capitolo trentanove

Andare in basso

capitolo trentanove

Messaggio  simona80 il Dom 13 Mar 2011, 00:46

Chapter Thirty-Nine
When Edward was able to catch his breath, he opened his eyes.
He was lying on the wet pavement, inches from where Isabella lay, pale and unmoving.
Huddled on his side, he extended his right hand, reaching only the delicate curve of her ankle.
Her skin was cool.
He screwed his eyes shut as a searing pain shot up his leg.
He would have done anything to protect her.
He would have given his life to save her.
Please God …
With that last almost thought in mind, he sank beneath the darkness …
"Edward, honey, it's time to get up."
He groaned and kept his eyes shut, hoping the voice would go away.
Sleep was beautiful and he needed it.
"Edward, come on. I know you're awake."
She laughed softly and he felt the mattress dip next to his legs.
He opened his eyes and saw his adoptive mother sitting on the edge of his bed. He was in his old bedroom in his parents' house back in Forks.
"Is it time for school?" he asked, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
She laughed again, the sound light and airy like music.
"You're a bit old to be going to school, at least as a student."
He sat up in bed and looked around, confused.
She smiled at him and held out her hand.
He took it gladly, relishing the feel of her soft hand in his before kissing it reverently.
"What's the matter, Edward?" She gave him a puzzled look that was not unkind, as he held her hand tightly in both of his.
"I wasn't able to say goodbye. I wasn't able to tell you –" He paused and inhaled quickly. "That I love you."
Esme smiled widely and nodded, as if she understood.
"I know that you love me, Edward. You didn't need to say the words. I've always known."
Edward was momentarily overcome with a wave of emotion as he reached over and pulled her into a tight hug.
"I didn't know you were sick. Rose told me you were getting better. I should have been there."
Esme sighed and patted him maternally on the back. "Honey, I want you to stop blaming yourself for everything. You made the best decision you could given the information you had at the time. No one expects you to be omniscient or perfect."
She pulled away so that she could look him in the eye. "And you shouldn't expect it of yourself, either."
Edward wiped his eyes with the back of his hand, embarrassed for her to see his tears.
"I love all my children, but you were my firstborn, Edward. You've always been special to me."
"I love you, Esme," he said, his voice cracking.
She smiled at him. "I know, honey. I love you, too."
Mother and son spent a moment or two in quiet communion before Esme stood up, smoothing the wrinkles from the skirt of her white dress.
"There's someone I'd like you to meet. Would that be alright?"
Edward wiped his eyes again and nodded, pulling back the blankets and swinging his flannel covered legs to the floor.
He stood up, trying to tug his unruly hair into some semblance of order, momentarily forgetting that he was shirtless.
Esme went into the hallway and then came back, with her arm around a young woman.
Edward stared.
The woman was young, although she seemed ageless. Her hair was long and thick and blonde, her face a porcelain white, and she was thin and tall.
But her eyes were familiar.
Striking emerald green eyes below blonde eyebrows and a wide, ruby red smile.
Edward gave Esme a questioning look.
"I'll just let you two get acquainted," she said, and then disappeared.
"I'm Edward." He smiled politely and extended his hand.
She shook it, smiling widely in return.
"I know." Her voice was faint.
"And you are?"
"I wanted to meet you. Esme told me so much about you. About what you were like as a child and your brother and sister. About your work."
Edward nodded.
"You're very handsome."
"Thank you." He reddened slightly and lowered his gaze to look at his bare feet, drumming his toes against the carpet.
"Will you tell me about her?"
Edward stiffened and his eyes flew to hers.
"I never knew her. I want to know."
He rubbed at his eyes with the heels of his hands.
"She's doing better. She's with her family in Alaska."
"I know that. She's happy now."
"Then why do you ask?"
"I want to know what she's like."
Edward took a moment to carefully construct what to say.
"She's beautiful and smart. She's stubborn. She speaks several languages and she cooks well." He chuckled. "She can be very funny. But she's not especially musical. She can't carry a tune in a basket."
The young woman giggled. "So I've heard."
She eyed Edward curiously. "Did you ever love her?"
Edward's shoulders slumped.
"I should have. I treated her abominably. But no, I didn't love her. Although I grew to care for her."
The woman nodded and then turned her head as if someone was calling her from the hallway.
She quickly shifted her gaze back to Edward.
"I have to go now. But I'm glad I met you. It wasn't possible before. But I know we'll meet again."
She smiled and then turned to leave.
Edward followed her to the doorway.
"I didn't catch your name."
She turned to him and impulsively took his hand, lacing their fingers together tightly.
"I think you know who I am." She smiled up at him expectantly.
"I don't. I'm sorry. Although your eyes are familiar …"
The young woman laughed and Edward smiled in spite of himself, for her laughter was infectious.
"Of course my eyes are familiar; they're yours."
Edward's smile slid off his face.
"Don't you recognize me?" Her voice was soft now and child-like.
He shook his head in confusion.
"I'm Maia."
She watched his expression freeze, and then as the moments passed she watched it range through several different emotions, like clouds floating across the sky on a lazy summer's day.
When Edward had overcome his shock, he pulled his shaking free hand to cover his mouth.
"I see you wear my name." She pointed towards the tattoo he wore on his left pectoral. "But you didn't have to do that. I know that you loved me."
She squeezed his hand tightly and gazed up at him with a serious expression on her pretty face.
"You don't need to worry," she whispered. "I'm happy here. And it's so beautiful.
"But I wanted to know you. And her."
She reached up and kissed him lightly on the cheek, her touch lingering for only a second, and then she walked down the hallway.
Bella was dreaming.
But it was a convoluted, shaded dream. She was weightless and flying and saw only darkness.
She could hear noises and voices, but she couldn't make out any words.
And then she could feel droplets of rain falling on her bare arms and legs.
She felt so cold.
It took a while for her to figure out where she was and why …
She opened her eyes as her head throbbed in pain.
He was lying on his side only inches from her. His right leg was bent at an odd angle and there was blood seeping through his trousers.
She dragged her body across the damp asphalt to reach him, disregarding the gravel and stone that bit at her naked legs.
She gently brushed the hair from his forehead and then, weeping, brought her lips to his.
They were cool.
Her beautiful, tragic beloved had saved her.
She pressed their lips together over and over again. Intensely. Desperately.
Please, God. I'll do anything, but please let him be alright …
Bella curled up on the cold, hard pavement next to the body of her broken and fallen angel, petting his hair and crying.
It wasn't until noon the next day that Bella was cleared for release from Mount Auburn Hospital.
She quickly changed into the thin t-shirt and shorts she'd been wearing when she arrived the night before and thankfully, one of the nurses took pity on her state of dress and gave her a Boston College sweatshirt from the hospital's lost and found.
Bella regretted doubly the fact that she hadn't worn a bra and that she had chosen flip-flops for footwear.
Nevertheless, clutching a shopping bag with the remnants of her now destroyed laptop and Edward's iPhone, which she had found on the street a few feet from him, she made arrangements to pay her expensive hospital bill and quickly hurried to Edward's room.
She had lied and said that she was his fiancée in order to persuade one of the nursing staff to tell her where he was.
Bella knew that she should telephone Carlisle and Alice, but she wanted to wait until she had more information about Edward's condition. All she knew was that he was alive, injured, and not in the intensive care unit.
Brazenly ignoring the overhead sign that read, No cell phone or pager use in hospital, Bella leaned against the back of the elevator and turned on Edward's iPhone.
And what she saw shocked her.
As his wallpaper, Edward had a photograph of Bella in her graduation gown, shaking Katherine Picton's hand.
She stared at the small screen in disbelief.
When she arrived on Edward's floor, she hastily exited the elevator and then looked for the signs indicating the room numbers. As she walked towards his room, she clicked on the photos icon on his phone and began scrolling through his pictures.
He was there.
Edward was at my graduation.
The pictures were grainy, it was true, and looked as if he had taken them from a fair distance away but it was unmistakable – Edward had been inside Convocation Hall during her graduation.
She couldn't believe it.
Not only that, but he also had photos from their trip to Italy, most of them of her.
As Bella rounded the corner and proceeded down the hall, she came across a small waiting area with a low sofa and chair.
A tall, blonde woman was seated on the sofa, texting someone.
It took only an instant for Bella to realize who was sitting vigil so comfortably outside Edward's hospital room.
"What are you doing here?" Bella walked up to the woman, crossing her arms in front of her chest defensively.
She was in a poor mood. She hadn't slept much the night before and was still suffering from a slight concussion. Not to mention the fact that the last time the two women had met, it had been under less than ideal circumstances.
And that was an understatement.
"Isabella!" Tanya stood up.
She was immaculately dressed, as usual, her long, strawberry blonde hair curled slightly and clinging to her shoulders. She wore a pale blue wrap dress and cork wedge sandals and was carrying a white cardigan.
A gold charm bracelet dangled from her wrist, making a ringing sound every time she moved.
Bella wondered briefly who had decided to put a bell on her.
The Swiss? The SPCA?
"I'm so glad you're alright. They said that you were brought in with Edward." Tanya looked at Bella and saw the scrapes and bruises on her legs and the bandages on her knees.
"Are you okay? You look kind of – green."
"I'm fine," said Bella tersely. "What are you doing here?"
Tanya gave Bella a slightly quizzical look, as if she were surprised at being spoken to in that manner.
"Edward was treated at this hospital before, when he lived in Cambridge. They must have looked up his old records. I was listed as his next of kin so they called me a couple of hours ago. Luckily, I hadn't changed my cell phone number." Tanya's voice was soft and definitely non-confrontational.
But Bella felt as if she was about to lose it.
"Next of kin?" These were the only words she could find in her anger and annoyance.
Tanya cocked her head to one side and gave Bella a serious look.
"It was a long time ago. But since I was in town and he was hurt, I came right over. I didn't find out you were here until after I arrived. Otherwise, I would never have presumed …" Tanya swept her hair behind her shoulders, her charm bracelet tinkling as she did so.
Bella stifled a moo.
"Did you call his family?" she asked.
"No, I assumed you'd already done that. But I called Ephraim, Edward's lawyer. I think he was going to call Carlisle."
Tanya gestured to the empty chair with an open hand. "Here. Have a seat. You look like you're going to fall over."
"I want to see Edward," said Bella, stubbornly.
"Of course you do," Tanya cooed. "But the doctor is with him now. I'm going to leave but before I do, I'd like to explain a couple of things."
Bella sat down, still clutching her arms (and her bag of broken computer bits), to her chest.
Tanya was taller than Angela and more athletic, but she was wearing heels and a dress.
Bella silently wondered if she could take her (and her charm bracelet).
"Listen, I know you have every reason to dislike me. But I promise, I'm not here to cause trouble. I haven't heard from Edward in months. I'm only in town for a few days so that I can pack up my stuff. Permanently." Inexplicably, Tanya blushed and looked down at her hands nervously.
"I'm here with someone. Someone special. We're boxing everything up and shipping it to Anchorage."
"My boyfriend is a professor at the University of Anchorage." She blushed again and gave Bella an almost shy look.
"He helped me get a job teaching English while I finish my Ph.D. by extension. He's a widower and has two little girls. They call me Auntie Tanya. Can you imagine? After all these years, I'm dating a man whose little girls need a mother."
Bella was stunned.
And speechless.
"Truthfully, I feel terrible about the accident. But since Edward is going to be fine …" Tanya's voice was sympathetic.
Tears welled up in Bella's eyes. "He's going to be fine?"
"You didn't know that? I'm sorry. I should have said that first. I just assumed since you and he …" Tanya trailed off as her eyes darted to Bella's naked ring finger on her left hand.
"Um – he has a broken leg and they think he hit his head. But there doesn't appear to be any lasting damage." She smiled at Bella sadly. "The nurse told me that when he regained consciousness he went into a panic, screaming for you. They had to sedate him."
"Does he know I'm alright?" Bella's voice trembled.
"I spoke to him a few minutes ago and it seems as if one of the nurses told him you'd been discharged. But Isabella, they have him on heavy pain medication and he kind of floats in and out.
"But I had a chance to say goodbye and to – to say a lot of things I should have said before." She stood up and placed her handbag over her shoulder. "And now that you're here, I can be on my way."
Bella stood up somewhat shakily.
"Thank you, Tanya."
"I haven't done anything worthy of thanks. But I hope that you two will be very happy together. And I'm sorry for trying to come in between you."
Tanya paused thoughtfully.
"Edward loves you a great deal, Isabella. And he deserves to be loved in return."
With a parting smile that was surely genuine, she walked away.
While she waited for the medical staff to leave Edward's room, Bella sent a short text to Alice from Edward's iPhone, explaining that he had been in an accident, that he was fine and that they were at Mount Auburn Hospital.
While she was waiting for a response, a doctor and a nurse came out of Edward's room.
Bella stood up and introduced herself.
"Aha," said the doctor, holding out his hand. "So you're the one he's been asking about. I'm Dr. Tan."
Bella and the doctor shook hands perfunctorily.
"Is he alright?"
"He's suffering from a concussion and various cuts and abrasions, but his primary injury is a broken tibia and fibula. We set the bones and he's in a cast. But he had a restless night and really, I want him to sleep today. His anxiety will affect his recovery."
Bella's lower lip began to jut out as a sign of her stubbornness.
"I'll let him sleep. But I'm not leaving without seeing him."
Dr. Tan grinned slightly.
"Fair enough. You can see him, but please keep him calm. And if he drifts off, let him rest. The nurses will be in and out to monitor his pain medication."
And with that, Dr. Tan extended a hand towards Edward's open door and Bella walked through it.
Edward thought that he was dead.
But he was grateful that the faith he had received in Assisi was confirmed – death is not the end.
In fact, it would seem that it was only a beginning.
The encounter with Esme and Maia, although comforting to his soul, chilled him as his mind actually considered the ramifications of their encounter. For as much as he was relieved to know that Esme was with his little girl and both of them were happy, he was not ready to quit this Earth and be separated from his Isabella.
There was too much left undone, unsaid and unexplained.
When he felt small, familiar fingers brush the hair from his forehead, he realized gratefully that he wasn't dead.
He must be dreaming.
And then a sound, quiet and heartbreaking, filled his ears.
For this, he would open his eyes.
A brown ponytail was shaking as a young woman sobbed at his bedside, her face pressed down on her arms, which were crossed on top of the mattress, near his left hip.
He watched her for a moment or two as his mind moved slowly, like the worn out water wheel of a flourmill.
He closed his eyes and brought his hand to float over the back of her head.
"Don't cry, Beatrice."
At the sound of his voice, Bella raised her head to look at him.
He opened his eyes briefly and their visions connected.
Unable to keep his eyes open, he nevertheless found her hand and tugged it, not stopping until he had persuaded her to climb into bed with him.
When she was comfortable, and her bare little feet were tucked under the sheet, she rested her head against his shoulder, cautious lest she jostle him and his cast.
And then he drifted back to sleep.
Bella was seized by the memory of a passage in one of her favourite books, when the little Jane Eyre crawled into bed with her sick friend Helen at Lowood school.
She pressed a hesitant kiss to Edward's cheek and was heartened by the incoherent murmur that escaped from his lips.
And then she, too, began to dream.
The nursing staff at Mount Auburn Hospital failed to have an appreciation for the works of Charlotte Brontë and thus were less than impressed to find Bella Swan asleep in bed with her … whatever he was.
They awoke her without apology and directed her to a cot, like a normal visitor.
She complied without complaint and as the afternoon turned into evening and then night, she busied herself with checking her email and her phone messages. And when her eyes grew tired of reading Jane Eyre on the iPhone's tiny screen, she tried to sleep. But her sleep was short-lived, interrupted as it was every time the nursing staff came in to check on Edward throughout the night.
"Are you changing schools?"
Bella was jolted awake very early the next morning by the sound of Edward's voice.
He was sitting up, quite lucid, and smiling.
"What did you say?" asked Bella, as she swung her legs to the floor, sitting up and stretching.
He gestured to her sweatshirt.
She looked down at her chest.
Boston College.
"Oh. No. Um, what I have on underneath is um, indecent. A nurse gave me this."
Edward nodded and the old mischievous spark glinted in his green eyes.
"You looked awfully decent to me before the accident. Incredibly decent, I'd say."
She blushed and ducked her head.
"But I have a sweatshirt at home that would be better suited to you. How do you feel about Boston University?"
She looked over at him with a question and he nodded, somewhat hesitantly.
As she stared, the bravado seemed to leak out of his gaze and he chewed at the edge of his mouth somewhat nervously.
"They offered me a position and I accepted it," he said.
She stared incredulously.
"So you're – here to stay?" Her voice was hesitant, like her hope.
"I keep my promises, Isabella. All of them. I said that we would come to Boston together. A senior professor resigned unexpectedly from B. U. and I interviewed to replace him. It took the university longer than usual to conclude the job search so I was only notified a short time ago.
"I'll be a full professor, cross-appointed between the Department of Romance Studies and the Department of Religion." He searched her blank expression with no little distress.
"Romance Studies doesn't have a graduate program in Italian," he explained. "The university wanted to be able to attract graduate students in Dante studies and so they cross-appointed me to the Department of Religion. They already have a graduate program."
Bella nodded and then was seized by a sudden fit of coughing.
"Are you sick?" He fixed her with a very worried look.
"I'm fine," she wheezed. "Just a chill from the other night. I didn't realize that it was raining when I left …"
"Please don't get pneumonia," he begged her softly. "I don't think my heart could take it."
"It isn't pneumonia." Her voice was somewhat stiff and she couldn't help but notice that Edward flinched.
Bella was suddenly seized with a feeling of incredible awkwardness. Now that she was there, now that he was lucid, she didn't know what to say. She found herself wrapping her arms around her middle in an act of self-protection as she moved from the cot to sit in a chair at his bedside.
"What day is it?" he asked.
"Um, July second. Friday."
"How long have you been here with me?"
"Since yesterday afternoon."
Edward frowned. "No wonder you're sick. Have you eaten anything?"
"A few things from one of the vending machines."
"You should go to the cafeteria and buy yourself a proper breakfast and have a cup of coffee."
He looked around the room. "I'm assuming my wallet is in that locker over there. Take it."
"I'm not hungry. I'll eat later."
Edward shook his head at her stubbornness.
"Will you tell me about the accident?"
Bella sighed and pulled her hair out of its ponytail.
Edward watched, entranced, as a cascade of brown and gold strands fell across her thin shoulders.
"My hair hurt," she explained.
He chuckled and pointed at his own unruly mess. "Tell me about it."
She rolled her eyes but couldn't help but smile.
"I didn't see it happen. But the witnesses said that there was a car driving erratically down the street. You saw it coming and pushed me out of the way. The driver slammed on the brakes but skidded into you, clipping your leg. When you fell, you hit your head."
Edward nodded. "And was the driver injured?"
Bella's expression hardened.
"The driver was a nutcase. Some dotty woman called Amanda L'Union who was out on a rampage. When I finally came to and the paramedics were checking me out, I could hear her shouting at the police officers, telling them they couldn't speak English properly. Apparently, she doesn't think much of Puerto Ricans. Or dangling infinitives."
Edward snickered. "So a renegade grammarian from a community college?"
"A racist renegade grammarian from a community college. She started threatening me, saying that she was going to sue me for being stupid. And then she pulled a big dictionary from her car and started hitting the Puerto Rican policeman with it. He arrested her.
"But just in case there's a lawsuit, I have the badge numbers of the officers and the names and numbers of a couple of witnesses. And her information, in case you'd like to sue her for being stupid."
"So she was nothing like the Mandy in the Barry Manilow song?"
Bella snickered. "Well, you've clearly had a head injury if you're quoting him. Sicko."
Edward's expression changed instantly to one of regret.
"I'm sorry."
She looked over at her broken computer.
"It was my fault. I'm the one who was standing in the road. Like an idiot."
He looked at her sadly. "No, it's my fault for surprising you. I'm sorry for everything."
Bella fidgeted in her chair.
"I missed you, Isabella. Desperately."
"I don't want to talk about anything important right now."
"Why not?"
"Because I can't say the things I need to say to you while you're recuperating." Her tone was harsher than she wished it to be, but by the time she realized that, it was too late.
Edward looked down at his hands, which had suddenly clutched into fists at his sides.
"I see," he said slowly.
She shifted her feet nervously, actively resisting the urge to throw herself into his arms and tell him that everything was fine.
Because it wasn't.
And she owed it to herself, if not to him, to be honest about the fact.
"I hurt you. You should go home and rest. I'll be fine." Edward's words had more than one meaning.
She shook her head stubbornly. "I'm not going to leave you."
Even though you left me.
He grimaced.
"I have no expectations. And I would understand if you didn't want to talk to me again. But you were injured, too, and right now, you look exhausted. You need to take care of yourself. Please."
Bella straightened her shoulders. "I'm fine."
"Don't lie to me." Here was the merest glimpse of the old Professor Masen, lurking beneath Edward's chastened exterior.
He had been so soft with her up until that point she found his change in tone rather jarring. But she'd been exposed to his ill temper before and found, at that moment, that it didn't really trouble her. So she ignored him and began to dig in her plastic bag for his cellphone.
"Here." She held his phone out to him.
He took it. "Thank you. Isabella, please …"
"Edward! Thank God you're okay."
At that moment, Carlisle strode through the door with Alice at his side.
At the sight of Edward in a cast, she burst into tears.
Bella quickly went to her friend in order to comfort her.
"I'm fine, Alice." Edward exchanged a look with his father before the two men hugged one another.
"We arrived last night but it was too late for visiting hours," Carlisle explained.
"However, a classmate of mine from Dartmouth is the Chief of Surgery here. I was able to pull a few strings and find out your condition. It sounds as if you're receiving excellent care."
Edward glanced over at Bella. "I am."
After embracing her brother not just once, but twice, Alice pulled up a chair to sit next to Bella.
Carlisle greeted Bella with a paternal hug and then began to examine Edward's cast and IV.
After a few moments of small talk with Alice, Bella tried to stifle a yawn.
And failed.
"Isabella was in the accident, too, Carlisle. Would you send her home in a taxi?"
"Edward, that isn't necessary," Bella protested.
Carlisle walked over to where she was sitting and looked at her with concern. "How do you feel?"
"I'm fine. A minor concussion, some scrapes and bruises …" She gestured to the bandages on her knees somewhat dismissively. "Edward pushed me out the way. He took the brunt of the impact."
Carlisle nodded and then looked over at his son with an expression that could only be described as paternal pride.
"Please, Isabella." Edward smiled at her somewhat heatedly. "The accident was my fault."
Carlisle turned back to look at her.
"I'm sure you could use a day in bed to recuperate. Even slight concussions can be painful. Alice and I will keep an eye on Edward. But if you have any dizziness or nausea, I want you to call my cellphone."
Carlisle smiled at Bella kindly and she nodded in return.
"Maybe I should stay with you," Alice suggested.
"I'll be fine. I'm just going to clean up and then get some sleep. It would be boring."
Alice looked as if she wanted to say something further, but Edward interrupted her.
"You ran out into the street carrying your laptop, as I recall. Did your laptop survive?" He looked concerned.
Bella held out the plastic bag so that he could see the bits and pieces that were the final distinguished remains of her computer.
May they rest in peace.
Edward grimaced. "Did it have your thesis on it? All your research?"
"Yes. But before I moved, Peter suggested I back everything up on a couple of memory sticks. So I did."
At the sound of Peter's name, Edward suppressed a growl and the urge to mutter a favoured expletive that involved copulating carnally with celestial creatures.
"I'll buy you a MacBook."
"You can't fix things with money," Bella blurted.
"I know that, my love. Believe me, I know that." He smiled at her sadly.
As the unresolved tension between Edward and Bella began to build, Carlisle took Alice's elbow and mumbled something about getting a cup of coffee. The two of them retreated to the hallway and then disappeared out of sight.
"I didn't mean for them to leave." Bella chewed one of her fingernails.
"They aren't going anywhere. I'm sure they just wanted to give us a minute before you go home."
She nodded, still chewing.
"Edward, what were you doing lurking in front of a closed coffee shop in the middle of the night?"
He seemed taken aback by her question.
"I was waiting for you. At the stroke of midnight, I was going to call you and then ring your doorbell." Edward tugged at his forelock in agitation. "I managed to fuck that up."
"Did you know that Tanya was here yesterday?" Bella's voice grew cold.
He pursed his lips slightly.
"Yes. Now she has closure, I have closure and we can both move on. Although she told me that she already has and I wished her well."
His eyes narrowed slightly as he perused Bella's expression.
She's jealous, he thought. So she isn't entirely indifferent to me.
He sighed in relief.
"Why are you wearing a wedding ring?"
"Why do you think?" He pulled the ring from his left hand and held it out to her.
She plucked it from his fingers reluctantly.
"Did you get married?"
"Read the inscription," he urged.
She held the ring up closer to the overhead lights and looked inside.
Isabella – my Beloved is mine and I am hers.
A sick feeling entered her stomach and she quickly returned it to him.
He replaced it on his left hand without a word.
"I don't understand. Why would you wear a wedding ring with my name on it?"
Edward was quiet for a moment, as if he were reflecting on her question.
Bella began to grow impatient, but he spoke before she could.
"You said that you didn't want to talk." His voice was gently reproving. "If you're allowed to ask me questions, does this mean that I can ask you about Peter?"
"Don't you dare," she threatened in a whisper. "Don't you dare throw Peter back in my face! You left without the promise of a return and he was there to pick up the pieces."
What the hell does that mean? Does that mean that she and he … ?
Edward closed his eyes and began to breathe in and out very deeply. He was perilously close to giving in to his temper and saying something cutting, but that would only succeed in pushing her farther away.
And the distance between them was his fault.
He opened his eyes.
"Forgive me.
"This ring has a mate, much smaller in size. I purchased them at Tiffany's in Toronto.
"You and I are like the rings. I think of you as my other half. My beloved. My bashert. I wear this ring because you have my heart. Despite what happened, there was never any question of me pursuing someone else. I was faithful to you the entire time we were together until this moment, even when I wasn't allowed to speak to you.
"My feelings toward you are unchanged. Even though I know they might not be reciprocated. Anymore." His last word was muttered and so Bella hardly heard it.
"I never stopped loving you, Isabella," he whispered. "If anything, I love you more at this moment than I ever have."
Bella suddenly found it very difficult to speak.
"Edward … these past few months, without a word, and then two nights ago …"
She bit her lip to keep from crying. She'd shed far too many tears over him as it was.
He looked at her with compassion, his arms aching to hold her. But she was too far away.
"We don't have to have this conversation now. You're tired and I've upset you. Forgive me. Just – send me a text when you arrive home so I know that you're safe." He gave her a look that was filled with longing. "And – if you can stand it, please come back tomorrow."
Bella glanced out at the empty hallway, where she knew that Carlisle and Alice were hovering unseen.
"I didn't sleep well last night. Or the night before," she volunteered, rubbing at a stiff muscle in her neck.
"Go home and get some rest. There's nothing you can do here. Carlisle and Alice will entertain me."
The thought of sleeping in her own bed, knowing that Edward was out of danger, was far too tempting.
"I'll see you in the morning. I'll bring coffee for everyone." She headed for the door.
She turned around.
"Will you let me – kiss your hand?" His voice was wistful and small, like a shy little boy.
She walked over to the bed and gently ran her fingers through his hair.
She waited for him to kiss the back of her hand and then she leaned over and pressed her lips against his forehead.
And then before she knew it, his arms were around her back, urging her forward, and Edward caught her lips with his.
As his mouth spread over hers, softly, only slightly opened, his right hand slid up her spine to rest on the back of her neck, pressing her closer still.
Although he had trouble thinking of anything other than Isabella when he was kissing her, Edward focused his attention on trying to communicate with lips and mouth and breath that he had not betrayed her. That he loved her.
And when she kissed him back with equal passion, he moaned unashamedly in her mouth.
He made sure to be gentle, if not intense, and as her own movements slowed, he began to nibble slightly at the fullness of her lower lip, before pressing closed mouthed kisses to both cheeks and then finally, the end of her nose.
When he opened his eyes he saw a flood of emotions reflected on Bella's face.
He ran his fingers through her hair, once, twice, and then gazed up at her longingly.
"I love you, Isabella."
She nodded and whispered something he couldn't hear before walking towards the door without a backwards glance.
Edward's kiss did nothing to strengthen Bella's resolve, but she would not consider it a mistake.
She had been curious about what it would be like to kiss him again and was surprised at how familiar it was. And how he succeeded in mere seconds at causing her pulse to race and her throat to constrict.
She couldn't deny that he loved her now. She'd felt it. And God help her, she loved him too.
But there was something different about Edward. He seemed softer, somehow, more vulnerable.
Yes, there was the odd show of temper and the old Professor Masen but she knew that Edward had changed. She just didn't know how or why.
When Bella arrived at her apartment, the first thing she did was locate the power cord for her iPhone so that she could charge it.
When her phone completed its resurrection, she called the manager at Peet's and explained that she had been in an accident, begging to have the weekend off. He wasn't happy about it since it was a holiday weekend, but there was little he could do when she promised a doctor's note.
After a long hot shower and a day in bed, (a day spent dreaming about Edward's lips and old, suppressed memories of the two of them together), Bella woke up around dinnertime feeling much, much better.
And only a little worse.
She made herself a bowl of chicken soup and then began searching the internet on her iPhone for the Botticelli illustration that Edward had left in the Abelard book.
It didn't take long to find it, nor the text that accompanied it in Dante's Paradiso.
'Already on my Lady's face mine eyes
Again were fastened, and with these my mind,
And from all other purpose was withdrawn;
'And she smiled not; but "If I were to smile,"
She unto me began, "thou wouldst become
Like Semele, when she was turned to ashes.
Because my beauty, that along the stairs
Of the eternal palace more enkindles,
As thou hast seen, the farther we ascend,
If it were tempered not, is so resplendent
That all thy mortal power in its effulgence
Would seem a leaflet that the thunder crushes.'
No other part of Canto XXI seemed to be a message for Bella, save this exchange between Dante and Beatrice. Although what she could conclude from the quotation, she couldn't say with certainty.
She was determined to ask Edward about it, but not in front of his family.
She sent a quick email to Siobhan, wishing her a belated Happy Canada Day and apologizing for bothering her on a Friday evening. And then she explained quickly that Edward had returned, declaring his love for her. And she asked for advice.
Just before bed, her iPhone chirped with an incoming text. She expected that it would be from Alice.
It wasn't.
Dearest Isabella,
Sweet dreams.
My dreams tonight will only be of you.
Bella read and then re-read his text several times before electing to type out a quick response.
Thank you, Edward.
I'm relieved that you're feeling better.
Sleep well,
It wasn't as warm or effusive as her texts usually were. But they were still in Limbo, in her mind. And she was unwilling to act as if their relationship had returned to normal.
But she couldn't deny the fluttering in her heart that occurred when she saw that the text was from him.
When she awoke the next morning, Bella was both surprised and pleased to find a long email from Siobhan.
Dear Bella,
Happy (early) Fourth of July!
Please don't apologize, I'm always glad to hear from you.
How are things with Dr. Walters?
I'm sure that you and Edward are going to have a conversation at some point about what happened between you and why.
I think it's important that each of you are honest about what happened and about how those events and actions made each of you feel.
Listening will be very important.
But I can't tell you what you should do after that conversation.
All I can suggest is that you ask yourself what you need and deserve in a relationship in order for you to be healthy and happy. And I hope that your list of essential qualities includes fidelity, honesty, love and responsibility.
No relationship is perfect, but this isn't an excuse to accept less than you deserve.
The question is – is what he has to offer healthy for you or not?
And can you forgive him and move past the hurt?
Only you can answer these questions and only you can take responsibility for the relationships that you choose to have.
But I have every confidence that you will make good choices.
Best of luck, Bella.
Bella knew that it would take no little amount of thought to determine if she and Edward could have a future together. And she was resolved not to allow a kiss, no matter how passionate, to make her decision for her.
Freed from her caffeine-pushing responsibilities at Peet's, Bella returned to the hospital, armed with coffee and sweet rolls from Dunkin' Donuts. She even stopped at the hospital gift shop in order to purchase a small arrangement of gerbera daisies for Edward, hoping that he would find their bright colours cheerful.
When she arrived at his room, she discovered her three friends engrossed in conversation. Alice was leaning over Edward's bed and talking very determinedly and very quickly, Carlisle seemed to be trying to calm Alice down and defuse a conflict, while Edward lay very still with his eyes fixed on the ceiling.
But when she knocked on the door and walked into the room, Edward's eyes seemed to fill with light and he couldn't help the wide smile that played across his mouth. He held his hand out to her and she put the flowers down next to his bed and took it, trembling slightly as he pressed his lips to her palm.
"Good morning, beautiful. And thank you for the flowers." Edward sounded cheerful.
He didn't want to release her but she pulled her hand away so that she could greet the others properly.
While they enjoyed their coffee and sweet rolls, Edward announced that he had spoken with his lawyer, Ephraim, and had charged him with the responsibility of securing a private duty nurse and a housekeeper to supervise his recovery at home.
He had no intention of staying in the hospital another day and was fully prepared to discharge himself, if necessary.
Carlisle cautioned his son that it might be premature to be released from the hospital, but Edward's stubbornness would brook no contradiction.
Edward hated hospitals.
Dr. Tan arrived to check on his patient just as Edward's lunch arrived. While Carlisle and Dr. Tan discussed Edward's progress, Alice and Bella took the opportunity to quit the room in order to talk in the hall.
"Have you and Edward patched things up?" Alice asked, collapsing atop the sofa in the waiting area.
"We haven't had a chance to talk. But he says he still loves me."
Alice smiled widely. "I knew it! That's good, right? That's what you wanted to hear."
"Yes. But we haven't talked yet. I'm not about to tell him how much he hurt me and how much he violated my trust while he's in the hospital."
Alice cursed to herself and shook her head.
"But you are going to take him back, aren't you? The guy is wearing a wedding ring with your name carved into it. He worships you!"
"Not enough to stay with me. I still don't know what happened behind the closed doors of the Tribunal. And until he tells me everything, I have no idea if we can get past what happened or not."
Alice seemed genuinely surprised by Bella's response, and the strength with which she expressed it, but she knew better than to argue Edward's case.
He needed to make the case himself.
"I want to be real. Not some fantasy he created. We can't go back to what we were before. And when I tell him that, he might decide he'd rather not have me."
"Are you crazy?" Alice hissed. "My brother is so in love with you, he'd give his life for you. Trust me, he'll take what he can get."
"That isn't healthy."
Alice was quiet for a moment as she studied Bella's expression.
"Edward was really upset when he was describing the accident to us. He thought that you were dead. And that it was his fault."
Bella shivered, for she, too, had thought that he was dead.
And now they had a second chance.
After Dr. Tan finished his conversation with Edward and Carlisle, Alice dragged her father down to the cafeteria for lunch, urging Bella to keep Edward company over his hospital food.
Edward's usual pretension was somewhat subdued, since he was eager to make the best of impressions on Bella, but even her angelic influence couldn't persuade him to eat something he decried as inedible rubbish.
Especially since Dr. Tan had agreed to discharge Edward that afternoon.
"I bought a house," he offered, smiling at Bella.
"Where is it?"
"It's on Foster Place, near Longfellow's house. Ideal for a commute to Harvard. Not so convenient for B. U."
Bella looked at him in puzzlement. "If it's inconvenient for B. U., then why did you buy it?"
Edward flushed slightly and lowered his eyes.
"I was thinking that … I was hoping that … " He ran his fingers through his hair awkwardly. "It's a pretty little house, Isabella. With a beautiful garden. I'd like to know what you think of it. But of course, I could always move."
He looked over at her, but she ducked her head.
"Now that I'm going home, will you be willing to talk to me a little?" He looked at her carefully.
Bella had never heard Edward sound so nervous.
She hastened to put him at ease. "Of course. But it isn't something we can do in front of your family."
"Carlisle and Alice will probably fly home tomorrow afternoon. I don't really need them to stay."
"We can put off our conversation so that you can spend time with your family. There's no rush," said Bella softly.
"Yes, there is." Now Edward's voice was heated.
She sighed heavily.
"Okay. I could come over tomorrow."
"Come for dinner. Seven o'clock."
Bella stood up. "I'm going to need some time to myself before our conversation. And you should visit with your family. I'll drop by the cafeteria on my way out to say goodbye to them."
Edward nodded stiffly.
He was hurt. She could tell.
Although she knew that she was doing what she needed to do to move forward, she didn't want to hurt him.
She walked over to his bed and took his hand in hers.
"I'm going to keep an open mind until we talk and I'd like to ask you to do that, too. For me."
He nodded, but didn't speak.
She fumbled in her purse and pulled out a creased piece of paper.
"I wrote you a letter back in April. I'd like you to read it."
He reached out his free hand to take the letter and for a moment, his forefinger traced the back of her hand.
"But I think you should wait and read it after your family leaves."
"Okay," he said, his mouth settling into a thin, grim line. "Thank you for the flowers. It was very thoughtful of you."
"You're welcome."
She kissed his forehead and he kissed her hand and then with a smile and a wave, she left.
They both had a great deal of thinking to do.
When Bella arrived at Edward's house Sunday evening she surveyed it with no little puzzlement.
It was a two-story frame house with a simple, unadorned front and it was painted a charcoal grey with white trim. There was almost no front yard to speak of and a small, paved car pad to the house's right.
Alice had told Bella the day before that Edward paid at least a million dollars for the house, which had been built prior to World War II. In fact, the entire street had been a neighbourhood of Italian immigrants who built the small, two bedroom houses for mere thousands of dollars in the nineteen twenties.
Now the street was populated with old-moneyed yuppies, Harvard professors, gay couples and Edward.
As she took in the tidy simplicity of the building, Bella shook her head.
So this is what a million dollars can buy you in Harvard Square.
A house its equal in Forks would probably sell for fifty thousand dollars.
As she prepared to knock on the front door she was surprised to find a note on it in Edward's calligraphy.
Beautiful Isabella,
Meet me in the Garden.
She sighed and just like that she knew that tonight was going to be very, very difficult.
She walked around the side of the house and down the little paved driveway. When she came around the corner to the garden, she gasped.
It was so lovely.
The previous owners had been proud of their garden. There were flowers and greenery, wisps of sea grass and elegantly trimmed boxwood, and in the very centre of the garden stood what looked like a Sultan's tent, with flickering lights and candles glowing from the inside.
A fountain stood on the right side of the garden, with a marble Venus holding a pitcher of water. Underneath the fountain was a small pond that Bella could see was filled with white and red Koi.
Stepping around the fountain, Bella walked towards the tent so that she could peer inside.
And what she saw surprised her greatly.
In the centre of the tent was a low, square bed, exactly like the futon that graced the terrace of the suite she had shared with Edward in Florence.
The suite where she had given him her virginity. The terrace where he had fed her chocolates and strawberries and danced with her to Diana Krall under the Tuscan sky. The futon where he had made love to her outside the following morning.
Edward had tried to reproduce the ambience of that terrace down to the very colour scheme of the bed itself and its cushions.
The voice of Frank Sinatra singing I've Got You Under My Skin seemed to float from somewhere closer to the house, while almost every flat, fireproof surface held a tall, lit pillar candle. Ornate Moroccan lanterns were suspended from crisscrossed wires overhead.
It was a fairy tale.
It was Florence, and their meadow, and the wonders of an Arabian night.
Why am I surprised? Edward always wants things to be beautiful.
"Good evening, my love." Silk and velvet caressed her ear as Edward leaned in from behind her.
She hadn't heard him approach so she shivered slightly.
In response, he rubbed first one arm and then the other, up and down in an act that was supposed to be comforting, but in reality caused a deep erotic flush to dance across the surface of her skin.
"I like the music," she said.
He pressed an unhurried kiss to her naked ear and then retreated, balancing himself on his crutches.
"So do I. You're stunning, as always." Edward's eyes slowly drank in the sight of Bella in her plain blue dress, her pale, shapely legs in high heeled sandals, and the way the gentle whisper of a wind blew a few strands of hair across her glossy, reddish lips as she turned to face him.
"Thank you," she said, blushing.
Edward was a little more casually dressed in a white linen shirt and khaki pants, with a navy linen jacket thrown over his shoulders.
His smile was perhaps his most decorative asset.
"It's beautiful," she breathed.
"Does this please you?"
"You always ask me that."
Edward's smile faded slightly but he resisted the urge to frown. "Because it matters to me if I'm pleasing you. Or not."
Bella glanced down at his cast. "You shouldn't have gone to the trouble."
"For you, it's a privilege."
Edward's smile returned and he offered her his elbow, slowly escorting her to a small, bistro table that was set up in a corner of the stone patio.
Candles surrounded the table, bathing it in cheerful flickering light, while small, white lights glowed down on them from the branches of an obliging maple.
Bella wondered if Edward had hired an exterior decorator just for the occasion.
Shifting his crutches to one hand, he pulled out her chair for her and when she was seated, gently eased it closer to the table. And then he hobbled over to the chair opposite.
She noticed that the centrepiece on the table was filled with orange and red gerbera daisies.
"Happy Fourth of July," he murmured, gazing over at her appreciatively.
"Happy Fourth of July, Edward. How did you manage all of this with a broken leg?" Bella unfolded her linen napkin and placed it in her lap.
"Rebecca is a wonder of New England industriousness."
Bella gave him a questioning look but her question was soon answered when Edward's housekeeper, Rebecca, came outside to serve dinner.
Rebecca was tall and plain and wore her salt and pepper hair in a short bob. Her eyes, which were large and dark, sparkled with amusement.
Bella divined quickly that Edward had taken Rebecca into part of his confidence, at least as far as this evening was concerned.
Despite the elaborate décor and the perfect music, dinner was a simple affair by Edward's standards.
Lobster bisque, a pear, walnut and Gorgonzola salad, steamed mussels with frites, and then finally and most gloriously, a blueberry tart with sour lemon ice cream. And Edward himself served the champagne, the same Veuve Clicquot he had served the first time she dined at his apartment.
They made small talk during their meal, discussing Alice's wedding and Rose's pregnancy. Edward talked about the things that he liked about his new house and the things that he didn't and promised Bella a tour. But neither of them were in much of a hurry to begin discussing the events leading up to their separation.
As he refilled her glass over dessert, he smirked slightly, and Bella knew exactly what he was thinking.
"No chocolate cake tonight?"
"Non, mon ange," Edward breathed. "Although I'd love nothing more than to feed you again."
Bella felt her cheeks grow red and she knew that it would be a poor decision to go down that road with him before they had their conversation, but as he gazed at her with undisguised passion, she couldn't bring herself to care.
"I'd like that," she said, quietly.
Edward smiled as if the sun had just returned to the sky after a protracted absence and quickly shifted his chair so that he was seated next to her.
Very close.
So close that she could feel his warm breath on her neck, which goose pimpled in anticipation.
Edward picked up Bella's dessert fork and placed some pie and ice cream on it and then he turned to face her.
As she looked at him with longing, his breath caught in his throat.
"What is it?" She looked at him in alarm.
He smiled. "I'd forgotten how beautiful you are."
He traced the curve of her cheekbone with his unencumbered hand and then brought the fork to her lips.
She closed her eyes and opened her mouth and at that moment, Edward's heart soared.
Yes, it was a little thing. Almost inconsequential if one were to consider what tales to tell a confidante.
But this was Bella and she didn't trust quickly or easily.
The ease with which she made herself vulnerable to him at that moment made his heart beat quick and his blood pump fast.
She hummed at the mixture of flavours and then opened her eyes and giggled.
He couldn't help himself.
He leaned closer so that their mouths were parted by mere inches and whispered, "May I?"
She nodded and he captured her lips with his.
She was sweetness and light, gentleness and goodness, and the burning and searing goal of all of his earthly hunts and fascinations.
But she didn't belong to him.
At least, not yet.
So he kissed her gently, like a teenage lover, like he kissed her in the meadow, with both hands tangling in her long, curled hair. Then he pulled back to watch her face.
A contented little sigh escaped her plump and pouting lips as she sat with eyes closed, floating.
"I love you," he said.
Now her eyes were open.
She bit at her lip and nodded, but wouldn't say it back.
He smiled to indicate that he wouldn't give up and then he continued feeding his beloved.
When dessert was well and truly over, Edward pulled himself to his feet and suggested that they take their cappuccinos to the tent, dismissing Rebecca for the evening.
By now, night had fallen around this little patch of Eden, and like Adam himself, Edward led a blushing Bella to his bower.
She kicked off her sandals and curled up on the futon against the cushions, nervously chewing her fingernails while Edward made himself comfortable next to her.
He lay on his back, hands behind his head, angled so that he could see her face. And then he waited.
"I'd like to talk about what happened," she initiated.
Edward nodded and gave her his full attention.
"Did you read my letter?"
His eyes began to water. "Yes. I'm so sorry that I hurt you, Isabella. So sorry. Every time I tried to fix something, I made things worse."
She chewed at her lip and waited to see if he would say something more.
"Which is it?" he asked softly.
"Which is what?"
"You said you didn't know if you'd want to hit me or kiss me. Which is it?"
"I don't want to hurt you, Edward."
"It was never your nature to be vindictive. Or cruel."
She took a deep breath and began.
In excruciating detail she told him what had happened after he left. What she had done, how she had felt.
She told him about how it broke her heart to be turned away from his apartment. She told him about the kindness of his neighbour, and Peter and Katherine Picton. She spoke of her continued sessions with Siobhan and how Victoria had offered her money, which she had declined.
Edward tried very hard to remain dispassionate when she was discussing the money, but he couldn't.
However, Bella was too busy fidgeting with her cappuccino to notice how unsettled he had become.
When she mentioned how the books he had placed in her mailbox had ended up on her shelf without her knowing they were from him, Edward cursed. At Peter.
"You aren't allowed to curse him," she said sharply. "He was there when you weren't. It wasn't his fault that you put your messages in what we both thought were textbooks."
Edward resisted the urge to argue, although he bristled at her use of the personal pronoun we.
"And before you ask, I'll tell you that Peter was a very good friend to me when I was in need. But my relationship with him never went beyond friendship."
Edward nodded mechanically, although inwardly he breathed a sigh of relief.
"Um, around the time Alice came to visit me I thought I was pregnant."
Edward couldn't believe his ears.
This was a moment Bella had dreaded. Would he accuse her of sleeping with Peter? Would he reject her?
He seemed only to shake his head.
"But that's impossible, love."
The softness of his voice caused her to relax somewhat.
"Apparently, some vasectomies reverse themselves."
"But mine was a long time ago," he protested. "It isn't going to reverse itself years afterward."
"I had only one lover and I had all the symptoms – fatigue, nausea, vomiting, lack of periods. Alice thought that I was pregnant, too."
Edward sat up, reclining on one of his elbows. "Alice never mentioned anything."
"It was a false alarm. And then afterwards, I didn't want her to tell you. I didn't want you to think that I was trying to manipulate you."
He stared at her for what seemed like an age.
She squirmed under his piercing green eyes, her teeth sawing on her lower lip until they almost broke skin.
He slid his hand across the surface of the bed to grasp hers tightly.
"I should have been with you. I'm so sorry you had to go through that alone."
"Would it have made a difference?"
"I would have found a way. I should have found a way." He gave her a pained look. "If you had been pregnant, what would you have done?"
Bella could tell from the sound of his voice that he was afraid of what her answer might be.
"I would have told you. I would have kept the baby. There are some things that I cannot do and one of them would be to abort a child that we made together." She hadn't meant to be so blunt, but she knew by the way he was looking at her what his unspoken fear was.
He closed his eyes in relief. "But it was a false alarm? You're alright now?"
She squeezed his hand. "It was a false alarm. After Alice's visit I was able to get my head together and then I started putting on weight."
"You're far too thin. Much smaller than I remember."
"Depression will do that." Bella's tone was clipped and she removed her hand quickly.
Edward's hand remained where it was, outstretched and waiting.
"You read my letter. You know what happened.
"For all I knew, you had labelled me as your Héloise and broken things off. I didn't receive the messages you sent in the books, which told me that you still loved me and that you were coming back. I didn't receive any emails or texts and when I tried to call you, all of your numbers had been changed. I thought you'd abandoned me in order to keep your job."
Edward nodded. "It was my fault. I take full responsibility. And Bella, there are some things that I need to tell you. But I'm going to wait until you're finished, if that's alright."
She nodded.
"I started getting messages from Alice and even though I wanted to hope, I wasn't sure." She captured his gaze for a moment. "I needed to hear the words from you, Edward. Our last night together, you came to my apartment but you didn't say anything. You didn't tell me that you loved me or that you'd be back. Really, what was I supposed to think?"
Now the tears were flowing down her face.
But before she could wipe them away with her hand, Edward's hand wrapped around her wrist and tugged her from her safe little corner into his outstretched arms.
He pressed her to his chest, and kissed her tears, before wrapping his arms around her back.
"I thought you made your choice. I thought you chose your job instead of me. And when you sent me away from your apartment … " She sobbed against his chest, her tears soaking into the white linen. "I gave everything back to you and you still didn't call me."
"I couldn't."
"Why not?"
"Forgive me, Isabella. My goal was not to hurt you, I promise. And I regret everything that you described. Truly."
"Then why, Edward?"
He inhaled deeply.
"It's a long story.
"And only you can tell me how it ends …"


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Data d'iscrizione : 01.01.11
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