A Woman of Conviction Ch 19
Edward has taken the boys down to the local park since it’s nice out for mid-November. I’m sitting at my computer, staring at Charlie’s card.
I should be looking into the discrepancy that Heidi and I ran into when it came to fan base numbers. I also want to ask Edward about what he thinks about funding a center for single parents to help with childcare and education. I want to look up what it would take and have a good pitch before presenting him with the idea. All this I should be doing, but instead I’m wondering if I should call Charlie and have lunch with him.
Fuck, I need to start planning Lucian’s birthday that’s coming up in December.
The file Edward gave me is sitting on the desk, also taunting me, but I really want to hear it from Charlie. And for me to hear it from him, I have to call him and set up a day to have lunch. Fuck me.
I pick up my phone and smile at the picture that I have for my lock screen; it's all of us at Jasper and Alice’s for a cookout last weekend. We make such a good family.
I dial the number. The nerves are going to give me prematurely grey hairs or an ulcer.
“Charlie Swan,” his guff voice answers on the third ring.
“Charlie, it’s Bella.” I’m sure he can hear the anxiousness in my voice.
“Bella, hi, how are you?” he rushes out as if I’m going to hang up at any second. Maybe I will.
“I’m okay. Listen, I was wondering if you were free this week to do lunch?”
I hear him rustling around. “I’m free Monday, and I’ll be in Seattle around one, will that be okay?”
I bring up Monday’s calendar. “Yes, I can do that. There’s a deli not far from the building where I work, it’s called Hitchcock Deli.”
“Alright, I’ll see you there on Monday and I will answer everything, or whatever you want to know.” His voice is uneasy.
“Bye, Bella, I love you.”
I hang up without responding, staring at the phone. He said he loves me. I just— how the hell am I supposed to feel about that? Minutes pass by as everything just sits with me.
“MOM!” Maybe it was hours. I leave the office and see my three best guys smiling and all sweaty.
“Wow, it smells so manly in here,” I joke, and all three of them scowl.
“Did you get everything done that you wanted to?” Edward takes off his sweater. I watch, wishing it was in slow motion.
“I made the call, that was about it.” I walk over and peck his lips, breathing in all his manly sweat.
“Mom, I think I’m going to need contacts.” Lucian pushes his glasses up his nose.
“Why do you say that?” I ask him, picking up sweaters off the floor and avoiding my feelings.
“When I was trying to dribble the ball, my glasses kept falling off.”
“Okay, baby, we’ll look into it.” I run my hand through his hair. “Now you boys get cleaned up, I was thinking maybe we could go out to eat somewhere.”
Damon fist pumps and runs off down to his room. Lucian smiles at me, then walks away, too.
I feel Edward’s arms wrap around my waist. “How did the phone call go?”
I lean back into him, taking him all in; he’s better than a Xanax. “We’re having lunch Monday at Hitchcock Deli down the street from your building.”
“Why do I feel like there’s something else?”
How does he do that? “He ended the phone call saying he loved me.” He hums, and I continue. “It really makes me angry, Edward, how dare he say those words to me.” I wipe the tears that begin to fall away so the boys won’t see them.
I hear him let out what I think is a growl. “I’m sorry, baby, after dinner and the kids go to bed we can discuss it further, or maybe...” He turns so I’m facing him, and he has a devious smile on his face, making him look like a big kid.
“Or maybe what, stud?” I play into his game, rubbing my hands up and down his chest while his fingers wander under my shirt.
“Seriously, I don’t want to see you making advances at my mom,” Lucian whines, making me drop my hands in a flash and Edward all but pushes me away from him. Busted!
“Your brother about ready?” I change the subject.
“Yeah, he’s just trying to find his shoes.” Lucian narrows his eyes at me, then on Edward.
“Alright, you’re ten and I’m an adult, we weren’t doing anything inappropriate in front of you.” I walk to the kitchen to gather up my purse.
“Where are we going?” Damon asks me.
“I think we should go to MOD Pizza.” Everyone agrees with me.
I’m sitting at the deli fifteen minutes before Charlie is due to arrive. Edward offered to come with me, but I knew he had a lot of things he needed to take care of.
I hear the door chime that a new customer is coming in. I look up and there he is, wearing a grey Chief of Police hoodie. My father, in a hoodie. He’s in jeans and his work boots and his trucker hat. He stands near the door awkwardly looking around until he spots me in the corner and walks over.
I keep my eyes on my hands that are holding a cup of hot chocolate.
“Hey,” he greets me.
I finally look at him and nod my head. I’m too scared to use my voice right now. I wait to see if he’ll start talking or if I’ll have to use my voice.
“I’m five years sober.”
I wait for him to continue.
“When your mother passed, I didn’t know how to deal with it. I didn’t know how to raise you without your mother, and I picked up drinking. At first it was just six-packs, then it moved to twelve, then twenty-four. When beer wasn’t enough I started buying whiskey. The few moments that I was sober I could see that I was messing up as your father. Then you came home pregnant at fourteen, and I just drank more. I hid the DUIs and drunk and disorderlies pretty easily since I was chief.” Tears spill down his cheeks.
“I stopped caring about anything that wasn’t my job or alcohol. I remember helping you with the boys. But I went through withdrawals so bad, when you graduated I didn’t want to worry about you or the boys anymore. I just wanted to drink.” His brown eyes are sad and regretful. “I honestly don’t remember the day I told you that you had to move out. I don’t remember kicking you out at all. I know that it was just a little while after you left that I got in a bad accident and I was given an ultimatum. I went to a rehab facility and they helped me get clean. I had one or two slip-ups, but with Sue and my sponsor I’ve been doing pretty good.”
Charlie kicked me out because he was a drunk. I think back to my childhood; if I’m being honest with myself, there were all kinds of signs, but I was just a kid, I didn’t know.
I take a shaky breath. “There would be weeks that I wouldn’t eat because I wanted to make sure that my kids ate. I went without food, clothes, all to make sure my babies had what they needed. There were times that my kids ate peanut butter for dinner, and I had water.” Tears are now falling out of my eyes. “I don’t know if I can ever truly understand, or forgive you. I wish you would have at least kept my kids, they didn’t deserve what they got.” I shake my head. “Thank you for telling me why you kicked me out. I don’t know if I’ll ever reach out again.”
He nods his head, wiping tears away. “I just want you to know I love you and that has never changed. I love my grandsons. I hope that someday I can get to know them, and maybe I can get to know you, also.”
“I can’t guarantee anything. And I really don’t know how I feel about you.” I get up from the table and walk away.
Edward is waiting in his office with his jacket off and his tie loosened. He looks like an angel.
He looks up to find me staring. “Is everything okay?”
“Everything is perfect.”
He gives me his breathtaking smile.
I know now what we have, what I feel, is real. “I love you, Edward.”
In the blink of an eye Edward has me pinned to the door and his lips crash into mine. When we come up for air, he presses his forehead to mine. “I love you so much. You and the boys are everything to me. I never thought I would have this kind of happiness after what Kate did.”
“I didn’t know until right now that what I was feeling was real,” I confess.
He pecks my lips. “Let’s get our boys and go out tonight.”
“I love that idea.”
“And later me and you will talk about what Charlie said to you,” he murmurs against my lips.