the news out of him. He was quite embarrassed about it and of course, the University is doing its level best to keep everything quiet. I have half a mind to tell my friend Margaret Atwood the entire story." At this, she glanced at Bella significantly. "But I won't."
"If they're so displeased with him, why didn't they just fire him?"
"That's a very good question, Isabella. In my experience, university administrations try to avoid scandal and public gossip at all costs. Censuring Edward is much less dramatic than firing him." Katherine gazed over at Bella, weighing her countenance.
"And I would surmise based on observation that the offended party claimed not to have been offended."
Bella nodded, still fighting back tears.
"So the University is punishing him as harshly as they dare, while stopping short of firing him. And I'm certain they are hoping that you will elect not to sue them. If you were to sue them, they'd fire Edward for sure.
"Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides. Who cover faults, at last shame them derides," Katherine quoted Shakespeare's King Lear with her eyes closed.
Bella was good and truly puzzled. And she said so.
"You need to allow reason to be your guide. For example, Casanovas don't usually look so … forlorn when they lose a conquest. Wouldn't you agree?"
"I don't know, Professor."
"Don't you?"
Katherine sipped her coffee thoughtfully and allowed her previous words to hang in the air.
"I was a graduate student, once. A long time ago. And in those days at Oxbridge it was shamefully common for married or unmarried dons to develop romantic relationships with their students, male or female.
"Sometimes the relationships were what we would now consider sordid little harassment cases. Other times true love was involved. Let's just say that at least as an observer, I saw both. However, from personal experience I know the difference between a Willoughby and a Colonel Brandon."
Bella looked over at Katherine eagerly, hungry for hope.
"Isabella, I don't need to tell you which one Edward is.
"It's clear to me that Aro was on a witch hunt, and that he didn't care which witch he caught in his crucible. In fact, I think he would have been rather pleased with himself if he had caught two rather than one." She smiled at Bella. "I rather like the idea of him having to learn to live with disappointment."
At this, Katherine stood up and suggested that they retire to the parlour.
Once again, Bella sat in the comfortable club chair next to the fire and gratefully received the small glass of port that Katherine pressed into her hand. Although Katherine's decorating style was quite different from Edward's, it seemed as if Dante specialists enjoyed drinking by the fireplace. And Bella counted herself as one of their numbers.
"Isabella, you will have a fresh start at Harvard and no one will have an inkling of what transpired here. Until then, it would be wise to follow all of the directives of the Tribunal and not to draw any more attention to yourself."
At this point, Katherine gave Bella a look that was piercing, if not severe. Bella lowered her eyes submissively.
"Graduate students, especially female graduate students, are vulnerable with respect to their reputation. There are still those in the Academy who would choose to mislabel the fruits of talent and hard work as the results of preferment and prostitution. It's best for you if you never give anyone the slightest suspicion that you haven't earned your accomplishments through your own hard work."
Katherine tapped her chin thoughtfully. "In light of all of this, it's a mercy that Edward wasn't offered the chair at Harvard. A severe one, but a mercy nonetheless."
x-x-x-x-
"You've been avoiding me."
Victoria rolled her eyes, forgetting momentarily that the jackass on the other end of the line couldn't see her.
"That's right, James. I'm too busy winning in court and out of it to return your calls. I have to leave in fifteen minutes. You have five."
James couldn't help but adjust himself as he sat in his office. Yes, Victoria was a bitch and a ball-buster, but he found her gruffness sexy.
And the sex between them had been hot. Very hot …
"I'll cut to the chase then. I've been directed by my client to offer a cash settlement to your client, Miss Swan."
Victoria dropped the file she'd been reading while listening to James breathe through his mouth. "Excuse me?"
"You heard me. I have money for Miss Swan."
"Why? She has no wish to sue Professor Masen for harassment. Try as I did to convince her otherwise."
"I suppose I should thank you for that, Victoria."
"I've seen how you thank women, James. No thanks."
Now it was James' turn to roll his eyes. "Listen, he wants to give her money. He knows she won't take it if she discovers it's from him. Can you and I work out some sort of arrangement here? Or should I look elsewhere?"
Victoria spun her desk chair around to look out her corner window onto Bay Street.
"How much money are we talking about?"
"A lot. But that can be negotiated."
"I thought that you were going to slap a restraining order on my client if she tried to have any contact with Masen. Are you tempting me to return the favour?"
"As I recall, you weren't much for returning favours, Princess. But you're right – we're supposed to keep our clients away from one another. That's why I'm calling you and not her."
"Masen makes my head spin. He ended his affair with my client just because Aro Pritchard told him to. Why would he want to give her money? Is he dying and trying to get into heaven?"
"Victoria, my client has his own reasons. But he authorized me to point out that Miss Swan's funding from her Master's degree ends in May and her funding for her Ph.D. at Harvard, assuming she's still going, doesn't begin until some time in August. She will need money to move to Massachusetts and secure a new home. My client wishes to ensure that she has what she needs, recognizing her situation and prospects and the fact that her family is not in a position to offer much financial assistance."
"I'm not sure she should take his blood money and give him the opportunity to assuage his conscience. But I'm curious. What's the catch?"
"No catch. He wants the money transferred to her anonymously because he knows she will return it if it's associated with him."
"And rightly so, James. Your client has been a prick."
"I have no interest in rehashing the Tribunal, Vickie," James snapped. "Do you want the money for your client or not? I have half a mind to tell him to keep it."
"Relax James," she purred, her demeanour changing instantly. "Just relax."
James closed his eyes and began to breathe deeply.
Damn, she's infuriating.
"So what's your suggestion for a cover story, Mr. Greenspan?"
"I transfer the money to you and you tell her it's a settlement from the University."
"So you want me to lie?"
"That's right," he said coolly.
"I doubt she'll believe me. What if she checks up on it?"
"Tell her there is a nondisclosure agreement attached to it, one that would rule out a lawsuit against the VOLTURI. Make up a fake contract."
"I could be disbarred for that!"
"Oh, and we can't have that. Otherwise that twisted little freak of a girlfriend you have would have to find another lawyer to defend her against harassment cases."
"Watch it, James."
"I'd love to, Vickie. I'd love to watch you and your girlfriend go at it. Anytime."
Victoria closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, holding her breath as long as she could.
"You aren't the only one with secrets, James. So don't fuck with me."
James adjusted himself in his chair, smiling widely for his arrow had hit its mark.
"I wouldn't dream of it. That's why I'm trying to work out an arrangement here, one in which both of our clients get what they need. And you and I receive a percentage of the settlement. Now are you going to cooperate or not?"
"How much money are we talking here?"
"A hundred thousand dollars. But my client doubts that Miss Swan would accept so large an amount, regardless of the source."
"Right. So give me another number."
"Forty thousand dollars for her and ten thousand dollars for you."
Victoria laughed. "Your first offer was better. That's not much of a settlement."
"Then call it something else! Lie through your teeth if you have to. I don't fucking care. My client is willing to go as high as a hundred thousand or even higher; he seems to think the more we offer your client, the less likely she will be to accept it. Persuade her to accept the money, no questions asked. You're good at lying, Vickie. I should know."
"Just like you were telling the truth when you said that we were exclusive? Hello, Kettle. My name is James. And I'm a liar."
He huffed impatiently.
"Look, let's try to be professional, okay? Your client is a poor kid who could use the money. She lives on almost nothing in a studio apartment. This would enable her to find a nice, safe place to live in Boston and to hire a shrink to give her some counselling. Forget about everything else and think about her. Think of this as a scholarship program. Like the Miss America pageant."
"You're an asshole, James."
"An asshole with forty thousand dollars for your client, Vickie."
She took a moment to turn James' proposal over in her mind. Bella certainly needed the money, and Edward Masen certainly deserved to pay.
"Fine. Have one of your law clerks bring over a certified cheque and I'll work out the rest."
"Thank you. Now that that's settled, there are a couple of other things you need to know …"
-x-x-x-x-
True to her word, Victoria fabricated a story surrounding the settlement offer of forty thousand dollars to be paid directly to Miss Isabella Swan.
The only problem was that Bella wouldn't take it.
"Give it to the Hospital for Sick Children. Or Alex's Lemonade Stand. The VOLTURI can't buy me off."
Victoria smiled patiently.
"It's not about buying you off, Bella. It's about justice. You authorized me to file a complaint against Angela Webber in response to the one she filed against you. However, she has filed a lawsuit against the University
alleging discrimination and so the VOLTURI are reticent to give your complaint a hearing until all the legal issues are resolved. And you will be long gone by the time that happens.
"So in lieu of a speedy resolution to your complaint, they would like to provide you with funding to pay for counselling services, if you need them, and also to cover any undue expenses arising from her complaint. They know that you're one of the top students in your program and that you'll be going to Harvard. They're trying to ensure that you make it there, thus eliminating the possibility of you suing them, too."
Bella frowned, a furrow appearing between her eyebrows. "I'm on track to graduate. I'm seeing a counsellor but I'm paying for it myself. I don't need their money."
"Perhaps not, but you are entitled to it for the distress they have caused you. You were accused maliciously, and you suffered a serious loss that has no doubt damaged you." She smiled even more widely. "I think that they should give you more money. And I'm prepared to go back to them and ask them to increase their offer."
Bella chewed at the inside of her mouth thoughtfully.
Yes, the money would be helpful. She could pay Siobhan's normal fees and also pay Victoria. And she would be able to afford an apartment in Boston for the summer without having to accept Charlie's money or take out another student loan.
But it felt wrong to take the money. It felt wrong to put a price on her suffering and grief. Her loss was incalculable. Why should she give the VOLTURI the grim satisfaction of thinking that money could purchase justice?
It couldn't.
"I won't take it. They can put it into a legal defence fund for graduate students. Or they can give it to a children's charity. But I don't want their money and I won't accept it." She straightened her shoulders and gave Victoria an impassioned look. "And I won't sign any paperwork."
Victoria argued with her client for close to an hour before finally giving up, begrudgingly shaking Bella's hand before she left.
She and James had truly met their match.
-x-x-x-x-
Against the backdrop of James and Victoria's machinations, Bella and Peter had settled into a comfortable routine.
Sometimes they would meet for a quick dinner after Professor Leaming's seminar. Other times Peter would look over Bella's Dante translations in the library, outside of his carrel. For Bella could not stand to set one foot inside of it.
But every Friday night found the two friends seated on Peter's futon eating pizza, drinking Krombacher that Bella had purchased, and watching movies.
On this particular evening, she ate her Hawaiian pizza thoughtfully as they prepared to watch another cult favourite, Office Space.
"Who are they?" She pointed to a small photograph of four people, two men and two women, which Peter had partially hidden behind a large pillar candle on top of his television.
"Um, the girl on the far left is Heather, my little sister, and her husband, Chris. And that's me on the far right."
"And the other girl?" Bella gazed at the face of the pretty young woman who was clutching Peter's waist and laughing.
"Um, that's Charlotte."
Bella waited politely for Peter to elaborate.
"My ex-girlfriend."
"Oh, " said Bella.
"We're still friends. But she's working in Vermont and couldn't handle the long-distance thing. We broke up a while ago," Peter explained quickly before clamming up.
Bella nodded and decided to change the subject.
"Do you think J.D. is going to make it to Boston?"
"What's that?"
"My fish – J.D. I read online that fish can get pretty stressed when they travel. Will he survive the move?"
"I've moved fish before. You just have to be careful. Make sure you keep their water fresh and feed them regularly." Peter grinned. "I'm sure some bettas are prima donnas who would die at the drop of hat, but not J.D. He's a bad ass. Like you."
Bella giggled as she thought about J.D., bad-assed betta.
"Which reminds me, Charlotte's younger brother Patrick is looking for an apartment for you to sublet. I asked him to choose something in a safe neighbourhood that is close to Harvard, because I know you won't have a car. He's going to get back to me when he finds something."
"Thank you, Peter. I really appreciate it."
He was quick to return her smile. "You're welcome. Uh, I'm sorry that I'll have to reschedule next Friday night's da – um, movie night."
Bella gave him an apologetic look. "That's fine. I know you have a social life. You don't have to babysit me every Friday."
He reached over to rub his thumb lightly across the edge of her shoulder. "Hey. This isn't babysitting. This is me spending time with you because I enjoy your company. I'm not a martyr. Believe me, I wouldn't be here if I didn't want to be."
Bella reddened slightly and hid her face behind her long hair as she leaned forward to take another slice of pizza.
"It's just that every once in a while the guys from my rugby team get together for drinks. One of them is celebrating his birthday next Friday so I'm going to go out with them. But we could have our movie night on Saturday. If you want."
"I'd like that," said Bella, softly. "I look forward to movie night all week."
Peter smiled widely. "Me too."
"What will you and the rugby players do? Hang out at a sports bar? Watch soccer?"
Peter flushed a little but Bella was too busy focusing on her pizza to notice. "Uh, no."
She looked up and caught his eye.
"The guys like to drink, so we might start out a sports bar. But later on they'll want to go to a strip club."
Bella's eyebrows shot up.
"I usually don't go. Although I've gone sometimes." Peter seemed embarrassed by the fact.
"It's kind of what men do when they get together, isn't it?"
He shook his head.
"Um, the men in my family did not do that. My mother would be horrified and my father would lecture me about the importance of respecting women."
Bella turned her body so that she could face him.
She grinned. "Really?"
"Strip clubs are not nice places, Bella. I never feel good after going to one. I always feel guilty, wondering if the strippers are someone's daughter or sister. Or mother."
He shuddered and took a long pull from his beer.
"And to be honest with you, I don't find them sexy."
"You're kidding," said Bella before clapping a hand to her mouth. "Sorry."
He shrugged. "No need to be sorry. It's just that eroticism is about the mind. It's about anticipation and attraction and intimacy. For a man, nothing is more erotic than watching a beautiful woman take her clothes off – slowly, just for you. But to have to share that experience with a room full of horny bastards who are shouting and trying to shove money at her ... Or to have the women half-naked already, or dressed cheaply ... I don't know. The women usually aren't what I would consider desirable. The whole thing is just vulgar and – unsexy."
"I hadn't really thought about that."
"Well, I'm not an angel, so I've had my share of vices. But that's one vice that really doesn't tempt me. So next Friday night, I'll go out drinking with the guys and when they head to the Brass Rail, I'll head home. Alone."
He smiled at her and then turned his attention to his dinner, hoping he hadn't offended her or made her think that he was a geek.
"Peter." Her voice was quiet as she leaned over to take his hand in hers.
His eyes darted over to look at her face.
"You're pretty amazing, you know that?" She shifted uncomfortably. "Maybe I shouldn't have said that."
Peter blushed and then without thinking, pulled her hand to his lips, kissing her knuckles chastely. "I think you should say whatever is on your mind. And for the record, I've always thought you were pretty amazing, too, Miss Bella."
She smiled but withdrew her hand delicately, so as not to give offense.
"So no strip clubs for Peter."
"No. I'm pretty much a one woman man."
"Me, too. A one man woman, I mean."
Peter snickered. "I know what you meant. You don't have to be so careful around me. I'm not going to flip my lid if you say something wrong."
Bella was slightly flustered by his comment but continued. "Relationships are so complicated. Some people use intimacy to get sex, while others use sex to get intimacy."
Peter chewed on his pizza thoughtfully. "I don't think people should use other people, period. Especially when sex is involved. I'm sure I'm old-fashioned, but I think you should at least care about the person. Love them, even."
Bella nodded gravely.
I think so, too.
The two friends finished their pizza and their beer without resolving the age-old questions about sex and intimacy and then true to custom, Bella fell asleep against his shoulder about three-quarters through the very funny film.
When the movie was over, Peter kissed her forehead sweetly. He couldn't help himself.
And he couldn't keep himself from whispering, "I'm trying really hard not to fall in love with you, Bella Swan. But I think it's already too late."
x-x-x-x-
Edward sat in his room at the Parker House Hotel and started up his laptop. He was dissatisfied with his lecture and eager to fix it before the following afternoon's presentation.
But it was also an excuse to delay sleep and to distract his mind.
Even in his hotel room, she was everywhere.
On his computer, on his cell phone, in his iPod, in his head.
Oh, yes, in his head. And she toyed with his senses.
He was correct when he said that he would never forget what it felt like to gaze upon her naked body for the first time, the way her eyes were fixed on the floor shyly, the way her face flushed under his heated watch.
He remembered looking down into her deep, dark eyes as she trembled beneath him on the bed, mouth hanging open a little, breathing heavily, and the way her eyes widened as he entered her, breaking her.
She had flinched.
And he had made her bleed.
Somehow he could remember every time he'd made her flinch. And there had been many – when he shamed her for being poor, when he first carried her to his bed, when he cornered her in the Uffizi, when he wove his fingers through her hair and she begged him not to press her head down, when he finally broke her by admitting that he'd agreed to separate himself from her …
How many times could he hurt her in one short life?
She thought that he'd abandoned her in favour of his job. She thought that he was a coward.
She'll never believe me now…
Edward picked up his brand new iPhone and scrolled through the emails he had forwarded from his old Gmail account to his new one, pausing on one of them.
Because of that single email, he had flung his old iPhone to the ground and stomped on it.
It represented just how much he had failed her.
Because his self-flagellation over his mistakes was not yet complete, Edward would torture himself with music and poetry, listening to Sting's retelling of the story of David and Bathsheba over and over again as he wrote.
As the song swirled in the air, he gazed at Dante's poetic reflection on the death of Beatrice and found his heart echoing the words.
'The base heart does not have enough wit
to imagine anything of her,
so grievous weeping does not come to him:
but sadness and grief come
with sighs, and a death by weeping,
stripping the soul of every comfort,
to him who sees continually in his thoughts
what she was, and how she has been taken.
Anguish grants me a deep sighing,
when the thought in my grave mind
recalls her for whom my heart is broken:
and often when I think of death,
such a sweet desire comes to me,
that it transmutes the colour of my face.
And when that idea becomes truly fixed in me,
I know such pain in every part,
that I start up with the grief I feel:
and become such
that shame hides me from others.
Then weeping, lonely in my grieving,
I call to Beatrice, and say: 'Are you truly dead?'
and while I call, I am comforted.'
That night, it would not be difficult to write of loss, separation and regret.
What would be far more difficult would be the task of presenting his research dispassionately to a hall full of half-bored academics when all he wanted to do was succumb to some of his old temptations in order to deaden his pain.
-x-x-x-x-
"I had a dream that Edward came back to me. And that he still loves me." Bella sat with Siobhan in her office during one of their weekly sessions.
"How did this dream make you feel?"
Bella fidgeted with her hands.
"I want to believe that he still loves me. But the longer it takes for him to send me a sign that he's coming back, the harder it is. Part of me is afraid of getting my hopes up."
Siobhan looked at Bella sympathetically. "Hope is very important. Everyone needs hope. But in therapy, we don't trade in hypothetical situations, we trade in reality. As much as your mind is trying to puzzle out what happened with your boyfriend, we still need to focus on you and how you are doing regardless of whether Edward returns or not."
"Do you think it's possible he might come back?" Bella's voice was tentative.
"I have no idea, Bella. I'm sorry. And even if he did, what's to say you would take him back? He hurt you deeply by making a pre-emptive decision that affected both of you. And when you asked to discuss the matter with him, like an adult partner, he refused to talk to you. No matter what his reasons are or were, these are heavy infractions that would require a lot of time to work through. You might decide you don't want to be with someone who could behave that way, no matter what his reasons are."
Bella brushed aside a tear.
"But once again, our focus is you, not him. I'm very proud of you for the progress you've made in the short time we've been working together. I see from your journals that you are finishing your Master's degree and your thesis successfully and that you've been working very hard to manage your anxiety. Good for you."
Bella smiled thinly at Siobhan's praise.
"I am going to ask you to continue the exercises in which you manage your worries, talking to your higher power, and focusing on those things for which you are grateful. But I want to add something to it. And it's going to be difficult."
"I'm sure I can try."
"I'm sure you can do it. What I want you to do this week is to take one hour and write down why you are so upset with Edward. Be brutally honest and specific. Describe what he did and how it made you feel. Do you think you can do that?"
"It's going to be painful," Bella whispered, wiping away another tear.
"Yes, it will. And if you decide that you can't do it this week, that's fine. We'll postpone it. But if you can do it, then following that exercise, I want you to spend an hour and a half writing out what you would say to Edward if you were to talk to him now. Be specific. Focus on what he did, how it made you feel and what you want him to know about the consequences of his actions. It's very important that the two exercises are done together. So if you can't do them this week, I'll ask you to do it another time."
"I'll try."
"You are very brave, Bella, and I'm very proud of you. How is your devotional reading going?"
"I finished The Way of a Pilgrim. I liked it a lot."
"How did it make you feel?"
"Well, it made me grateful for my life and my friends. It made me want to focus on the simple things and not get so bent out of shape about things that aren't important. It made me realize that although education is a wonderful thing, it isn't the only thing. I want to do more. I want to be more. More … whole."
"Those are all excellent goals and they are precisely what we are working towards – so you can be a whole, healthy person who lives up to her potential, is grateful for her blessings and finds lasting happiness. None of these goals are trivial or easy but they are all worth achieving."
Siobhan stood to her feet and walked over to one of her bookshelves. She retrieved a small, slim volume and then handed it to Bella, who quickly glanced at the title.
A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis.
Bella gave Siobhan a questioning look.
"Lewis wrote this book after his wife passed away and it discusses love and loss and faith. You might find that it will inspire you to journal your own feelings as we work through the grief process together."
Siobhan then handed Bella a beautiful green leather covered journal with a tree embossed on its cover.
"I'd like you to have this. In this book you can write whatever you want. I won't be reading it. But I would like you to bring it with you to our next session and if there are things in it that you'd like to discuss, we can. Or not."
"Thank you," said Bella.
"The assignment I gave you for this week is going to be difficult. If you find yourself upset or if you want to talk to me before our next meeting, please call me. I'll arrange to see you right away. And remember, if you decide that it's too soon for you to complete the exercise, we'll postpone it. We're not on a schedule here."
Bella nodded and stood up, prepared to leave.
Siobhan walked her to the door and then paused in front of it.
"You are a very strong person, Bella. You can do this. You simply need to believe in yourself."
"Thank you." Bella gave Siobhan an appreciative little smile and then opened the door and walked through it.
-x-x-x-x-
On a Sunday afternoon in early April, Bella's doorbell rang.
She quickly walked to the front door of her building, expecting to see Peter. But what she found instead was a firecracker of a brunette wearing Chanel sunglasses and carrying two heavy pieces of luggage.
"Alice." Bella burst into tears at the sight of her friend and pulled her into a tight hug.
"Bella, I got here as soon as I could. I'm sorry it took so long. I wanted to come last week but I couldn't get the time off work. But I was able to get a flight out of Seattle this morning."
"I'm so glad you're here. Come on in."
Bella helped her friend carry her luggage into the apartment and then the two of them sat on Bella's bed.
"Did you have a good trip?"
Alice moved her sunglasses to her purse and shook her head. "I'm fine. But I didn't come all this way to talk about me. Bella, I have to say that this thing with you and Edward was a complete shock to all of us. I didn't see this coming."
Bella grimaced. "Neither did I."
"I have no idea what my butthead of a brother is doing. Did you know that he was in Forks a couple of weeks ago?"
"Forks?" Bella was dumbfounded. "I thought he'd be in Italy. Or Boston."
"Why Boston?"
"It's silly, but a part of me had hoped that he might quit his job up here and relocate to Boston. Because that's where I'm going to be. But that seems unrealistic now."
"What's so silly about that?"
"Alice, your brother dumped me and then refused to speak to me. He doesn't want me anymore."
Alice sighed and placed her hands over her eyes, groaning deeply. "Dad talked to Edward when he was in Forks. And although he didn't tell me everything about their conversation, I think it's pretty clear that he ripped Edward a new one."
Bella shuddered.
"But somehow, after that conversation, Dad seems to think that things aren't as bad as we thought." Alice took hold of Bella's hand. "Edward loves you. I'm sure of it. He is not the kind of person to love easily. Or to say those words without meaning them. With you, everything was different. Edward was different. That kind of love doesn't simply disappear over night. Do you know what my Dad said to me?"
"No," said Bella.
"He said appearances can be deceiving. And apparently, he was quoting Edward."
Bella withdrew her hand, not unkindly.
"Excuse me, Alice, but what the fuck is that supposed to mean?"
Alice smiled wryly. "That's what I said. But Dad was persistent."
"He could have a thousand reasons, but he left me. And when I tried to talk to him, he refused to see me. Who cares what his reasons are?"
"That's basically what Emmett said. Edward better watch his ass."
Bella arched an eyebrow.
"When Emmett found out that Edward was in Forks, he decided to drive out there from Seattle so he could knock some sense into him."
"And did he?"
"Lucky for Edward, Rose is five months pregnant and she didn't want Emmett leaving her by herself. Said he could kick Edward's ass another time. And that she'd help."
Bella couldn't help but giggle slightly. "I can only imagine that conversation."
"Emmett isn't about to argue with a very pregnant Rose." Alice smiled half-heartedly. "But there was something else."
She paused and fumbled about with her cell phone.
"Just spit it out, Alice."
"Edward asked me to tell you something. But he wanted you to swear that you would continue to pretend as if you haven't heard from him."
Bella laughed bitterly.
"That shouldn't be hard to do. I haven't."
Alice drew a deep breath and waited.
"I promise, Alice."
"Edward wanted me to tell you that he meant what he said. That he was keeping his promises. He asked you to believe him."
Bella gaped at Alice as she tried to absorb Edward's new cryptic message.
"Does that mean anything to you?"
"Alice, why won't Edward just come out and tell me what he wants me to know? This Da Vinci Code bullshit is getting a little old."
"Believe me, Bella, I said the same thing in an email to him. But he wrote back and said that it was too dangerous, something about having been caught already. Do you know what he meant by that?"
"We were both caught by the disciplinary tribunal. One of his students tried to have me expelled. Listen, Alice, if Edward wanted to talk to me, he could have called me on a pay phone or sent me a text. I doubt the University is tapping our phones – they aren't the CIA. Why didn't he just give you or Carlisle a letter to give to me?"
"My Dad said the same thing directly to Edward. But apparently he became extremely agitated and said that he wouldn't put you in any more danger."
"That's a bit much coming from him. He has a gold medal in deception. What makes him think anyone would catch him? If he truly loves me, he would have tried to tell me so. But he didn't."
Alice sighed. "So his message makes no sense at all?"
Bella shut her eyes as she tried to think back to what Edward had said to her after the Tribunal.
"He told me that he was doing this to protect my academic career. But I didn't want him to. I wanted us to be together. He did all of this on his own without talking to me about it first. And when I tried to discuss it further, he changed all of his numbers and left the country. With no explanation and no indication that he was ever coming back. Now I can't help but wonder if he did it to protect his own job."
Alice jumped off the bed. "There's no excuse for that! We all know he loves you. I can't believe that he would give you up to keep his job. But it's just like Edward to make everything secretive and complicated, and to go off on his own and leave everyone else to pick up the pieces. I could kill him. Twice.
"Give me a minute and I'll be right back."
While Alice disappeared into the washroom, Bella thought back to the letter Edward had mentioned to her on the day of the Tribunal. She wondered if there wasn't some hidden message, some hint of his return, in between its lines.
Unfortunately, she'd returned all of the things he'd written to her. So she didn't have them anymore. Unless …
"Hey, Bella?" Alice called.
"Yeah?"
"Do you mind if I open this box of tampons? My little friend has picked this lovely moment to come to visit."
"Go ahead." Bella shouted back, walking over to her dresser to see if by some miracle she had forgotten to return one of Edward's cards or notes.
And then she felt deathly cold.
A box of tampons. Unopened.
She'd bought that box at the beginning of February. But she hadn't opened it in February. And now it was April.
She began counting on her fingers …
Oh my God.
"Bella?" Alice exited the washroom a few minutes later only to find Bella standing in the centre of her studio, staring into space.
"Bella? What's wrong?"
It took a minute for her to come back to herself, but when she did she blinked down at Alice.
"You're scaring me. What happened?" Alice's voice was panicked.
"I haven't had my period."
"Oh." Alice relaxed immediately. "Is that all? I miss one every once in a while. It's no big deal."
"I've missed two. In a row. And I've been throwing up."
Alice pulled Bella to sit with her on the bed. "When was the last time you had a period?"
"End of January."
"And when was the last time you had sex?"
"Beginning of March. The night before …" Bella's voice trailed off.
Alice tried to give Bella a comforting smile.
"It doesn't mean anything. You're stressed, you've been upset. So you missed a couple of months. You were probably throwing up because of the stress, too. Um, remember how upset you were when Ja-, um, when things went badly during your senior year?"
"My periods are always regular."
"The pill tends to do that."
Bella placed her head in her hands and groaned.
"You're on the pill, right?"
When her friend didn't answer, Alice tugged on her hand.
"You told me that you were being safe. Are you on the pill?"
Bella shook her head.
"Then what did you use for birth control?"
When she didn't answer, Alice pulled Bella's hands away from her face.
"Tell me you used birth control. Tell me you and my brother didn't have unprotected sex."
Bella looked up with wide, frightened eyes. "He said he couldn't have children."
Alice stared at her friend for what seemed like an age. And then her face grew very red and her eyes sparked darkly.
"Why the hell would he tell you that? That's not true! Bella, tell me you made him wear a condom. I know he's my brother, but still …"
Bella shook her head.
Alice threw her hands heavenward in frustration.
"He was a drug addict, for God's sake! He probably shared needles. Who knows who he slept with? He should have insisted on wearing condoms to protect you. Bella, please…"
Bella wiped at her eyes and shook her head again.
Alice clenched her teeth as a fit of rage descended on her.
She snatched up her purse and hurriedly pulled out her cell phone.
"That's it. I'm calling Edward."
Relevant Story Links:
Angelica Kauffman's work, The Parting of Abelard and Heloise," (before 1780).
The poem that Bella reads is actually two – Fragments, on Love and Desire and The Moon is Down, both by Sappho and translated by A.S. Kline, 2005.
Katherine Picton's quotation over dinner is from William Shakespeare's King Lear, Act I, Scene 1. The line is spoken by Cordelia.
The book that Siobhan recommends to Bella is A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. It's a profound discussion of love and loss but very different from Sheldon Vanauken's A Severe Mercy, which was a favourite of Esme's. A film of Lewis' love story with his wife, Joy Davidman, forms the basis of the film Shadowlands, which starred Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger. The movie alone is worth watching and both actors are quite stirring in it.
Tori Amos – Past The Mission: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyoVrbcgbO4
Sting – Mad About You: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDvkOwmE2ZU (Sting's musical account of the story of David and Bathsheba)
Mad About You Lyrics:
"These are the works of men
This is the sum of our ambition
It would make a prison of my life
if you became another's wife ...
Though all my kingdoms turn to sand
and fall into the sea,
I'm mad about you."
~*~
Dante's poem mourning the death of Beatrice from La Vita Nuova, XXXI
"The base heart does not have enough wit
to imagine anything of her,
so grievous weeping does not come to him:
but sadness and grief come
with sighs, and a death by weeping,
stripping the soul of every comfort,
to him who sees continually in his thoughts
what she was, and how she has been taken.
Anguish grants me a deep sighing,
when the thought in my grave mind
recalls her for whom my heart is broken:
and often when I think of death,
such a sweet desire comes to me,
that it transmutes the colour of my face.
And when that idea becomes truly fixed in me,
I know such pain in every part,
that I start up with the grief I feel:
and become such
that shame hides me from others.
Then weeping, lonely in my grieving,
I call to Beatrice, and say: „Are you truly dead?‟
and while I call, I am comforted."

simona80
Moderarore

Messaggi : 74
Data d'iscrizione : 01.01.11
Età : 38

Visualizza il profilo

Torna in alto Andare in basso

Torna in alto

- Argomenti simili

 
Permessi di questa sezione del forum:
Non puoi rispondere agli argomenti in questo forum