Driving Chapter 5
My hands are sticky. The smell of something metallic hangs in the air, and a high pitch scream is echoing around me. I can’t find the lights. Where are the lights? Why is Emma screaming? What is that pain?
You are such a fucking loser. You can’t do anything right!
I wake up with the sheet clinging to me from the sweat pouring off me. I weep from the nightmare. The nightmares never end. I get out of bed and into the shower, trying to get myself together before work. By the time I’m done Emma is up and getting herself dressed, clinging to her new stuffed wolf.
Almost every day since I had the panic attack and stayed at Bella’s we have been having lunch together, and last weekend we saw Incredibles 2. After that we went to the local carnival, where Emma got her stuffy. I don’t know what this means. I know we have a great time together, she doesn’t ask questions, and she shows so much affection to Emma that it makes my heart swell. At work, Bella is someone so different than outside the office and when she’s around children. She glows when interacting with Emma or any of her nieces and nephews.
In the kitchen, Emma smiles at me. “I’m all set, Daddy.”
“Alright, princess, let’s get going, then.” I take her hand, grab my bag, and we walk out the door.
She talks the whole throughout the entire car ride. “I can’t wait to see Ollie, he’s going to show me his guitar, and Miss Rose said that we’re going to make tie-dyed shirts today.”
I love listening to her. She has grown so much since she started at the daycare and working with Carmen. I have hopes that what happened to us won’t scar her for life like it has me. When we get to the office Emma runs into the daycare, greeting her friends, and I head up to the office.
What greets me is silence, and my boss’s door firmly shut, which has never happened since I started almost two months ago. I take this as a sign I should use caution, so I quietly set my things down on my desk.
“Edward,” I hear my name being whispered from behind me. I turn to see where it’s coming from, and find Alice and Rose standing there with very strained expressions. They wave me over to the break room on this floor. I walk over to them, and they shut the door, looking around before looking at me.
“What’s going on?” I ask, confused by their behavior.
They exchange a look, then Rose begins to speak. “Look, Bella went through hell about two years ago, and today is an anniversary of sorts. Just be patient with her.”
I nod, still not really understanding. “Okay.”
They leave me to start my day. I get all the case files together and go over the notes Bella has left for me already this morning, which is another unusual thing.
I should check on her, it’s the friendly thing to do. Trying to not let my anxiety talk me out of it, I knock. “Bella.” I hear sniffling on the other side of the door. Not being able to help myself, I quickly open it.
Bella is sitting on her sofa, holding pictures. Her face is blotchy like she’s been crying. The door squeaks just slightly, making her look up at me. She quickly wipes her face. “Edward, what can I do for you?” She tucks the pictures away so I can’t see them.
Stepping in and shutting the door behind me, I clear my throat before speaking. “I just wanted to check on you and make sure you’re okay.”
More tears spring from her eyes. “I’m… I’m not okay.”
It’s an out-of-body experience. I walk over to her, pulling her to my chest and hugging her and saying comforting words. I’m hugging her, I’m comforting her. I’m not freaking out, and I’m not shaking. I’m not hearing voices.
“Why don’t we take the rest of the day off? We can take Emma to the zoo, have some lunch, and then you can come to my place and watch a movie.”
She pulls away, wiping her tears. “I would actually really like that, but we have meetings.”
I shrug. “I’ll reschedule. You relax here, and I’ll take care of everything.”
Bella nods, so I pull away and leave her office. I begin the process of rescheduling everything so we can have a fun day to cheer my friend up. The thought makes me pause. I have a friend, a girl that is my friend. I can’t help but smile. Maybe I am making progress.
It’s my last call to Charlie that makes me realize how much Bella needs this.
“Thank God, I was trying to figure out how to kick her out today. What are you guys going to be doing?”
I have to take a deep breath and try to remain calm. “Thinking about taking Emma to the zoo, have lunch, and watch a movie.” Why am I so nervous explaining what we’re going to be doing? Oh right, my boss’s boss is also her dad.
“Good, good, just what she needs. Have a good time, and see you later, Edward.” He hangs up the phone before I can say anything else.
I blink a couple of times before I hang up, too. Running my fingers through my hair, I open her office door again. Bella is closing her bag and looks up at me.
I smile brightly. “Everything is rescheduled. Let’s get Emma, and go see some animals.”
I’m currently staring at the pictures on my phone that we took throughout our day off. Emma and Bella were attached at the hip, laughing and smiling. Whatever demon that had Bella in knots this morning disappeared when Emma wrapped her arms around her. This one picture is of all three of us. I have my arm around Bella’s shoulders, and we’re each holding one of Emma’s hands. We’re all smiling. I can feel the happiness in the picture. Emma and I are happy in this photo. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so normal; being with Bella and Emma today, I didn’t flinch once, and I never panicked.
Needing to see Emma and Bella again, I walk to my daughter’s room where Bella is reading her a bedtime story at Emma’s insistence. I don’t hear anything coming from her room as I gently push the door open. Bella is curled around Emma, kissing her head and playing with her hair. Emma is sound asleep.
“She must have been pretty tired,” I say as I lean against the doorframe.
She doesn’t look up at me as she nods her head. “She is such a precious gift; all children are precious gifts.” Her voice cracks at the end as she kisses Emma’s forehead before getting off the bed and walking past me.
I follow her to the living room where we sit next to each other on the couch, our thighs touching. Should I hold her hand? Do friends do that?
“I graduated early. I was sixteen with a plan. I would be a lawyer at my dad’s company. I would get married and have four kids. Instead, I’m divorced with no children.” Tears are falling slowly down her cheeks. My hands itch to wipe them away. Running her fingers though her hair, she turns to me. “Tell me about you. What’s your family like?”
I have to roughly wipe my palms against my jeans because of the sweat building up on them. “I really don’t remember them. I was taken from them when I was three, and I lived in the system until I aged out.”
She takes my hand, squeezing it gently. No more words are really needed. We both shared a little about ourselves, and it was enough.