A Woman of Conviction Ch 22
Burgundy and gold drape the benches and the bows holding together the lilies for the bouquets we’re holding. Tanya is shifting her feet as Carlisle pats her hand that’s holding onto his arm.
Carlisle was shocked when Tanya asked him to give her away. But once he heard her story, how her parents and Irina’s parents disowned them for being gay, he was proud to be the one to walk her down the aisle to Irina.
I take a look at myself in the mirror; I’m wearing a burgundy dress with one strap and a gold sash around the waist, draping down the back of the dress. I have my hair just as Tanya asked, half up and in curls that frame my face.
I turn around looking at my best friend, my sister. She’s wearing a mermaid style dress that is open in the back with gorgeous lace patterns. He hair is pinned up with just a few strands left out to frame her face. She’s the epitome of the saying, a blushing bride. Alice is in front of me, then Rose just before her. Lucian and Damon are the ushers, and I can hear them laughing as they seat people. I’m hoping that Edward is keeping them in line. Irina has Jasper, Edward, and Emmett all standing with her. I can’t help but chuckle, because she decided to fit into the groom role, even going so far as to wearing a tux.
It’s been six months since they announced their engagement and all of us have been there every step of the way to help plan for today. It hasn’t been easy since I’ve been so busy. The fanfiction publishing finally launched and it’s been very profitable for Edward and Heidi’s publishing house. Now that I’m done with that, I’ve started working on getting things going for the center for single parents. On top of that, we’ve been redecorating and remodeling the house, so we can finish moving in tomorrow.
The music starts, breaking me out of my daydream. Rose hits her cue and begins to walk, followed by Alice.
I take one last look at Tan. “I’ll see you down there, girl.” I smile and she returns a shaky one.
I walk down the aisle toward Irina, who’s standing there looking radiant in her tux. My eyes don’t move from Edward; he looks edible in his tux and boutonniere. He gives me his crooked smile, his eyes twinkling as I walk down.
I wonder what it will be like walking down the aisle towards him under a different context.
When it’s Lucian and Damon’s turn, they roll out a lace runner for Tanya to walk on, then wait for the wedding march before opening the doors, displaying Tanya and Carlisle.
I cry all through the ceremony, watching two people who helped me when I was at the lowest of the lows bind themselves to each other in the best way possible.
We get through the pictures and then head off to the reception.
“I was a scared eighteen-year-old girl trying to figure out how I was going to raise my boys. I walked into Paul’s Diner for my first shift and Tanya was there. She took me under her wing and taught me everything. When she introduced me to Irina, all I could see was pure love; they only had each other, but that’s all they wanted or needed. I was truly blessed they chose us to be part of that love. To Tanya and Irina.” I raise my glass while everyone chants after me.
We dance and drink Edward holds me close as the boys run around.
“I can’t wait for this to be our day, to be dancing as husband and wife,” Edward whispers in my ear as we sway back and forth to the music.
I look into his eyes, seeing so much love in them as he looks back at me. I hope he sees just as much love in mine.
“I can’t wait,” I reply softly.
I watch my sisters leave in the limo heading to a two-week honeymoon in Hawaii that Edward gave them for a gift.
I lean on Edward; the boys are long gone with Esme and Carlisle. “I’m ready to go to the apartment.”
He sweeps my hair away and kisses the base of my neck. “I’ll text Garrett.”
I’m happy that the vehicle we’re in has privacy glass, because Edward and I are making out like teenagers as we drive to the apartment.
“Baby, we’d better stop, I’d rather not take you in the back of this car and have to kill Garrett for hearing something that only I should be hearing.”
I chuckle into his chest, and then I slide off his lap and sit next to him as Garrett pulls up to the building and opens the door for us to get out. As Edward wraps his arm around my shoulder, I hear my name called.
I turn to see who it’s coming from, gasping at the sight before me. It’s Leah, but she looks so thin, so tiny. One eye is swollen shut with stitches above it, her top lip is four times bigger than normal. I see her left arm in a sling. I also see what looks like finger shaped bruise marks on her neck.
I walk up to her, all previous hostility gone. “Oh, God, Leah, what happened?”
“I’m sorry, I know you don’t like me, but I had nowhere else to go,” she sobs, and collapses in my arms.
I wrap them around her, holding her close as she cries. I look to Edward, who is on the phone with someone.
“It’s okay, sweetie, let’s get you inside.” I have her lean on me as we slowly make it up to the apartment. I can feel Edward’s presence behind us.
I get her onto the couch, still holding her close and hoping that I’m not hurting her.
“Leah, what happened?” Edward asks in a soft yet commanding tone.
She pulls away from me, wiping her tears away. “About a week ago, I walked into the shop to surprise Jake at work. Instead, I got the surprise. He was fucking a teenager on his desk.” She curls her fat lip in disgust. “I yelled at him, they quickly got dressed, and I got her to call her parents; she was sixteen, fucking sixteen,” she growls out. I can feel the dinner from the reception wanting to come back up.
“Her parents pressed charges, and I gave a statement as an eyewitness. Jake was arrested, but his dad must have posted bail, because he showed up at my place and just started to hit me, yelling at me that everything was my fault.” A sob escapes her, and I rub her back while waiting for her to calm back down.
“I managed to get away and call the cops, and I went to the hospital. They patched me up and I made another statement, but I was so scared. I didn’t want to listen to Charlie and my mom about how right they were. I just, I’m sorry.”
I hug her again, looking at Edward over her head, who’s wearing an indecipherable look. I sigh, noticing that her breathing has evened out.
“I think she passed out,” I whisper in Edward’s direction. He nods his head and helps me get her more comfortable on the couch and we disappear into our bedroom.
I rub my hands over my face. It’s been a perfect day. I was going to ravish my glorious man after he ripped this dress off. Now? Ugh.
“I should probably get ahold of Charlie, so he and his wife can come help with her,” I say to Edward. I turn to him. He has taken his dress jacket off and the tie is untied and still dangling around his neck.
“I think that would be a good idea.” His voice is curt.
I furrow my brows. “What’s wrong, babe?”
He sits down on the edge of the bed and pulls me to stand between his legs. “Did he ever touch you, Bella?” His voice is low and shaky.
I gasp as things come into perspective. “No, Edward, I never knew he could do such a thing. He was always loud and intimidating, but he never laid a hand on me.”
I see a weight lift off his shoulders. I feel his hand on my back bringing me closer to him. I hum as I rub my hands up and down his back.
“Call Charlie so that Leah’s mom can come up tomorrow and help with her.” He falls back on our bed.
I chuckle, knowing he was very much looking forward to ripping my dress off. It’s late, so I know it’ll take a bit for him to answer his phone.
“Hello.” His voice is thick with sleep as he answers.
“Charlie, it’s Bella.”
I hear him curse, followed by some shuffling. “Is everything okay, do you need me to get you, is it the boys?”
“No, no. I’m okay, the boys are okay,” I quickly cut his rambling off. Something inside me moves at the way he worries over us.
He clears his throat. “What’s going on, Bella?”
“Leah is here, and she’s in bad shape. She was afraid to call you and your wife because she didn’t want to have it thrown in her face how wrong she was. But,” I sigh. “She really needs her mom,” I say softly, thinking of all the times I really needed my mom, but I didn’t have her.
“What happened to her?” Charlie questions me.
I take a deep breath and let it out. “She caught Jake cheating with an underage girl. Cops were involved, Billy bailed him out, and when Jake got out he went straight to Leah and beat the crap out of her.” I shorten the story, knowing Leah can fill in the details.
“Shit, Sue, hon,” I hear him start to wake up his wife.
“Charlie, listen, she’s fine for tonight, so if you just want to come up in the morning, we can figure everything out then.” I’m thinking how late it would be if they tried driving up tonight.
“Are you sure, I know Leah and you aren’t on good terms.” His voice gives away his uneasiness.
“She’s fine, she’s already asleep. I don’t hold anything against her. I just want to help,” I say quietly into the phone. I don't know what else to say. Edward must sense my confusion and wraps his arms around my waist.
“Thank you, we’ll leaving first thing in the morning.” I give him the apartment address. “Love you, Bella, see you tomorrow.”
I sigh, the words just at the tip of my tongue. “Bye, Charlie.” I still can’t say them. I place the phone on the end table on my side of the bed. I feel Edward’s lips kiss the base of my neck.
“It’s okay if you want to start a relationship with him. There is no wrong thing when it comes to your dad,” he murmurs into my skin.
“I think at my next appointment I’ll talk about it, I just don’t know how to feel right now. Leah needs her mom, and-” I swallow hard. “She came to me, Edward, and it-” I shake my head, not wanting to cry.
He unzips my dress, then unclips my bra. I hear him open and shut a drawer.
“Arms up, baby.” I do as he says, and he puts a shirt on me. “Lay in bed while I get ready.”
I nod my head, curling into a ball on the bed. Leah came to me for help, and I want to help her. I’m okay with her wanting a relationship with me, I just don’t know why.
Edward climbs in and wraps himself around me. “It’s okay, no one is going to judge you on anything.” His kisses the top of my head.
I sigh in contentment. He’s right, I’m just going to go day by day and see where it takes me.
The bed is cold when I wake up. I stretch my body and get out of bed, grabbing my robe. I hear muffled voices. I tiptoe out, not wanting to disturb anyone.
“I have to thank you for letting me stay here.” I hear Leah’s shaking voice.
“Of course, Leah,” Edward answers in a soothing voice.
“I really didn’t think Bella would be so nice.”
“Bella is an amazing person with a big heart. She doesn’t want anyone to ever feel what she has felt,” Edwards answers. It has my heart beating hard against my chest.
“Jake said so many horrible things about her, that she was manipulative, she forced him to give up his kids, and she would tell lies about him to them. He was the one lying, wasn’t he?” I can hear her tears.
“Yes.” His voice is steel.
“I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“You didn’t, it’s the thought of that,” he clears his throat. I am sure it was to rethink what he was going to say. “I’m sure Bella has clothes that you can wear, why don’t you take a shower.”
I go to the closest box and pull some stuff out that I think would be good for her, and then I walk out to the kitchen where I see my man sitting on a stool drinking coffee.
“Morning, love,” he greets me with a smile.
I return the smile. “Morning, babe. Leah’s showering?”
His eyes study my face, and I’m sure he sees something. “You heard, didn’t you?”
I nod my head, taking my eyes away from him. Before anymore can be said, the door buzzes, signaling that someone’s here. Nerves wrack my body; this is the first time being this close to Charlie since we met for lunch.
“I’ll get the door, love.” Edward kisses the top of my head and leaves me in the kitchen to sort myself out.
“Nice to see you again, Mr. Cullen,” I hear a low woman’s voice greet Edward.
“Mrs. Swan, please call me Edward.” His charm is in full swing.
I hear her chuckle. “It’s Sue, then.”
I’m sure I’m about to make my lip bleed as I nibble on it. Edward’s tall frame and messy hair come around the corner with Charlie and his wife.
As I take in Sue, despite her joking demeanor with Edward, I can see the circles under her eyes. The brown eyes that meet mine are bloodshot from lack of sleep.
“How is my child?” Her voice is thick with worry.
“She’s a bit of a wreck. Edward got her to take a shower; I just know she really needs a mom.” I turn away and make myself busy with the little amount of dishes in the sink.
Leah gets out of the shower and sees her mom, beginning to cry again and apologizing for not listening. Charlie embraces them both, whispering how it was not her fault.
I become numb at the sight before me. I want to be angry that he’s there for her when he was never there for me. I want to be jealous that she has that with him. But instead, I’m just content that she does have a support system.
Charlie and Sue sit with Leah on the couch while Edward and I begin to gather things and prepare for the movers that are going to be showing up.
“I can’t go back to Forks, I have work,” Leah protests.
“Where are you going to stay then, sweetie, you aren’t going back to the apartment,” Sue asks her.
Her shoulders sag in defeat. I don’t know why this bothers me, maybe because I know how Jake has won so many times, and this just can’t be one of them.
“This apartment is available. And the rent is fairly cheap.” I can’t help but smile when I look over to the man who raises his brow at me, trying to contain his smile.
“Really?” Leah looks at me with such hope.
I smile and sit next to her. “Yes, considering the man who owns this place loves me, I can even bet you won’t have to worry about anything at all until we get you up and going.”
“Thank you,” Leah sobs, and I embrace her.
I pucker my lips to apply the light pink lipstick. My eyes are glowing with happiness. My hair is down and curled. A teal strapless dress covers my frame.
It’s been two months since Leah came to me for help. I have grown to think of her as another sister, and Irina has taken her on as a client. Sue has become another close member in my ever-growing family. I can see why Charlie married her; I see similarities to my own mom in her. As for Charlie, I treat him as an acquaintance and I'm slowly learning who he is now. My therapists say this is a good approach to building a new relationship.
I sigh, fluffing my hair and walking out of my new bathroom. I love our house so much. Already so many new things are happening. Rose announced her pregnancy just two weeks ago here during a family dinner.
I smile so wide that it actually hurts thinking about tonight. Edward is taking me out because, as he put it, he fucking can. I think with all the things going on at work he needs some quality time with me.
I walk down the stairs, seeing Edward dressed in a dark suit with no tie. He looks good enough to eat.
His eyes are dark, drinking me in. “God, Bella, how am I supposed to be a gentleman with you looking like that, love?”
I can’t help but laugh as I reach him. He takes my hand and brushes his lips against my fingers. “Mr. Cullen, the charmer,” I joke.
He chuckles, running his hand through his hair. “I thought I was going to be able to make it to dinner.”
I furrow my brows in confusion. “Edward?”
“When I first saw you in the diner, I couldn’t believe how gorgeous you were. Then I watched what an amazing mother you are to our boys. I watch you work your ass off to give them everything they could ever need.” Edward gets down on one knee, opening the black box in his hand.
I can’t help but gasp.
“I want to give you the world. I want to give you anything you could ever need or want. I love you, Isabella Swan, marry me?”
“Yes, yes!” I sob out. Edward quickly stands, giving me the gorgeous ring from the box and slipping it on my finger. “I love you so much, Edward.” I kiss him hard on the mouth.
“How set are you about going out,” he moans into my mouth.
“Not at all, take me to our room, baby.”