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capitolo trentotto

Messaggio  simona80 il Dom 13 Mar 2011, 00:17

Chapter Thirty-Eight
"Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are …
Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings…
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks.
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto Thee."
A certain green-eyed Dante specialist read T.S. Eliot in bed before offering his night time prayers. Another empty hotel room. Another night alone, and yet not alone.
She looked beautiful today. Even more beautiful than I remembered.
And her father looked so proud.
To be near and yet so far was its own kind of exquisite torture, but despite his promises, he would not have foregone it.
And he had the photographs to prove it.
With a sigh, he closed his book of poetry and turned out the light.
Before Assisi he had always been sceptical of miracles and human nature, but now he felt himself believing in both.
He just didn't know how he would be received. And that fear more than troubled him.
-x-x-x-x-
Charlie stood at Bella's front door the day after her graduation wearing a grey t-shirt with the word Harvard emblazoned in crimson across the chest.
He was grinning, widely.
"Dad?" Bella's tone was a question.
"I'm so proud of you," he said gruffly, pulling her into a hug.
Father and daughter shared a quiet moment on the porch of Bella's building before they heard someone coming up the steps behind them.
"Uh, good morning." Peter seemed rather embarrassed at having intruded on the Swans, but he was greeted with a handshake from Charlie and a hug from Bella.
"I brought breakfast." Peter held a tray containing three coffees and some doughnuts from Tim Horton's, the Canadian equivalent (and some would say, better) of Dunkin' Donuts.
The trio shared breakfast at Bella's card table, and then the two men began planning how best to pack up all of her things and move them. Luckily, Peter had persuaded Heidi, who was subletting to Bella, to allow Bella to move into the Cambridge apartment on June fifteenth.
"Um, Katherine Picton invited me to lunch today. But I don't have to go." Bella spoke quickly. She didn't want to leave Charlie and Peter working while she went on a social call.
"You don't have a lot of stuff, Bells." Charlie quickly appraised her studio's contents. "It's basically your clothes and your books. We'll let you pack your clothes while we start on the books. I'm sure we'll be close to finished by the time you have to see your professor."
He smiled and tousled her hair with his hand before disappearing into the washroom, leaving Peter and Bella alone.
"You don't have to do this. Dad and I will be fine."
Peter frowned at her. "When are you going to accept the fact that I'm here because I want to be? I don't leave, Bella, not when I have a reason to stay."
Bella stiffened uncomfortably and her eyes quickly fixated on the half-drunk coffee in front of her.
"If Professor Picton summoned you, it's because she wants to tell you something. So you'd better go." Peter squeezed Bella's hand lightly. "Your old man and I can handle things around here."
Bella smiled at him and then removed her hand.
-x-x-x-x-
There were a few intimate things that Bella did not want her father or Peter to see so she had hid them in her L. L. Bean knapsack the night before and planned on keeping them with her while the men helped pack up her few possessions.
The items were not what one might expect a young woman to hide from her father – a journal, papers on which therapeutic exercises had been written and later read, and a few other items related to her counselling sessions.
Siobhan had been pleased by Bella's progress. Although Bella hadn't regained all of the weight she had lost, she was eating regular, healthy meals and her periods had returned.
She was plagued with insomnia, still, but Siobhan believed that that condition was linked to Bella's tendency to worry and so she encouraged her to eschew tossing and turning and instead to get up and do something positive when sleep resisted her, even if it was only watering a plant, or reading a book or talking to JD. (For Siobhan endorsed pets as an important therapeutic tool)
And when Bella left Siobhan's office after her final session, she took with her the name and contact information of a meaning-centred counsellor near Harvard who was more than willing to take Bella on as a client.
Siobhan had not only helped Bella heal, she was passing her into another set of capable hands that would help her take the next steps in her journey.
Still, as Bella re-read the letter she had written to Edward at Siobhan's request, she was filled with sadness.
April 2010
Dear Edward,
I've loved you since I was seventeen. And I believed that you came to love me, too.
But I can't understand why you would agree to be separated from me. As much as I wouldn't want to see you lose your job or suffer the embarrassment of being fired, I can't help but point out that I would have suffered exactly those things so that I could be with you. I wouldn't have thought twice.
I was willing to give up everything for you. It hurts that you weren't willing to do the same for me.
I don't understand why you kept giving me cryptic messages, first in person and then through (possibly?) Katherine Picton and your family. If you loved me, you should have been able to say so.
Did you know that I thought I was pregnant? Of course not. I asked Alice not to tell you. When I discovered that I wasn't, I cried. Even if you didn't love me anymore, I still wanted to have a baby with you. I'm sure that's messed up and pathetic – trying to hold on to whatever we had by bringing a child into this world. But I would have welcomed our baby and loved him or her and been happy that our love created something good.
If you had given me an assurance, a sign that our separation was only temporary, I could have endured it. But you didn't. You left without a complete explanation and you gave me no reason to think that you would ever return, apart from subtle riddles. If you loved me, you should have been clearer.
You left me in Limbo, Edward.
You said that you kept your promises – but what about your promise that we would go to Boston together?
You hurt me.
And although I still love you, I feel so angry and betrayed, I don't know if I can even stand to be in the same room with you again. But I am not going to miss my graduation or Alice's wedding. I'm not going to hide from you, Edward. Even if it kills me.
I just don't understand how you could leave me if you love me. And I have no idea how I'll react when I see you.
I don't know whether I'll hit you or kiss you.
-Bella.
-x-x-x-x-
Bella wore a dress and modest sandals to Professor Picton's house, thinking that an invitation to lunch warranted attractive garb. She carried her knapsack on one of her shoulders and clutched a tin of what she was told was a very fine loose Darjeeling tea, which she had purchased at Pusateri's, an upscale urban market.
She and her Darjeeling were received with typical Pictonian restraint and immediately ushered into the dining room where they enjoyed a very pleasant lunch of prawn salad, cold cucumber soup and a very fine Chardonnay.
"I telephoned Professor Simonetti," Katherine announced, eying Bella over her soup bowl.
"She's looking forward to meeting you. She's conducting a seminar in the fall on the influence of St. Thomas Aquinas on Dante. When you arrive in Cambridge, it would be good for you to spend the summer preparing for that seminar. I'd like you to impress her."
"I'll do that," said Bella. "And thank you."
"Also, it would be beneficial for you to meet the other Dante specialists in the area, especially at Boston University."
Katherine smiled sagely. "Although I'm sure circumstances will arrange themselves so that you end up being introduced to them eventually. But if you don't, you might drop by the Department of Romance Studies at B. U. and introduce yourself."
"Thank you, Professor Picton, for everything. I don't know what I would have done …" Bella's voice trailed off as she warred with her emotions. She didn't want to cry in front of her professor.
Surprisingly, Katherine reached across the table and patted Bella's hand. She touched her awkwardly, as a distinguished bachelor professor might pat the head of a crying child, but not without feeling.
"You've graduated with honours. Your thesis is solid and could form the basis of what will hopefully be a very fine dissertation. I look forward to watching your career with interest. And I think you will be very happy in Cambridge."
Katherine smiled at Bella once more, and Bella smiled back.
When it was time for her to leave, she stood up and said her thanks once more.
Professor Picton responded by smoothly handing her two wrapped parcels.
"Open them," she said.
Bella was shocked that Professor Picton was giving her not just one, but two presents. And she felt badly for only bringing tea.
The first present was small and wrapped in plain, dark green paper. Bella opened it carefully and was surprised to find a book inside of it – a hardcover version of The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood.
Bella looked at Katherine with an appreciative but questioning look.
"This is a very good story and one worth reading. Margaret is a friend of mine and I persuaded her to sign this for you."
Bella opened the book carefully and found an inscription.
To Isabella,
I wish you all the best on your own Odyssey.
With all good wishes,
Margaret Atwood
Toronto, 2010.
Bella smiled shyly at the inscription and then thanked Katherine profusely.
"Not at all, not at all. I thought you should have some summer reading that wasn't about Dante. One shouldn't be too single-minded about one's studies. And Penelope is a very interesting character, don't you think?"
Katherine then waved a hand towards the second, larger present, which Bella found to be quite heavy.
The subtle grey wrapping paper was quickly disposed of and Bella found herself looking at a leather bound set of the complete Summa theologiae by St. Thomas Aquinas, in five volumes.
"This will help you as you prepare for Cecilia's seminar. And in any case, all students of Dante should study their Aquinas. That was a premise that both Edward and I agreed upon."
At the mention of Edward, Bella grew quite flushed.
"Thank you, Professor Picton." She shifted the volumes to her left arm so that she could shake Katherine's hand but was surprised when she was pulled into a restrained but warm hug.
"You've been a good student. Now go to Harvard and make me proud. And drop me an email now and then to let me know how you are." Katherine pulled back and looked at Bella fixedly. "It's quite possible I'll be giving a lecture in Boston in the fall and so I do hope we will run into one another then."
Bella nodded her agreement before saying her farewell.
As she walked to her small studio on Madison Avenue, she hugged her knapsack tightly to her chest. It had been an extraordinary year. Perhaps the most extraordinary of her life.
A stray tear or two squeezed out from her eyes, but they were happy tears.
No matter what Edward had done afterwards, persuading Katherine Picton to be her thesis advisor was a gift so great, she would be forever in his debt.
Love is doing a kindness for someone else, not expecting to receive anything in return, she thought.
-x-x-x-x-
Peter and Charlie had boxed up all of Bella's books before she returned from Katherine's. When she rejoined them, she packed her clothes and the few pieces of china she had inherited from her grandmother and the little things she had accumulated to make her simple hobbit hole home.
Early the next morning, the trio loaded the boxes and a few things of Peter's in the back of a U-Haul and then drove eight hours to the Norris farm, which was located just outside of Burlington, Vermont.
J.D., the bad-assed betta, had a privileged position on Bella's lap for the duration of the trip.
It must be said that he travelled well. Better than even Peter expected. Of course, Bella had transferred her pet from his fishbowl into a plastic habitat that she could easily transport. And it surprised her how often Peter or Charlie would look over at the fish and ask how he was doing.
It was almost like having a baby.
The Swans were warmly welcomed at the Norris farm and were persuaded to stay a few extra days so that Ted Norris, Peter's father, could take Charlie fishing.
Bella silently doubted that any other inducement would have delayed his rigorous schedule, but that was before either of them had tried Louise Norris's cooking.
Peter's mother was an excellent cook who made everything, including doughnuts, from scratch.
Charlie's stomach was in love.
On June fifteenth, the night before the Swans and Peter were supposed to leave for Cambridge, Peter couldn't sleep.
His father had called him out of bed well after midnight because of a bovine emergency. By the time the crisis was averted, he was far too agitated to return to bed.
He had two women on his mind.
Charlotte had been visiting his mother when he arrived with Bella and her father two days earlier.
They were still friends, so the gesture was well meant, but Peter knew that part of her reason for being there was to size Bella up. He had told Charlotte about Bella at Christmastime, so she was more than aware of Bella's presence in his life and his attachment to her.
An attachment that he had to admit was unrequited, at least, at that time.
Still, Charlotte was polite and friendly to Bella and of course, Bella was her own shy but charming self in return. But it was a sea of awkwardness for Peter as he watched his past and his potential future shake hands and make small talk while he fumbled around for something to say.
And when Charlotte had called his cell phone before bed that evening and said that she wished him well and that Bella was lovely, he became very emotional and didn't know what to say.
Of course he had feelings for Charlotte. She was his first and they had a long and good history. He loved her still. But she had broken things off with him.
He'd moved on and met Bella. Why was he feeling guilty?
While Peter was contemplating his very complex yet simultaneously non-existent love life, Bella was wrestling with insomnia.
When she finally grew weary of tossing and turning, she decided to creep from the third floor garret she was occupying, (which had been Peter's sister's room), to the kitchen to get a glass of milk.
She was surprised to find Peter sitting alone at the large, harvest table, eating a rather expansive dish of ice cream.
"Hi." He smiled at her, taking in her appearance with a swift but appreciative look.
Bella walked over to him wearing an old Forks High School t-shirt and a pair of running shorts that had "Seattle University" cheekily sewn onto the seat.
To Peter's eyes, she was Helen of Troy in leisure wear.
"Ice cream, huh? You couldn't sleep, either?"
"Dad had a problem with one of the cows. We had to call the vet. Heath Bar Crunch?"
He dished up a large spoonful of Ben and Jerry's ice cream and held it out to her.
It was her favourite flavour.
She smiled and walked over to him, gently taking the spoon out of his hand.
"Mmmmm," she groaned, eyes closed.
She opened her eyes and handed back the spoon, resisting the urge to lick it clean.
Peter put the spoon in the bowl and then stood up.
She blinked at him and instinctively took a step back.
He gently took her wrist in his left hand.
"Bella," he whispered.
"What's wrong, Peter?"
"Nothing." He reached out his right hand to push her hair behind her shoulders, noting that she didn't flinch when he did so. Not this time.
"Peter?"
Now he was standing even closer, their upper bodies grazing one another. He looked down into her eyes with an expression of heated intensity.
"I don't want to say goodbye."
She smiled to put him at ease. "We won't be saying goodbye. We'll email and talk on the phone. And if you come down to Boston to visit Patrick, we'll see each other."
Peter smiled thinly. "Bella, I don't think you understand."
She thought back to the scene that had greeted them when they arrived – Mrs. Norris and Charlotte seated together at the kitchen table, deep in whispered conversation.
Bella freed her wrist from Peter's hand and stepped back. "It's because of Charlotte, isn't it? But that's alright. Dad and I can make the trip by ourselves. There's no problem."
She waited patiently for his response, but instead of looking relieved, he looked even more conflicted.
"This isn't about Charlotte. She made her choice. And then my feelings changed."
"Why?" asked Bella innocently.
Peter looked pained.
"Do you really have to ask me that?" he whispered, taking another step closer. "Don't you know?"
Leery of her rejection, he raised his hands slowly and then cupped her face. Her small, fine features engulfed by his large hands.
He held her tenderly, worried about such fragility underneath his grasp and then he slowly began to stroke her face with his thumbs, very gently.
Bella tore her eyes away from his. "Peter, I …"
"Bella, let me say this," he interrupted forcefully. "Just once, let me say this."
He inhaled deeply and waited until she met his gaze again before he spoke.
"I'm in love with you.
"I don't want to be apart from you because I love you. And the thought of having to leave you in Cambridge and then turn around and come back here is tearing me up."
Bella inhaled slowly and began to shake her head.
"Just hear me out. Please," he begged.
"I know that you aren't in love with me. I know that. But do you think that you could be – with time?"
Bella closed her eyes and breathed deeply.
Her mind raced ahead to envision a future she had not previously considered; a crossroads of possibilities.
She thought of what it would be like to allow herself to love Peter, to be held by him and kissed by him, to have him take her to his bed upstairs and make love to her, gently and sweetly.
For she knew above all things that Peter would always be sweet with her.
He would want marriage, of course, and children. But he would be proud of her academic career and support her in it.
She found herself unrepulsed by these images, for they were good. Vignettes of a happy life with a decent man who had never done her ill and who, she knew, would probably never so much as hurt her feelings as long as he lived.
She could have a good life with him. She knew this.
But there was something missing.
When she finally opened her eyes and returned his gaze, Peter saw it.
But he was unwilling to give up so readily.
"It would be different from your other relationships. There won't be drama and fights and –exs like Professor Pain. I will treat you respectfully and take care of you. And I will never, ever leave you.
"I'm a one-woman man, Bella. And if Charlotte hadn't broken up with me, I probably would have married her. But she did and then I met you.
"Choose me," he whispered, his eyes deep and intense. "Choose me and I will give you a happy life. And you will never ever have to cry yourself to sleep again."
"Peter," Bella sobbed, as the tears began to stream down her face.
She knew that what he was saying was true. But knowing the truth and wanting the truth are two very different things.
"I'm not like him. I'm not an inferno that blazes and then dies out. I'm not hot and cold and unpredictable. I'm constant. And Bella, I want you desperately. I've held back because I knew that you only wanted to be friends and that you had had your heart broken. But just once, I'd like to be able to show you what I feel without holding back."
When she didn't respond, he took her silence as acquiescence, and wrapped his arms around her tightly, hugging her to his heart.
And then he slowly lifted her chin so that their lips could meet and he poured all of his passion and love for her into a single kiss.
Peter's mouth was warm and inviting. What began as a gentle contact quickly became a promulgation of promise and want and desire.
With a split-second decision, she opened her mouth to him, tentatively, and his tongue quickly entered and met hers, his hand travelling up her back to touch her hair.
There was no domination, no pressing of boundaries, nothing overwhelming or crass.
Peter kissed her for as long as he could without becoming obscene and then he slowly lessened the pressure of his lips on hers, pecking her briefly before moving his lips to her ear.
"I love you, Bella," he said. "Say that you'll be mine. I promise, you won't regret it."
Bella pressed her face against his chest and cried.
-x-x-x-x-
Breakfast was awkward between Peter and Bella the next morning and everyone knew it.
Louise kept looking back and forth between her son and the young woman he clearly loved with mother hen-like concern.
Ted tried to keep the conversation moving by talking about the ill cow he had tended to the night before. And a funny story about a moose on the loose that was featured in the Burlington newspaper.
Charlie tried to politely cram a homemade doughnut into his mouth without appearing like a barbarian, and failed. Completely.
After breakfast, the kitchen emptied like a galleon full of rats docking in a new port, leaving Peter and Bella sitting across from one another, each fidgeting with their coffee mugs and avoiding one another's eyes.
Bella broke the silence.
"Peter, I'm so sorry."
He sighed. "I know. Me, too."
She chewed on her lip as her eyes darted to meet his, wondering if he was angry or bitter. Or both.
But he wasn't. His dark eyes were still kind but his shoulders were slumped and he appeared sad. And defeated.
"I had to try, you know? I didn't want to wait until you'd found someone else. But I won't bring it up again." He pursed his lips and a resigned expression passed over his face. "You don't need to worry about me embarrassing you anymore."
Bella leaned over the table and took his hand in hers. "I wasn't embarrassed. And I know that we would have had a good life together. That's what is making this so painful – for both of us. In my heart, I love you, too, just not the way that I should. And you deserve more. You deserve everything and you deserve to have it with someone who will love you the same way that you love her."
Peter pressed his lips together tightly as he released her hand and then stood up and left the room.
-x-x-x-x-
"Care to explain to me why farm boy is so quiet?" Charlie turned to Bella as they waited for Peter to come out of the men's room at a gas station in Concord, New Hampshire.
"He wants more than I can give him. Than I could ever give him."
Charlie sighed. "He seems like a good man. Comes from a good family. What's the problem? Got a thing against cows?"
He was trying to make her laugh, but it had the opposite effect.
He quickly held his hands up in surrender. "But what do I know? I thought Jake was a good match for you. So I guess I'm a horse's ass."
Before Bella could disagree, Peter returned to the U-Haul, ending the heart to heart conversation between father and daughter.
-x-x-x-x-
Two days later, Bella stood on the front steps of her new building saying goodbye to Peter, feeling even worse than she had when she rejected him in his parents' kitchen.
He hadn't been cold, or rude, or resentful.
He hadn't shirked any responsibilities in terms of helping drive from Vermont to Cambridge, or helping to unload all of Bella's things.
He'd even gone out of his way to set up a job interview for her at the trendy coffee shop across the street from her apartment. Heidi had just quit her job there. Peter hoped that Bella could replace her, knowing that she needed the money.
He'd slept on the floor in Bella's small apartment, while she took the bed and Charlie took the couch. And he never complained.
He'd been perfect, actually. And that made Bella almost feel as if she should change her mind.
For it would be safer, easier, and more comfortable to choose Peter.
Her heart would heal with him, she knew it.
But in choosing Peter, she would be settling for the good and not the exceptional. And even if the exceptional eluded her for the rest of her life, it would be better, she thought, to live the life of a Katherine Picton, than to be a Renee. In marrying a good man without loving him passionately and completely, she would only serve to short-change him and herself.
And she was not that selfish.
"Good bye, Bella." He hugged her tightly and then released her, watching her expression carefully.
Perhaps he was looking to see if she had changed her mind.
"Goodbye, Peter. Thanks for everything. I don't know what we would have done without you."
He shrugged. "This is what friends do."
Somehow, that remark made her want to cry.
Peter saw her eyes fill with tears and gave her a very worried expression. "We're still friends, aren't we?"
"Of course we are." Bella sniffled. "You've been a great friend to me and I hope that we can still be friends, even though …"
She didn't finish her sentence and Peter nodded as if he didn't want her to finish it.
With much hesitation, he reached out to stroke her cheek one last time, and to wipe a tear away. And then he walked towards the car where Patrick was waiting.
Patrick was going to drive him back to Vermont.
And then Peter stopped. And turned around.
He walked back to Bella, nervously.
"I didn't want to mention this in front of your father, so I was waiting until after he left. And then I thought maybe I shouldn't say anything at all." Peter looked away, up Mount Auburn Street, seemingly struggling with something.
"What is it?"
He shook his head. And then he turned to look at her.
"I got an email yesterday from Professor Santos."
Bella looked up at him in surprise.
"He told me that Professor Masen is leaving the University. He quit."
She placed a hand on either side of her temple as she tried to focus on the enormity of what Peter was saying.
"When did this happen?"
"I don't know. Apparently, his resignation is effective June thirtieth. I kind of expected him to contact me directly. I mean, I work for the guy and he's the only Dante specialist they have. Who else am I going to write my dissertation with?"
Peter caught sight of Bella's agitated pose and quickly put an arm around her.
"Hey. I'm sorry. This is why I didn't want to mention it; I didn't want to upset you. But whatever Masen is doing, he agreed to continue supervising me until I'm finished next year or until I decide to switch to someone else. Toronto is going to have to do a search for a new faculty member to replace him and I guess they'll start that in the fall."
"Where is he going?"
"I have no idea. Santos didn't mention anything, but apparently an announcement is coming out on the departmental listserv. He was worried I'd already heard something through the grapevine. But I hadn't."
Bella numbly hugged Peter goodbye and then returned to her new apartment so that she could think.
That evening, she called Alice. When she received a voice mail message, she contemplated telephoning Carlisle, but she didn't want to bother him.
And she knew that Rose and Emmett wouldn't have any inside information as to Edward's whereabouts.
So she left a couple of messages on Alice's cell phone over the course of the next few days, culminating with a very long one on June twentieth, Edward's birthday.
Then she waited.
She didn't know that Alice and Jasper were on vacation again in the Queen Charlotte Islands, where there was no internet and no cell phone service.
As the days of June passed, Bella started a part-time job as a sales clerk at Peet's coffee shop, which was located in a remodelled three-story house that boasted a front lawn and trees. Since Charlie paid her rent and her moving expenses, and since he had demanded that she take some of the proceeds from the sale of his
house back in Forks, she was able to live simply but comfortably on her part-time job and her savings until her fellowship began in late August.
She quickly arranged an appointment with the therapist that Siobhan had recommended, and began meeting with Dr. Margaret Walters on a weekly basis.
And when she wasn't learning the ropes of the retail coffee market and charming the citizens of Harvard Square, she followed Katherine Picton's instructions and introduced herself to Garrett Armstrong, the Chair of her new Department.
Professor Armstrong received her warmly, and they spent the better part of an hour discussing their shared interest in Dante. He mentioned that Cecilia Simonetti was arriving from Oxford the following week and suggesting that Bella drop by on June twenty-eighth in order to attend a reception that was being held in Professor Simonetti's honour.
Bella accepted the invitation gladly.
Then he walked her to the graduate student lounge and introduced her to a group of students, before politely taking his leave.
Two of the students were cordial, but not particularly friendly. The third student, Zsu Zsa, who was from Hungary, welcomed Bella immediately. She told Bella that a group of them met for drinks every Wednesday at Grendel's Den, a local pub overlooking Winthrop Park. Apparently, Grendel's had a lovely patio and an exceptional beer list.
Bella promised to meet Zsu Zsa there the following Wednesday night, and the two women exchanged email addresses.
Despite Bella's overall shyness, a character trait that she would never lose completely, she fit into the Harvard landscape like a hand into a glove.
She found an undergraduate tour guide called Ari who gave her an orientation to the campus, the library and the graduate school. She secured a library card in advance of registration, which would be held in August.
She dropped into the graduate student lounge on occasion to see Zsu Zsa and to learn more about the atmosphere of the Department. And she spent long hours in the library hunting down books that she would need to read that summer.
She explored her neighbourhood, found a grocery store and a bank, and claimed a particular Thai restaurant, which was just down the street from her apartment, as her new favourite place to eat.
So by the time Alice called her on June twenty-sixth, Bella was completely at home in her new life and very happy.
Almost.
Bella was in between customers when Alice called her cell phone, so she asked one of her co-workers to cover for her and walked out to the front lawn so as not to disturb anyone.
"Alice, how are you?"
"Oh, Bella, we're fine! Jasper took me back to the resort we went to last fall and it was marvellous. It's even better in the summer. We saw dolphins and whales and …"
Bell gritted her teeth only slightly as she waited for Alice to draw breath so that she could steer the conversation in a completely different direction.
In two or three paragraphs, her patience was rewarded.
"Edward quit his job."
"What?" Alice almost squealed. "How do you know?"
"A friend of mine was his research assistant in Toronto. Apparently, he resigned as of the end of this month."
"That explains it," Alice said, softly.
"Explains what?"
"Edward sold his condo in Toronto. Dad and I were going to mail his birthday presents to him, but he wrote to us and said that he was moving. He said he was staying in hotels while his real estate agent helped him find a house."
Bella leaned her back up against the old, gnarled oak tree that stood in front of Peet's.
"Did he mention where he was looking?"
"No. Just that he had hired a company to pack up his things and put them in storage until he found a house. But if he quit his job …"
"He's in the process of quitting."
"Then you should call him! Bella, it's the perfect time. He must be leaving Toronto and coming to Boston. You have to call him."
Bella stiffened.
"I'm not calling him."
"Why not?"
"We have no idea where he is moving to. Why would I assume he's coming here? He left me, Alice. And I sure as hell am not going to be the one to fix this – assuming it can be fixed."
Alice grew very quiet.
"Do you really mean that? That it can't be fixed?'
Bella threw her hands up in frustration. "What am I supposed to think? Months of silence and encoded messages but not a single promise that he was ever coming back. He resigned from the University and sold his condo, and I still haven't heard from him. Does that sound like someone who is eager to see me? To fix things? I'm not sure I even want him back."
Alice inhaled sharply.
"Bella, you can't mean that."
"Why not?"
"Because I know you two love each other. I'm not suggesting you sweep whatever happened under the carpet. But I would hope that if he came back, you'd at least listen to what he has to say. And make him listen to you. You owe it to each other to listen, even if it's only to have some closure. And I think he needs to hear how you feel about all of this. And what happened to you after he left."
Bella squeezed her eyes shut as a wave of pain washed over her. The thought of seeing Edward – and listening to his explanation – literally hurt.
"I'm not sure my heart can survive his explanation."
Alice sighed deeply into the phone, more fearful than ever that her intuitions had been wrong.
-x-x-x-x-
Unwilling to sit around and feel sorry for herself, or to wait for Edward's miraculous reappearance, Bella buried herself in busyness for the next few days, reading and studying in preparation for her introduction to Professor Simonetti.
She was not disappointed.
Although she was only able to speak to the Professor briefly, since she was the guest of honour at the lavish reception, the conversation went very smoothly. Professor Simonetti recognized Bella's name from Katherine
Picton's telephone call and suggested that she and Bella have coffee some time in July, once she had settled into her new office.
Bella floated home, wafting on a breeze of optimism and hope.
She was so happy, she decided it was finally time to begin the project that she had been avoiding – unpacking her books and arranging them in alphabetical order.
Until that evening, she'd availed herself of Harvard's libraries and had checked out the volumes that she needed for her reading list. But every day the collection of boxes in the centre of her small apartment mocked her and so she finally decided it was time to unpack them.
The process took longer than she anticipated, but given the size of her collection, it really wasn't that surprising. She finished about a third of the boxes that evening before deciding to walk over to the Thai restaurant and order take out for dinner.
Two days later, Bella was down to the final box.
After a very enjoyable evening with Zsu Zsa and a few other graduate students at Grendel's Den on June thirtieth, Bella came home determined to finish unpacking.
As had been her practice, she shelved the volumes in alphabetical order almost mindlessly.
Until she came to the final two books in the bottom of the last cardboard box.
A paperback copy of Homer's Odyssey.
A paperback copy of Abelard and Héloise: The Letters and Other Writings.
Neither book belonged to her.
She stared at them in wonder.
Where did they come from?
And then a distant memory came creeping back to her. Peter, standing in her studio apartment in March, telling her that he had retrieved her mail from the University.
"Textbooks," he said. Something about Homer and something about a medieval book.
Abelard and Héloise.
Of course, Peter would have termed the volume a medieval book, since Abelard's life straddled the eleventh and twelfth centuries, long before the Renaissance.
With trembling fingers, Bella put The Odyssey on the floor and opened the medieval book.
She leafed past the title page and saw an inscription.
An inscription written in the elegant but forceful hand of Professor Edward Masen.
To my Beloved Héloise,
Letter six, paragraph four.
Yours for eternity,
Abelard.
The world seemed to slow to a crawl as she suddenly understand Edward's last, pleading message to her in the hallway of University College.
"I have no choice, Héloise," he whispered. "Please wait … read my sixth letter. Paragraph four. Before July first. Please."
In her grief and anger, she had misunderstood him.
So he had sent her the text himself.
With much trepidation she found the index and located Peter Abelard's sixth letter to Héloise.
But what she found between the pages made her gasp.
Nestled inside the volume, wrapped in archivist's paper, was one of Edward's priceless reproductions of Botticelli's illustrations of The Divine Comedy. In the drawing, Beatrice was clutching onto Dante, who looked as if he had stumbled. The couple stood at the base of a ladder that was extending into the heavens.
Bella recognized the picture as an image of one of the Cantos in Dante's Paradiso, but she wasn't exactly sure which one.
She quickly reached for her iPhone so that she could locate the illustration on the Danteworlds' website, only to discover that she had failed to recharge her phone. The battery was absolutely dead.
Rather than waste precious minutes searching for the cord she used to recharge her phone, she reached for her laptop. And then she remembered that she didn't have internet access in her apartment.
Scheisse!
There was a clue in the painting, but she couldn't look for it now.
Her heart racing, she carefully put Edward's priceless picture aside and gazed at the text that he had underlined in her book.
"But whither does my vain imagination carry me! Ah, Heloise, how far are we from such a happy temper? Your heart still burns with that fatal fire you cannot extinguish, and mine is full of trouble and unrest. Think not, Heloise, that I here enjoy a perfect peace; I will for the last time open my heart to you; -I am not yet disengaged from you, and though I fight against my excessive tenderness for you, in spite of all my endeavours I remain but too sensible of your sorrows and long to share in them. Your letters have indeed moved me; I could not read with indifference characters written by that dear hand! I sigh and weep, and all my reason is scarce sufficient to conceal my weakness from my pupils. This, unhappy Heloise, is the miserable condition of Abelard. The world, which is generally wrong in its notions, thinks I am at peace, and imagining that I loved you only for the gratification of the senses, have now forgot you. What a mistake is this!"
She must have read the paragraph five or six times before the hidden message of the text began to sink into her agitated mind.
He wanted me. Not just his job, but me.
And our separation pained him.
Overcome with emotion mixed with shock, Bella put down the volume and picked up The Odyssey. Her fingers still trembling, she turned the first few pages until she found Edward's elegant handwriting once again.
My heart is yours.
My body also.
My soul, likewise.
I will be true to you, Penelope.
Wait for me …
With tears streaming down her face, Bella eagerly began searching the book for any indication of a further message.
When she came across an old snapshot of the meadow behind the Cullen's house, in full bloom, she knew she had found the right page.
Edward had underlined one passage.
"Euryclea now went upstairs laughing to tell her mistress that her dear husband had come home. Her aged knees became young again and her feet were nimble for joy as she went up to her mistress and bent over her head to speak to her. 'Wake up Penelope, my dear child,' she exclaimed, 'and see with your own eyes something that you have been wanting this long time past. Odysseus has at last indeed come home again, and has killed the suitors who were giving so much trouble in his house, eating up his estate and ill-treating his son …. He has sent me to call you, so come with me that you may both be happy together after all; for now at last the desire of your heart has been fulfilled; your husband is come …."
And then, in the margin, Edward had written,
You are my wife.
I am coming.
Wait for me …
The book fell from between Bella's fingers to the hardwood floor below, the noise of the soft collision echoing in the silence.
"I want to be your last," he had said.
And the wedding ring ...
She was desperate to speak to him. At least to tell him that she found his messages.
But her phone was dead.
She didn't care that it was close to midnight and that Mount Auburn Street was dark and almost empty.
She didn't care that Peet's had closed hours ago.
She grabbed her laptop and quickly fled her apartment, knowing that if she could stand just outside the door to Peet's, she'd be able to pick up a wireless signal and email Edward.
Bella had no idea what she would say and she refused to take the time to reflect, to plan, or to change out of what served as her pyjamas. All she could do was run.
The neighbourhood was mostly quiet. Despite the gentle drizzle and mist of warm vespertine rain, a small group of what looked like frat boys were about a half a block away, talking and laughing.
Bella stepped from the curb and began to cross the street, her flip-flops squishing against the wet asphalt, ignoring the droplets that fell from the sky, soaking through her thin t-shirt.
And then, in the very centre of the road, she stopped.
Straight ahead of her, she glimpsed a shadowy figure lurking in the darkness behind the tall oak tree in front of Peet's.
It was a man, she could see that much, but since he was half-hidden by the tree and the absence of light, she could see no more.
She knew better than to approach a stranger in the shadows, so she stayed where she was, craning her neck to see him.
As if in response to her movements, he came around the edge of the tree and slowly walked into the pool of light that cascaded down onto the sidewalk from the street lamp.
In the shimmery light, he looked like an angel.
Edward.
Bella shrieked, clasping a shaking hand to her mouth and almost dropping her laptop in surprise.
At first she thought it was a hallucination. A waking dream.
She rubbed the raindrops from her eyes in order to get a better look.
He was standing on the sidewalk right in front of her but he was silent and his face, although beautiful, was haggard and pale. His hair was damp and mussed and he pulled at it in agitation. His clothes, which were usually pristine and pressed, were rumpled and wet.
He looked uneasy, his eyes fixed on hers cautiously.
He held his arms out wide, almost as if he were approaching a skittish horse that he expected would bolt.
Bella noticed that his now almost translucent white dress shirt was untucked and unbuttoned at the neck, as if he had thrown it on carelessly over the pair of grey trousers he was wearing. And he wasn't wearing an undershirt.
"Isabella," he called to her softly.
He couldn't disguise the tremor in his voice.
He was afraid.
She wanted to move closer. She wanted to run to him, but she couldn't. Her feet wouldn't move.
Perhaps this was a nightmare, sent to taunt her. Perhaps she was still asleep upstairs in her new apartment. She hadn't found his books and all the cryptic codes were but a trick of the brain.
She tried to form the words to call out to him, but they wouldn't come.
All of a sudden, something rumbled behind her and Edward shouted to her wildly, "Bella, move!"
A whooshing of rain-drenched summer air flew past her, along with the sound of what seemed like a foghorn, but she ignored both, fixated as she was on discovering if she was awake or dreaming.
Edward began walking towards her, arms waving frantically. "Bella, get out of the road, now!"
Bella watched, almost in slow motion as his head turned to the side.
This time she managed to follow his gaze.
Two round, bright lights were swerving towards her, accompanied by the horrible sound of a wheel-locked skid.
She turned back to look at Edward but he was already a blur of white, like a ghost.
She heard the agonized screeching of steel against steel, the slickness of rubber sliding across wet pavement, and smelled the scorching stench of something burning.
Something slammed into her, hard, and she fell backwards, hands reaching out desperately to break the impact, the back of her head glancing against something unyielding.
She heard her laptop smash and skip across the asphalt like a flat stone across the surface of a lake.
But before everything went dark, she heard a dreadful, sickening thud that sounded like a large piece of fruit colliding with something solid.
A cry of anguish filled her ears and then everything was black and still.
Relevant Story Links:
Author Note: In this chapter, the mystery of Edward's sixth letter is revealed, although his sympathy for Peter Abelard is declared in an earlier chapter of the story.
It's clear that Edward and Bella have very different reactions when it comes to the tragic tale of Abelard and Heloise, and this, too, is mentioned in an earlier chapter.
Additionally, Bella finds herself confronted by the words of Homer as he describes the union of Penelope and her husband Odysseus after a twenty year absence. The Trojan War lasted ten years and then afterwards, it took Odysseus and his men ten years to return to their home in Ithaca, (which was gorgeous, by the way).
All this time, Bella had Edward's messages sitting on her shelf ...
Illustration by Botticelli and features Dante and Beatrice in Paradise.
Angelica Kauffmann's painting Penelope Awakened by Eurycleia, 18th century
T.S. Eliot was a fascinating American poet who spent a good many years in London associated with the Bloomsbury group, amongst others. The quotation read by Edward is from his poem, "Ash-Wednesday." A favourites is "The Waste Land." But Eliot is, perhaps, best read with a glass of sherry and a cheerful heart and definitely not in the dark... www.msgr.ca/msgr-7/ash_wednesday_t_s_eliot.htm The copyright was held by Eliot himself via Faber and Faber Limited, it has passed into the public domain.
The Botticelli illustration is of Dante and Beatrice in the sphere of Saturn, which corresponds to Cantos 21-22 of Paradiso. This canto takes place in the sphere of Saturn and you can see Dante clutching onto Beatrice in the lower right of the drawing.
The Letters of Abelard and Héloise is quoted from a public domain translation attributed to an anonymous source, which can be found here: www.sacred-texts.com/chr/aah/aah08.htm
However, Edward would have sent the best available translation to Bella because he is a pretentious perfectionist, and this would probably be by William Levitan, published by Hackett Publishing Company, 2010.
The quotation from Homer's Odyssey is from Book XXIII of Samuel Butler's translation, available in the public domain through the graciousness of the Internet Classics Archive at MIT:
www.Classics.mit.edu/Homer/odyssey.23.xxiii.html
Butler's naming of the hero as Ulysses has been changed back to its original Greek transliteration Odysseus. And Ulysses is better suited to James Joyce than to Homer.
Frank Sinatra Rendition (Cole Porter) – Night And Day https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i58SrYULhvE&feature=related
Renée Fleming (Antonín Dvořák) – Song To The Moon w/ Lyrics https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tImMZLfHaE

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