Driving Forces Chapter 7
Reading over the latest project Bella has me overseeing, I realize I’m almost finished altering the contract with clients in Jasper’s department looking for a two-year agreement with the company. The clients are trying to create loopholes in the contract to benefit themselves; they don’t want to have to pay very much out of pocket considering the amount of work they’re expecting from Cullen Enterprises. Basically, they’re douche canoes, as Bella puts it.
In just two weeks it will be four months since I started working here. I have a good savings account, and I’m looking for a better apartment for Emma and me. Everything is going much better than I ever would have imagined.
“Edward.” Rose calls my name as she walks toward me with pamphlets in her hand.
I’m still timid around her, but nothing like when I first started. Now that I’ve gotten to know her I realize she is a great, loving person who you don’t want to piss off. She and I have had a few lunch dates and gotten the kids together. We’re developing a decent friendship.
I clear my throat. “Rose, what’s up?”
Taking a seat across from me and smiling, she says, “I know miss Emma bear is starting kindergarten this year. It got me thinking, with her getting along with Ollie so well, not to mention all the other kids in daycare, that maybe you would be interested in sending her to school with them.” She hands over the pamphlets she’s been holding.
The Bush School is printed at the top along with their mission statement: “To spark in students of diverse backgrounds and talents a passion for learning, accomplishment, and contribution to their communities.”
From the statement alone, I can tell I wouldn’t be able to pay the tuition. “I don’t think I could afford to send Emma to the top-rated school in the state.” I can feel my cheeks flame.
She chuckles. “You should read the fine print. Cullen Enterprises pays for the tuition of employees’ children.”
My brows knit together. “Really?”
“Yes, really. Now, I took the liberty of scheduling an appointment for you and Emma to be interviewed for a spot.” She hands me a scrap of paper with a time and date written on it.
I thank her, trying to hide my embarrassment. Being amazing, as almost all the Cullen women are, she doesn’t say anything.
When she leaves I take a gander at the brochure which leads me to look at their website. It is an amazing school; it’s expensive, but I think it will be worth it to keep Emma with her friends, plus it's a perfect school in general. Taking the paper Rose gave me, I tuck it into my calendar to make sure I remember to make the appointment.
I gather up all the paperwork for the contract I’ve finished and walk to Bella’s door, knocking before entering. I hold up the folder when she looks up at me. “I have all the info on the contract from Jasper’s department.”
She takes her hair down out of its ponytail and rubs her temples. “Is it good news?”
Setting the folder in front of her, I reply, “I think it is.”
She opens the folder and begins scanning through the paperwork that I did. She nods her head, grabs a pen, and begins making notes. I don’t take offense. I know this is Work Bella, and she’s teaching me how to perfect my skills. She’s continued pushing for me to take classes.
Finally setting the last paper down, she leans back in her chair, her index finger tapping the file. “This… this is amazing, Edward. Some of this I wouldn’t have even thought of.” A smile spreads across her face, making her look gorgeous. Gorgeous? What?
I feel hot all over from the compliment and from the stray thought I just had. “Thanks, Bella.”
“I will let you take this over to Jasper.” She closes the file and hands it to me.
“Oh, before I forget, I have an appointment to go over to The Bush School on Friday.”
“That’s a great school. Make sure you go down to HR and get that paperwork started.”
I nibble my bottom lip. “Would you, um… want to, uh…” Internally, I’m yelling at myself to just spit out the damn question.
Bella smiles at me, waiting for me to finish.
“Come with me to the appointment?” I hold my breath, scared of her answer.
“I would love to, Edward.”
I mentally fist pump. “Alright, I’m going to take this to Jasper, and then I will arrange our schedule so we’re both free on Friday.”
“Sounds good!” Her brightly lit smile is contagious.
Finding myself smiling, I walk out to my desk to start rearranging the schedule. After I finish that I go down to Jasper’s floor, finding him red-faced and slamming the phone down. Feeling wary, I walk up and tap on his door frame.
He looks up. “Please tell me that is the contract that is going to make,” he aggressively points to his phone, “this better.”
“That’s what Bella tells me.” I hand him the file.
He falls into his chair with it. “Thank God. I thought I was going to lose this account and then have to murder someone.”
He makes me chuckle. “I’m glad to help save someone’s life.”
He thanks me again before I leave feeling really good about myself.
“I was with my ex-wife for five years until I finally asked for a divorce. She was heavy into drugs and would leave our daughter alone to get high. When I would confront her, she would hit me. One time she stabbed me with a knife. I was awarded sole custody of Brandi, but it wasn’t an easy road. I had to get a restraining order on Michelle. I had to call the cops on her so many times for trying to break into my home, or showing up at Brandi’s school.” He takes a deep breath. “One of her close friends became my daughter’s teacher.”
I know the next part, but it hurts my heart every time I hear it.
“Michelle had her convinced that I was a manipulative bastard that took her daughter away from her. One day after school this friend let Michelle take Brandi before I arrived to pick her up.” He clears his throat. “It was a week before they were found. She was high and drove her car into a lake. My daughter was only seven.” Tears silently fall down Al’s face as he finishes his story.
I can’t help but wipe my own tears away. Every time I hear his story I can’t believe he gets out of bed in the morning, let alone has his sunny disposition.
I knew it was my turn to share something about myself. Clearing my throat, I began. “I never really had a home when I was growing up. I bounced from foster home to foster home. Some were good places, others where horrible.” I rub a few scars on my arm out of habit. “When my girlfriend told me she was pregnant, I wanted to give my child everything I never had growing up. I wanted to shower my baby with love.” I feel myself closing up as the memories assault me. “She didn’t start hitting me until after Emma was born. And it wasn’t hard hits at first.” I shake my head as my heart beats loudly in my ears and the heat of embarrassment floods my veins. “It wasn't until Emma was a year old that she started putting her cigarettes out on my arms when I wasn’t fast enough making her food. Then she started forcing herself on me even when I wasn’t… I didn’t want…” My throat closed shut from embarrassment.
Al pats my shoulder, signaling that I don’t have to continue. “Just because we’re men, doesn’t mean we can’t be raped or abused. I think we’re going to stop here for tonight. If anyone needs a ride, let me know and I will get you home. Everyone else, see you next Thursday.”
I’m grateful that he ended the session. This is the first time I’ve admitted that Tanya went as far as assaulting me in that manner.
I stick around to help Alistair put away the chairs and the snacks.
“I’m really proud of you, Edward, for starting to talk more about what she did to you.”
I nod my head. “I just wish it didn’t…” I can’t find the right words to describe what happens to me when I try talking about it.
“It’s okay, man. How are the sessions with Eleazar coming along?”
I let out a humorless laugh, thinking about my sessions with my shrink. They aren’t that bad, he just makes me talk about very uncomfortable things, and now he’s talking to me about possibly taking some medication for my anxiety.
“It’s a slow process. But he is really breaking down my walls and showing me that it's okay to feel what I’m feeling. But he’s also thinking about maybe putting me on medication.”
Al opens the door to let me out so he can lock up. “How do you feel about that?”
I snort, raising my brow at him. “Really?”
He laughs, putting his keys in his pocket. “It’s a legit question.”
I shrug because I’m not exactly sure how I feel about it. “I don’t know, I really don’t want to be drugged up.” We stop outside our cars. I put my hands in my pockets, waiting for his input.
“I think you do what’s best for you and what you want. I will always be here for you.” He shakes my hand.
“Thanks, man. I’ll talk to you later.”
I make my way home, finding Bella reading a book with Emma. Something warms inside me as I watch them, and I discover my thoughts toward Bella are slowly changing.