Driving Forces Chapter 8
My screen saver is a picture of Emma and me wearing plastic crowns, big smiles on our faces. It was taken last night while Edward was at his meeting. I haven’t gotten up the nerve to ask him what exactly his Thursday night meetings are for. Deep down, I have an idea what they’re about and how he met Alistair, but I don’t want to push. We’re at a comfortable spot where I can enter his space without his body trembling, and he can hold a conversation with me without having to be a good three to six feet away.
How close we’re growing has become the talk among my loving siblings. Jasper is the latest with his phone call to brag about the contract Edward wrote for him.
“When are you guys going to announce that you’re dating?” His annoying fake southern accent comes out as he pries.
“A, you are not from the south; B, we’re just friends, for the millionth fucking time.” I’m beyond exasperated over this same conversation I’ve had with every member of the family.
He chuckles, forcing my eyes to roll and my hand to roughly run through my hair. “You need to jump on that.”
I hang up on him, turning my chair so I can look out my door where Edward is sitting. He’s wearing a black button-up with his sleeves rolled up to his elbows, and tan Dickies. Edward is looking straight-up edible. I might not want a romantic relationship, but I can admire him.
He turns toward me as if he can feel me staring at me from my office. He smiles this crooked smile that melts me every time. “I’m about ready to head out to grab Emma and go to the school.”
I clear my throat, trying to get rid of the horribly perverse thoughts that were beginning to corrupt my mind. “I’m pretty much set here, also. Jasper sends his thanks and praise for the contract.”
His cheeks and the tips of his ears turn bright red, something that I’ve noticed tends to happen when he gets a compliment. “It was nothing.”
I sigh, letting it go because I know that he isn’t ready for that kind of push just yet. I stand up, putting some papers away. “Are we ready to leave for the day?”
He gives me a megawatt smile. “Yes, we are.”
Emma is beyond excited when she sees us picking her up. Of course, Rose and Claire are wiggling their eyebrows behind Edward’s back. I flip them off when he walks ahead of me. I’m very happy that we left early because this school campus is insane to navigate around. If I’m being honest, I’m so happy that Edward drove because I would have punched something from the road rage I’m feeling, and that would have probably set him and Emma back.
We finally find where we’re supposed to be and park. We’re halfway to the building when Edward stops.
“Shit, I forgot her birth certificate and stuff, hold on.” Edward jogs back to the car.
Emma hums, looking at me with such soulful little eyes. “I’m happy you could come with us.”
Getting down to her level, I say, “I’m very honored to be here with you.”
“My daddy still has a hard time with girls, could you help him if he gets scared?”
My heart aches. “Yes, Emma, I will help out your daddy if he gets scared.”
Emma kisses my cheek. “Thank you, Miss Bella, you’re the best person ever.”
Straightening up, I’m holding her hand in mine when Edward joins us again to meet with the tour guide. The lady waiting for us is easily in her sixties with white hair put up in a tight bun. Her skin is wrinkly and she has a permanent frown on her face as she greets us.
“Good Afternoon, I am Ms. Cindy. I will be showing you around the elementary campus today.” She takes Edward’s timid hand and shakes it firmly before moving to me.
I watch Edward transform from the semi-confident man that was at my office earlier today to the timid man that interviewed with me months before. “Hi, I’m… I’m Edward Swan, and… and this is my Emma Bear.” Edward stutters just a bit as he tries to introduce himself and Emma.
Her brow raises at him before turning to me.
“I’m Bella Cullen, just a friend here to help out.” I use my curt smile because I’m already getting a vibe from her that I don’t like.
It doesn’t help that Emma is latched onto my hand, and Edward’s making it look like I’m more than a friend.
She gives a curt nod. “It would have been more appropriate if the child’s mother was on this tour, as well.”
Emma whimpers and Edward is visibly shaking.
With anger burning in my veins, I say, “Ms. Cindy, could we talk over here, please?”
“We need to get going.” Her tone triggers my inner bitch.
“No, we aren’t moving from this spot until we get a more professional person from this school to give us a tour.”
She has the gall to look offended at my statement.
“I am the vice president of the legal department at Cullen Enterprises. We give a substantial amount of money to this school in donations, and many, if not all, of our employees’ children are in attendance here. However, I’m positive we can find a more accepting school that doesn’t have staff that judges a person’s personal circumstances at first glance on a tour. So, I will say this one last time: go get someone with more professionalism, or we’re leaving.”
Her face is drained of color as she walks away to get someone else, I presume.
Edward is holding Emma in his arms, trying to be the strength for her and himself. I gently touch his arm, not offended when he flinches slightly. He thanks me softly.
“Anytime, Edward. You’re my friend, pretty much my best friend, and no one treats my friend that way.”
A small smile forms on his lips. “You’re my best friend, too.”
Before I can reply to that really sweet comment, a woman in her thirties with dark hair loose around her shoulders and a bright smile on her face greets us. “Hi, I’m Michelle, and I’m here to give you the tour of our amazing school, and to sign you up for kindergarten.” She winks at Emma, and immediately I like her much more than the previous woman.
Edward introduces us again with slightly more confidence. This time no comments are made, and she begins the tour. I watch as Emma’s face lights up at all the things that are offered; it’s magical to watch. Then there’s Edward, who tries to remain calm and ask relevant and important questions. Something inside me just warms up watching it all.
Later that evening, Edward and I are relaxing in his living room watching TV and going through the school paperwork and supply list.
“Thank you for sitting here with me going through all this.” Edward falls back against the couch, rubbing his face.
I chuckle. “Is it sad that there’s nowhere else I want to be?”
He laughs, making him look so… quickly, I shake off those thoughts.
I fall back, too, sitting next to him because I can’t help myself. “You want to talk about her?”
His whole body stiffens. He knows of whom I speak. “There isn’t a lot to tell.” His shaky voice tells me otherwise, but it also tells me not to push the issue.
I turn my head to look at him. His face is ashen, eyes unfocused, and his body trembling. Gently, so as not to disturb him, I take his hand and make circles on the back of it. “It’s okay, Edward, you’re safe now.”
Shutting his eyes, Edward nods his head.
If I ever come across this woman, I am personally going to make her life a living hell for making this beautiful man like this.
I finally leave, but instead of going home I find myself at the cemetery walking to her little gravestone. Brushing the leaves away, I regret seeing the name Black on the stone. Who knew, though.
Who knew the boy I fell in love with when I was thirteen was a horrible human who would cheat on me with what I considered my blood sister. How he would kick me while I was down, when I couldn’t even process what was happening because I was buried the day she was.
I kiss the headstone and tell her about everything that has been happening.
How she is going to have another half sibling.
How I have met Edward and Emma. How much that I have come to care for them.
I can’t help but shed more tears as I talk to my daughter, wondering if the pain is ever going to get easier to bear.