Driving Forces Chapter 4
I laugh at Felicity and Thea who are playing with pretend makeup and dress-up clothes pretending to be princesses. Ollie is playing on his tablet; he’s the oldest and stuck with almost all girls. Lilly and Lance are napping, and I put sweet little Laurel in her walker. She’s been staying near me, fascinated by me braiding shy Emma’s hair. Nothing is better than having all these kids here making this empty house full of laughter and love. Emma has been in awe of all the things I have here for kids.
“You should be a mom,” Emma states as I finish up her braid.
My fingers freeze and my heart stops before it speeds up. Closing my eyes, I shakily finish putting the hair band on the end of the braid when I hear Jasper’s frantic voice.
“Bella, you need to come into the kitchen, now!” Turning to his panicked voice, I see wide eyes and pure fright on his face.
“Emma, can you help Ollie keep all the kids in here? I’ll be right back.” I kiss the top of her head and follow Jasper to the kitchen.
I can’t believe what I’m seeing. Edward is sitting there, rocking back and forth. His hand is in his hair, pulling at it.
“Please. Please,” he cries out.
I turn to Jasper. “What the hell happened?”
Gaping like a fish, he answers, “I have no idea. A drunk chick sat on his lap and then he starting to have a panic attack. Said he needed to see Emma.”
Edward stands up, looking around frantically. “Please, I need to see her.”
I walk over and say gently, “Edward, do you really want Emma to see you like this?”
He shakes his head, but he still hasn’t gotten his breathing under control. Seeing his phone on the ground where he was sitting, I take it and look through his recent contacts.
His last text is from an Al, and I call the number.
“Edward, how was your evening out?” a chipper voice greets me.
My voice is rushed. “This is Bella. Edward is having a panic attack, what should we do?”
Without missing a beat, he replies, “He needs reassurance that he and Emma are safe. Have him breathe in and hold for four seconds, through the nose and out through the mouth. Where is Emma?”
Putting the phone on speaker, I go to Edward. “Hey, breath in through your nose and count to four and let it out, okay?”
Edward nods, doing as I instructed. “You’re safe now. Everything is going to be okay.” I feel silly using these cheesy lines, but they seem to be working.
“Emma is in the other room,” I finally answer the man on the phone.
“Once his breathing slows down, let him see Emma.”
I’m trying to keep my hands to myself, even if they are itching to touch this poor man. His body isn’t shaking as much as it was when I first saw him, but his breathing is still hard.
A throat clearing on the other end of the phone reminds me that I’m still on it. “Either you or him please call me back as soon as he calms enough.”
“Of course.” I click the end button and look at Jasper. In the chaos, it seems that all my brothers and sisters-in-law showed up.
I walk toward them. “Take the kids, try not to alert Emma too much. I want to give him a few more minutes before I bring her in here.”
Emmett pats my back and then leads the trail to the kids. I go back to Edward who has in those few moments gotten himself a little more under control. Sitting down next to him, I make sure I give him enough space to feel comfortable but close enough to show support.
“You’re safe here, okay? Emma’s fine. She got her hair braided. We did nails and had lots of pizza. We were actually about to pick out a movie.”
He turns with a small smile playing on his lips, but his eyes are still a bit red from the panic attack.
I study him for a moment more. “I think Emma is watching something on Netflix. Do you want to join her?”
“Please.” It comes out as a whisper.
Standing up and then waiting for him to do the same, I lead him to the playroom. Emma is watching Sing! and holding a baby doll. She is singing along with the movie, looking very content in her own little world. I watch as Edward strolls to her, flopping next to her on the couch and pulling Emma into his arms, hugging her tight.
Emma pats her daddy’s back. “It’s okay, Daddy. I had lots of fun and everyone was really nice. Miss Bella was amazing.”
Edward holds her close to his chest, listening to her intently. I sit next to them on the couch and watch them. The close bond they have over something that had happened to them is obvious. I hate to think about what tragedy could cause this beautiful, loving father to be shaken like he is. With that line of thinking, I quickly inform Edward, “That Al guy said to have you call him when you’re more settled.”
After kissing Emma’s forehead, he gets up and pulls out his cell. “I’m going to step out and call him. Is that okay?” He bites his bottom lip, not making eye contact with me, almost as if he’s asking my permission.
Nodding my head, I say, “Yeah, Emma and I will just be here watching TV.”
Emma curls up into my side as I wrap my arms around her and we comfortably watch TV. It isn’t long before I hear her soft snores. I can’t help but smile and kiss the top of her head.
Edward walks back in the room. He seems lighter after his talk to whoever that guy is. “I want to thank you for everything tonight.” Shoving his hands in his pockets, he still doesn't really look at me.
“It was nothing. Emma was a gem.”
He takes a seat, staring at his daughter. “She is my world. My everything.”
The love radiating off him is almost too much. The bond between parent and child. Something I…
Clearing my throat, I say, “Are you okay to drive? I have plenty of room if you and Emma just want to stay tonight.”
His eyes widen and his mouth pops open for a moment before he begins to stutter. “I-I don’t know. I don’t want things to, um, get weird.”
I don’t know why, but I start to chuckle. “Nothing is going to change between us.”
The tips of his ears turn red. “Okay, I’ll stay in a guest room with Emma.”
I nod and carefully stand up, trying to not wake Emma. Watching Edward pick her up is something that pulls on my heart strings.
He follows me to the guest room. “There’s a private bathroom in here with towels and stuff.”
He walks in and sets Emma on the bed. Edward turns back to me, not meeting my eyes but shoving his hands in his pockets.
Tonight, I really look at him undistracted. He is wearing a plain black tee, his arms covered in round scars and what look like slashes. The shirt is tight, showing off his decent build that is usually hidden under his work attire.
“Thank you for letting us stay here. I really don’t think it’s a good idea for me to drive home.”
I find myself shaking my head, clearing the dirty thoughts that are worming their way in. “Of course. I’ll see you in the a.m.” Shutting the door behind me, I close my eyes. I need to get some sleep.
Zombie-walking to the kitchen to start some coffee the next morning, I jump out of my skin when I see Emma looking through the cupboards. My hand is on my chest when our wide eyes meet. The difference is, hers are welling with tears.
“I was hungry, and-and I didn’t want to bother my daddy. He doesn’t sleep much and- and—”
Walking up to her and crouching down at her level, I take her hands into mine and smile. “It’s okay. How about some eggs and sausage?”
She sniffles just a bit. “Please.”
I smile, picking her up and setting her on the tabletop and beginning to make breakfast for all of us. She watches me intently, so I start telling her exactly what I’m doing every step of the way.
“I wish I had you as a mommy.”
I freeze just for a moment before taking a breath. “Thank you, sweetie.” Turning to her, I smile and hand her a plate full of food.
Smiling happily, she digs in to her food. I join her. Emma begins to chat about daycare and how much she had fun last night.
“I’m very happy you enjoyed yourself.”
Nodding, she says, “Yeah, it's been really nice to be around a lady that is like a mommy should be.”
“What do you mean, sweetie?” I ask, unable to stop my curiosity.
She nibbles her bottom lip. “A mommy isn’t ‘posed to hit a daddy or their kid. They aren’t ‘posed to say bad names, either.”
Before I can say anything, a panicked voice shouts, “Emma!”
Emma’s and my eyes widen at the fear in Edward’s voice. “Edward, we’re in the kitchen!” I call out.
Edward appears in the archway looking very disheveled, eyes searching for Emma. “You scared me so much, princess.”
Emma smiles, rolling her eyes. “Daddy, we’re with Miss Bella. She wouldn’t let nothing happen.”
The tips of his ears turn red as he kisses the top of her head. I hand him a plate of food, ignoring his embarrassment.
“Thank you.” He sits down next to his daughter.
Not long after breakfast, Edward and Emma leave with him thanking me profusely. I find myself hanging around my sun room when Rose shows up, handing me a glass of something.
“I thought you could use this.” She tucks her feet underneath her as she sits.
Chuckling, I take a sip, enjoying the fruitiness of the wine. We sit in silence. It’s nice having her here. The date is just around the corner and I know I need the company.
“I’m convinced Edward has some kind of PTSD.” She turns to me.
I nod. “I agree, but I’m not trying to pry into his life.”
She chuckles. “I can’t believe you haven’t made a move on him.”
I shake my head. “I don’t need a man. I gave up that idea the moment I signed the papers.”
She sighs, but lets it go.