Monday, March 28, 2011

Massage Therapy, Chapter 12 - Anticipation, part 1

From the Desktop of Bella Swan
Monday, August 9

“Wow. Those are gorgeous!” Rosalie exclaimed from the doorway between our offices.
We both stared at the profusion of brightly-colored daisies that dwarfed my desk from a large glass vase.

“Yeah, they are,” I agreed. I couldn’t remove the tiny grin that was fixed upon my face. Edward had remembered my favorite flower, which I had mentioned in passing on Saturday when we were just shooting the breeze. As gestures went, flower-sending was tried and true for a reason. Our text message “conversation” after I received them had gone well, too, with Edward giving me the extravagant compliment that they couldn’t compare to me. I wasn’t surprised at his poetic words; just giddy that they were aimed at me.

“Are those from Edward?” Rose asked incredulously. I nodded, still smiling. “Shit, what did he do?”

My smile finally faded. “What makes you think he did something?”

“It’s not your birthday, is it?” she checked. I shook my head. “Then a bouquet this big can only be an apology for something.”

I sighed and decided to spill the beans, at least the PG version, of what happened Saturday night. Rose sat down on the chair across from my desk and listened, her eyes growing rounder as I continued my tale. I left out the personal details, especially about Edward’s “equipment malfunction;” but she definitely got the gist that we were intimate.

“You have to promise not to tell Emmett,” I concluded. “I don’t think Edward has said anything to him about having feelings for me. If he still does,” I added uncertainly.

Rose gave the massive bouquet another gander and said, “Oh, he still does, trust me. He remembered your favorite flowers despite all the drunken mayhem later on. But my question is, what are your feelings after all this? Are you as upset as he seems to think you are?”

That was an excellent question. By the time I discovered Edward’s apologetic voicemail on the cell phone I’d neglected in my purse, I’d convinced myself that he regretted what had happened between us, and I was bracing myself for the return of Mr. Cullen, Massage Therapist Only, the next time I saw him. The thought made me sick to my stomach. I was frightened at how much more I wanted from him than that.

He had awakened something inside me that I didn’t even know was there--something primal and visceral. My entire being literally ached for him after he left. One night with him was all it took for me to want more; to yearn for his body next to mine as I slept. Instead, sleep was elusive last night while my imagination worked overtime, picturing the things we would do if he were there beside me, under me, over me. The oneness I’d felt with him when he’d grasped me so tightly and told me he needed me was the thing that I now craved like no other. I was shocked at how suddenly he felt like my other half, and how bereft I was when he was missing. I was scared to death that he’d never let me--or himself--feel that union again; that he would deny us both.

I wished I could understand better why he would do such a thing. Wouldn’t it be easier for him to just give in and be happy? Could he really be that afraid that I would hurt him? The idea was unthinkable to me. I just wanted to be with him, plain and simple. I was amazed at how quickly the desire had come over me. For the past nine months I had been happily single, for the most part. I’d been concentrating on graduating and getting my career off the ground, and a serious relationship was the last thing on my mind.

But when it came to Edward, it seemed that there was no middle ground. His arrival in my life felt hugely important, and it was both thrilling and terrifying. I could understand his hesitancy in giving himself over to it completely. After all, I had balked for a moment myself at the prospect of jumping in with both feet. But it seemed far too late to turn back now, to me anyway. I couldn’t bear the thought that it didn’t seem that way to him.

The first thing I felt when I heard Edward’s message to me on my lunch hour was profound relief. He wasn’t writing us off. He wanted to make things right. But the more I listened to it, the more worried I was about his comments that “he had done so many things wrong that he didn’t know how he’d make them up to me.” What was so wrong, I wondered? I’m sure he didn’t feel great about the way he’d showed up at the bar and skulked around spying on me, but that was inconsequential in light of everything that happened afterward.

I wondered if he remembered any of the wonderful things he’d said to me. The way he had wiped my insecurities away with one incredulous look; one reverent kiss. The way he had brought me to heights of physical ecstasy that I never even dreamed existed. Was he sorry about all of that? Why the hell would he think I “wouldn’t be able to get rid of him fast enough” the next day? I couldn’t help but worry over the difference the cold morning light had revealed in our viewpoints.

The arrival of the flowers spelled out that difference in vivid, colorful detail. He thought that whatever he had done required some kind of grand gesture of apology. As I stared at the innocent daisies now, I grew increasingly nervous over what, exactly, Edward felt sorry for.

I looked at Rosalie’s inquisitive face and tried to articulate how I was feeling. “I’m not upset, really. At least not like he thinks I am. I don’t care about any stupid mistakes he made by getting drunk or leaving too soon the next day. What worries me is that he regrets everything else in between, too. The good stuff.”

Rose scowled and waved her hand dismissively. “Don’t even think that way. If he didn’t want to see you again, he never would have phoned or sent flowers. He’s scared he’s in the dog house and he wants to get out. He said he was really sick, right? Most guys would rather die than let a girl see their weaknesses. He probably just didn’t want you to listen to him spew in your toilet all day, and now he feels like a giant douche about the whole deal. You just have to decide if you want to let him off the hook or not.”

“Of course I do,” I said. “I already texted him earlier and told him to stop apologizing. And then I got these flowers three hours later.”

Rosalie’s eyebrows raised. “Wow. He must be feeling guilty about something. Or, he just really, really likes you,” she added with a grin. She reached into the bouquet and took the tiny greeting envelope out of its plastic holder. “Mind if I read the card?”

Geez, nosy much? I felt like saying. But its contents were benign enough, so I shrugged and said, “Sure.”

“’Looking forward to Wednesday.’ What’s Wednesday?”

“My appointment with Emmett. Edward wants to talk to me afterward.”

“Face to face? That’s good. Better than over the phone. He’s manning up,” she smiled rising from her chair. “Sounds to me like you’ll have everything straightened out in time for the ball next weekend.”

She was about to turn and leave, but my stumped expression must have stopped her.

“’The ball?’ You mean like Cinderella?” I snorted. “What are you talking about?”

“The Black and Red Ball next weekend. You mean Edward didn’t ask you?” Her face registered surprise.

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Why would Edward ask me to a ball?”

“It’s a big charity event that the Cullens throw every year. Emmett invited me over the weekend, and I must admit I was pretty honored, because it’s a huge upper-crusty gala. All of Seattle’s elite will be there. Well, maybe not Bill Gates-level elite, but you know, all the society-page types. I just figured that Edward had asked you to be his date.” She looked at me rather apologetically.

I stared at her a moment, not sure what to make of this news. “I’ve never even heard of the Black and Red Ball,” I finally admitted. “Edward never mentioned it to me.”

“Oh.” Rosalie looked chagrined. “Well, maybe he just hasn’t asked you yet. Although, being less than two weeks away, you’d think he would be trying to line up a date by now. Or maybe he’s not even going,” she suggested finally, as if trying to cheer me up.

“Maybe not. I can’t really see him at something like that,” I said, trying to picture him in a suit. No doubt the tie would look like it was strangling him, even more than his lab coat did.

“Well, it’s his loss, then,” she said. Her forehead scrunched in thought, a look I knew well: she was plotting. That could be a dangerous thing.

Suddenly her face brightened. “I think I’m having a really brilliant idea right now. What if I could find out a way to bring you with me, regardless of whether or not Edward gets around to inviting you? I’m wondering if Emmett can get us a corporate table. I’ll bet Rich and Mark would love to contribute to the cause and schmooze a little bit with some money types. We could all go together and represent Java Noise. That could be fun!”

“Yeah, sure,” I agreed less than enthusiastically. A fancy charity dinner didn’t sound like my idea of a fun evening; more like work, especially if our company president and A&R department head would be there. My brain was still trying to absorb the fact that Edward had not once mentioned the event to me--an event that his family hosted every year. Maybe he had no intention of asking me to such a thing, essentially “outing” our budding relationship to everyone. Did he intend to keep us in hiding? Or worse yet, did he intend to end “us” before we even began? Maybe the flowers weren’t a peace offering--maybe they were a consolation prize, meant to cushion an imminent blow.

I tried not to let that paranoid thought run away with me as Rosalie returned to her office to call Emmett and arrange everything. Minutes later, she poked her head through the doorway and reported that he was going to try to get Java Noise a table, and he’d have an answer for her tomorrow.

“This will be perfect,” she exclaimed, her eyes bright with anticipation. “You could bring one of the guys from the Wolf Pack to represent our clientele. I mean, if Edward’s not gonna step up, then this could give him a little nudge in the right direction, you know?”

The thought made me uneasy. “I don’t think game-playing is the right way to go about it, though.”

“I know, and I agree with that, as a general rule. But if he’s going to waffle back and forth and toy with your feelings, then I think he’s got a wake-up call coming to him. Do not underestimate the power of the little green-eyed monster. Maybe if you show up with someone else, it will inspire Edward to stake his claim.” Her eyes narrowed shrewdly.

“Geez, Rose, you make him sound like a Neanderthal,” I said with a small laugh.

“Honey, they’re all cavemen when it comes right down to it. Don’t let his civilized exterior fool you. You need to get him to cut through all the crap, figure out what he wants and then go for it,” she said with authority.

“You make it sound so easy. So black and white,” I sighed, knowing that with Edward, there were a hundred shades of gray in the middle.

“It IS black and white. Either he wants to try a relationship with you, or he needs to walk away. Don’t let him try to pull any of this in-between stuff. You deserve better,” Rosalie asserted. She raised her eyebrows at me authoritatively before going back to her office.

I thought about her words during my drive home after work. Maybe she had a point. I couldn’t deny that the fact Emmett had asked Rosalie to his family’s annual event while Edward hadn’t even mentioned it to me stung a bit. Emmett had known Rose for even less time than Edward and I had known each other, and yet he was obviously proud to have her on his arm. Maybe Rose was right, and I should send Edward a message by showing up with someone else. Make him work for it a bit. I was weary of trying to second-guess everything he said, every move he made. Perhaps it was time to just get on with my own life and make my own plans before I drove myself crazy over-thinking everything.

But even as I sit here typing this pep talk to myself, I know it will be easier said than done.

Wednesday, August 11

Oh God oh God oh God. This is bad. So bad. For one thing, it’s hard to type when I can’t see the keyboard through my tears. For another, it’s hard to find the words to explain just how badly I’ve screwed everything up.

It’s times like these when I wish so much that you could give me advice, I’m practically beating my head against the computer monitor in case it will make you magically appear. Where are you when I need you, Mom? I was hoping you’d be with me when I spoke to Edward today. I wish you had put some words in my mouth other than the ones that came out. I just hope I haven’t ruined everything permanently.

All day yesterday I felt like something bad was coming. I should have been looking forward to seeing Edward again, but instead I could only feel a vague but growing sense of dread. It didn’t help that Rosalie was a relentlessly busy bee, humming happily over the plans she was making for a group of us to attend the Black and Red Ball. By the time she had everything confirmed, The Wolf Pack had arrived to do some preliminary recording in-house before we farmed out the bulk of the job to a recording studio. She dragged me down to Studio B to approach the band about one of them attending the big soiree. They looked about as thrilled as I was at the prospect. Rose pinpointed lead singer Sam as the obvious choice to represent the band, and our company. He quickly begged off, saying that he had a prior commitment for his girlfriend’s birthday back home.

“Well, I want one of you to accompany Bella to this thing. What about you, Jake?” she suggested.

I wanted to sink under the recording console, or punch Rose in the jaw. Since neither was a viable option, I simply stood there smiling weakly, trying to avoid Jake’s raised eyebrows and toothy, pleased grin.

“I’d be happy to accompany Bella to the ball,“ he announced with a laugh. “Are you going to be wearing glass slippers and the whole nine yards to this gig?” His eyes twinkled at me mischievously. “Do I have to wear a tux?” he suddenly added, his smile fading.

“I think a nice suit and tie will suffice,” Rose told him. “Just think of it as an opportunity to reach a new audience instead of a boring obligation.”

“Sure, no problem,” Jake snorted. “Maybe I can sit in with the orchestra for awhile and give ‘em a little up-tempo backbeat. Or teach ‘em the chords to ‘Three Strikes,’” he added, referring to one of the band’s original songs. The guys all guffawed over the idea.

“Okay, that’s settled,” Rose said with satisfaction. “You two can work out the details later. In the meantime, we’ll leave you all to tap the creative muse. Barry will help you with that,” she smiled at the engineer as she motioned for me to follow her out the door.

“Thanks a lot, Rose,” I huffed as we retreated down the hall back to our offices. “Jake already has funny ideas about us. Now he’ll think this is a real date or something.”

“Is that so bad?” she countered in between the staccato clip-clop of her heels down the tiled hallway. My comfy espadrilles padded silently alongside her.

“Yes, it is,” I complained. “I’ve been trying to discourage him, especially now that we’re working together. It’s a recipe for disaster.”

“Spoken like, oh, I don’t know, Edward Cullen?” she shot back. “Maybe you should give the kid a chance if Edward’s not willing to play ball.”

“But I don’t have those kinds of feelings for Jake. And I can’t believe you’d encourage such a thing anyway.”

“I’m not,” she sighed as we neared her office. “I just think you should keep your options open. You can always remind Jake that the date is for work purposes only, but Edward doesn’t have to know that. You can play the jealousy card with him. It’s a win-win.”

“I’m starting to think you’re seriously deranged,” I told her, then realized she was still my boss, regardless of the crazy schemes she was dragging me into. “I mean that in the nicest way possible, of course,” I added grudgingly.

She only laughed. “Stop worrying so much. I have the feeling everything’s going to work out just fine.”

“What makes you think that?” I could only see probable disaster looming ahead.

“Just a hunch. I have a good feeling about next weekend. You’ll see,” she smiled knowingly. She reminded me of Alice Cullen at that moment, seemingly sage while endorsing a patently ridiculous idea. She disappeared into her office, ending our discussion for the moment. I headed back to my own and tried to concentrate on the pile of work waiting for me.

The afternoon was no better. Twice during breaks in recording, Jake came to my office to discuss our “date.” He wondered what he should wear, when the shindig started, how long it would take to drive there, and what time he should come pick me up. I felt like saying, “How the hell should I know? Ask Rosalie, since she’s the one dragging us all against our will.” Instead I tried to be nice and polite and noncommittal. I reminded Jake that this was only a work function. His words assured me he knew that; his expression said otherwise. The apprehension twisting my stomach muscles only grew.

Today they were in knots. All I could think about was seeing Edward later, regardless of the barrage of work-related chaos that demanded my attention. Rose was going crazy booking more appointments for the two of us: spa treatments, manicures and pedicures, hair appointments; and certainly not least of all, shopping for dresses and shoes. By the time I left work, she had my next two Saturdays jammed full of ridiculous frou-frou rituals in preparation for the Cullen fiesta. I might have gotten caught up in the spirit of it all if it weren’t for Jake chiming in throughout the day again, talking about borrowing a suit from Quil, who had been in his sister’s wedding last year. To my surprise, he sounded nearly as excited about all the excruciating details of this upscale party as Rose was. All I could get excited about was seeing Edward again. It had only been three days, but it seemed like weeks.

I practically raced out of the building to get to Emmett’s appointment. My nerves were dancing frantically by the time I rushed through the front door of Cullen and Cullen, PC. Jessica looked up at my flushed face and smiled broadly.

“No need to hurry. Emmett is still finishing up with a patient. You want to go sit in the massage chair for a little longer today?” she offered.

I let out a ragged sigh. “Yeah, that would be great,” I agreed. Maybe the extra time in the heated, automated massager would relax me a bit. I tried to think calming thoughts about lying on a sandy, sunny beach, listening to the waves; but inevitably Edward showed up in this scenario, bare-chested and squinting in the sun, laughing and teasing me and throwing me in the ocean, then falling upon me and kissing me. That scene quickly dissolved into an X-rated version of “From Here To Eternity,” sending my heart rate skyrocketing again.

Thankfully Emmett was free before I had any more time to fantasize. His amiable smile put me at ease as it always did. I wondered why he was always such a calming influence on me, when his brother had the power to send me into a tizzy in so many different ways.

“How are you feeling?” he asked as he ushered me into his office. “Any trouble with your back?”

“No, not at all,” I replied honestly. “The only trouble I have right now is work stress. The chair helped though,” I fibbed.

“Rose said it’s been pretty busy. Of course, knowing her, she’s creating half of your stress just by being so wound up herself.” Two weeks and Emmett already had Rosalie Hale figured out. Impressive.

He looked me up and down and said, “Well, I don’t see anything wildly out of place. Let’s get you on the table and check you out.”

He worked a bit on my back, but performed very few adjustments compared to what he usually did. I asked him if that was because I was improving.

“It is,” he confirmed as he raised the hydraulic table so that I could step off of it. “Things are staying in place much better than they were. I think you’re ready to go at least two weeks, maybe three, without seeing me.”

“Really?” I asked. My wallet was breathing a sigh of relief at the news, but the rest of me wasn’t so sure. I wondered if Edward would be telling me the same thing soon. I already disliked the idea of him cutting back on our therapy, even though I knew that day would eventually come.

“Yes, I think you’re ready. Ideally I want to gradually lessen the frequency of your treatments until they’re about every three months. If you keep progressing like this, it should happen in no time,” he smiled.

“Wow. That’s cool, I guess,” I said uncertainly.

He chuckled and shook his head. “Most patients would be jumping up and down at that news, you know.”

“I know. But I don’t mind coming to see you. I always feel better when you’re done working on me,” I told him truthfully.

“That’s nice to hear. That’s the whole point. But you shouldn’t need to have me manipulate you so often. We want to get you stable. Edward will continue to help you with that.”

“Right,” I sighed in relief. “I’m counting on that.”

He made some notes in my file and then said, “I hear you and some of your co-workers are coming to our fund raiser next weekend. I know it sounds like kind of a drag, but it can be fun. We’ll try our best to make it that way, anyway.”

“We?” I asked hopefully.

“Me, Edward and Alice. We’re all required to be there or we get cut off from our inheritance.” He studied my tense expression a moment. “That was a joke, by the way.”

“Oh, sorry,” I replied sheepishly. All I had heard was that Edward would definitely be there. “I’m sure it’ll be great.”

“I’ll make sure we all get seated at a big table together so we can talk about the snoots behind their backs,” he grinned conspiratorially. I liked how he said that as if he and his well-to-do siblings weren’t “snoots” themselves.

“Sounds like fun,” I laughed. “It’s an honor to be included, so thanks for getting us tickets.”

“No thanks necessary. It’s for a good cause. My aunt died of a heart attack at fifty-three a decade ago, and my mom and uncle have held this annual AHA fund raiser ever since. We appreciate when any company wants to contribute, so our thanks goes to Java Noise too.”

I nodded and picked up my purse, ready to go give Jessica my co-pay. My heart began pounding rapidly as Emmett and I said our good-byes and I headed to the front counter. After I gave Jessica my check, she announced that Edward wanted to see me in his office a moment. She looked blithely unsuspecting as she escorted me back down the hallway to the closed door and gave it a couple of raps. Then she smiled and left me standing there as she made her way back to the front.

The blood rushed through my ears in quick, rhythmic spurts as I waited. Why was I so nervous? Maybe because so much seemed to be riding on this meeting, and I wasn’t even sure why.

The door opened, and there he was, knocking the wind out of me again just by existing. His lab coat was gone, revealing a white button-down shirt with the sleeves casually rolled up, and deep gray, close-fitting slacks that revealed the long, slender line of his legs. He pushed his glasses up his nose and I stared into his glorious, troubled face. This gorgeous man was as nervous as I was. He was nervous over me. I still had trouble wrapping my mind around the concept.

He told me I looked great as he ushered me in and pulled up a chair. I sat down and folded my hands to keep them from reaching out to touch him. I was pretty sure we wouldn’t get anywhere if I threw myself on his lap and begged him to kiss me. Although maybe words were overrated. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to put the right ones together anyway.

He asked how I was, and I rambled some long, incoherent answer about work and the band. I wondered if I was visibly shaking, or if that was just on the inside. He said he’d been hanging out with Jasper’s band. I told him I’d like to hear them sometime. Then we stared uncomfortably at each other, and I wondered which of us would break first.

He did. He sighed and rubbed his legs, making me want to touch him again; and then he said he didn’t want things to be awkward between us. I felt the breath hastily leave my lungs, hoping he didn’t hear the shakiness that finally escaped. I told him that I didn’t want things to be awkward between us, either, and that was why I had been upset that he left the way he did. I just didn’t want him to shut me out again.

He apologized and said that he had panicked because it felt like too much was happening too soon. So he does regret what happened between us, I thought. I felt anxiety gnaw at my stomach again, exactly the way it had Sunday morning. It abated slightly when he told me he didn’t want to let the fear win anymore. He wanted to start over and do things right with me. He said he didn’t want to blow it this time.

I tried to assure him he didn’t blow it. I told him we didn’t have to start over; that we could just continue where we left off. How could we go back to the beginning when so much had been said and done? Granted, it had happened quickly, but to me there was no point in trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube, so to speak.

And then I realized that maybe he didn’t really remember what had happened. I had always known it was probable that he’d have no recollection of the things he’d said to me; the way he had begged me, “Let me love you.” But it still hurt when he assured me that our relationship wasn’t just about sex, because that confirmed my fears: the sex was all he remembered.

Of course, he insisted that he did recall everything about that night, but I doubted that was true. He kept talking about going back because we “missed a few steps somewhere.” He wanted to do things the “right way.” I tried to tell him that there was no right or wrong way; and why didn’t we just do things our way? But he had to go and apologize yet again for “performing a questionable sex act on a girl he really likes and respects.” It hadn’t felt cheap or tawdry at the time he performed it, but when he put it that way, it suddenly did now.

I knew I should have been elated that he was essentially telling me he wanted to date me. He was trying to be a gentleman and do things the old-fashioned way--the “right” way, in his mind. Why couldn’t he understand that I didn’t care about right or wrong-- I just wanted to be close to him? Having him pick me up for some formal date felt like going backwards. I knew that was silly, because he was right; technically we had skipped directly from a casual afternoon date to an evening of drunken sex. But we had talked and shared so many things in the short time that we’d known each other that I already felt closer to him than I had Mike in the entire time we were together. The strong connection I’d felt with Edward the first time I saw him perform had only grown deeper in the past few weeks. I simply couldn’t put my feelings for him in the context of casual dating anymore. I realized that I was ready for “too much, too soon”…and Edward wasn’t.

That’s when he introduced his plan for “making it up to me:” he wanted to take me to the Black and Red Ball. Now he asks me, was all I could think. Now that I already had a commitment to attend with my colleagues; now that Jake was getting his buddy’s suit altered so he could escort me. My face felt like it was on fire as I tried to explain. I watched Edward’s expression grow harder when he realized that I would essentially be going with Jake. I was reminded of that caged-lion look he’d had the first day I met him, across the hall in his massage room. I finally reached out to calm him, putting my hand on his knee as I begged him to understand that this was business, and that I would give anything to be there with him instead. Surely he had to know that. How many times did I have to tell him that he was the one I wanted before he’d believe it?

His tone was snide as he asked if I had planned to just show up and surprise him. How dare he, when he’d never even mentioned his family’s gala before now? I reminded him that it wasn’t like he had asked me to go with him, and for all I knew he was taking Kate or something. Her name just popped out of my mouth; a sore spot that I could never seem to quit poking to see if it still hurt me.

That’s when he blindsided me. At first he didn’t even realize what he’d blurted: that she would be treating me from now on. The Barbie Denali. The living, breathing antithesis of myself; the inadvertent trigger of every self-conscious insecurity I’d ever had. Confusion and panic fought for supremacy inside me. It didn’t even make sense to me at first. She was a massage therapist, too? I didn’t want that woman touching me, ever. And I didn’t want Edward to stop.

I could feel senseless tears coming before he even had a chance to go into his spiel about how he couldn’t treat me after everything that had happened between us. I had no choice but to tell him the naked truth: that he was the one who knew me, who knew my body; he was the only one I wanted touching me. I didn’t even know if I was talking about the therapy anymore. All I knew is that I didn’t want him to take his healing touch away from me. He and Emmett had helped me more than anyone ever before, and I couldn’t afford to lose that. The panic began to take over, wild and irrational. I didn’t want to hear any more of his excuses about conflicts of interest or legalities. Almost without conscious thought, my tongue lashed out, sharp and precise, and cut him off at the knees.

“But you’re not a doctor.”

The words reverberated in my head, strangely distant, like shrapnel bouncing off of a far-away target. I knew they would pierce his Achilles heel, and I was slow to claim them afterward. But there was no mistaking that they had shot from my lips. I knew I should apologize, but now that I needed them, the words refused to come. As Edward handed me Kate’s business card, with our usual Saturday, ten o’clock a.m. appointment time written neatly on it, I no longer wanted to apologize. I only wanted to cry, and leave, not necessarily in that order. I stared at the card and couldn’t help but feel completely abandoned in that moment.

When I got up to go, he tried to coax me to stay. He apologized about not asking me to the Black and Red Ball sooner; he tried to take me to dinner. I lied and told him I was meeting Angela. I knew I was pushing away the one thing I wanted most with both hands when I refused him. But I suddenly understood why he wanted to move more slowly, and go back somehow. Our utter lack of communication since I’d walked through the door spelled out quite clearly what I hadn’t wanted to see before: I didn’t know Edward as well as I thought, and it seemed he didn’t know me, either. Maybe a little breathing room was in order. I needed it desperately at the moment. I told him as much, and the pain I saw in his eyes cut me to the quick. We knew each other well enough to hurt one another, that much was certain. Whether we know how to heal and get past those hurts remains to be seen.

I tried not to cry during the ride home. It’s too dangerous to drive when you can’t see the road through your tears. But once I got here, I let them flow freely. I knew I was being foolish about Edward referring me to Kate, and I’m sure Edward didn’t understand my reaction at all. I’m not sure I understand it myself. All I know is that I was finally starting to feel okay again. Not just my back, but me. Dealing with the past. Letting go of some of the pain and survivor guilt. Letting go of you. But now I feel like I’m twisting in the wind, with nothing and no one to hang onto anymore.

I’m waiting for Angela to come home, because I know she’ll be able to calm me down and talk some sense into me. It’s not often that I lose it like this, but when I do, she’s the one person who can make me feel better, outside of you. And since you can’t give me those great mama-bear hugs anymore, I have to make do.

I haven’t decided what to do about the appointment with Kate. Right now, the thought of letting anyone but Edward put their hands on me makes my skin crawl. But my niggling curiosity about that woman, and her relationship with him, is nagging at me worse than ever. Maybe by Saturday I’ll be strong enough to show up for the appointment. What’s the worst that could happen? I can always leave. Lord knows if I’m there too long, Rose will be at the door with a stopwatch and a baseball bat, dragging me out to commence shopping for dresses.

Compared to that, a massage session with Katrina Denali might not be so bad after all.


  1. Nicely done!! The angst is delicious.. I love the juxtaposition of Bella’s POV in this chapter with Edward’s in the previous chapter. It’s so clear now where each one is coming from, and I get why Bella has such an aversion to being treated by Kate – poor bb!

  2. It was nice to read Bella's thoughts about the conversation in the previous chapter. Their relationship really isn't doing too well ATM. *sigh* But they will fix it at the ball, I hope! :)

    Sorry I didn't review earlier, I've been away for a week. Can't wait for your next update! :)