Driving Forces Chapter 9
Eleazar is sitting across from me with his feet up on the coffee table, his shoes off. His glasses are on the top of his head while he munches on some Cheez-its. This is what I love of about visiting him; how laid back it is here. He keeps the environment friendly and home-like.
“How was your appointment for Emma’s school?”
After blowing out some air, I answer him. “It started out rough. The first lady was really rude to me, but Bella stepped in and basically told her that we wanted someone else, or she was going to take Cullen Enterprise’s business elsewhere. And after we got the new lady it was awesome. Emma was in love with all the different programs, and that her friends are going to be there.”
He smiles, writing something down. “I’m glad it worked out. How did it feel having Bella step in like that for you?”
The moment flashes through my mind. “Relief.”
He stays quiet, giving me a chance to explain my feelings.
“I’ve never had anyone...” I pause, letting out a frustrated sigh as I try to figure out what I mean. “I haven’t had a lot of people in my corner. When that woman began to make assumptions and comments toward me, I could feel panic raising in my chest.” I take a deep breath, letting the feeling pass. “Then Bella just stepped in and helped me. She was just amazing; she is amazing.”
I feel his eyes on me and see him with a small smirk on his lips when I look up. “What?”
He shifts in his seat and pops a cracker in his mouth before responding to me. “Are you beginning to feel more than friendship for Bella?”
I drag my fingers through my hair as I ponder his question. “I don’t think it would be a good idea to even think about something like that.”
His brow raises. “You’re a man, Edward, it’s normal to have those kinds of thoughts and feelings.” He pauses for a moment. “Urges.”
I wipe my hands on my pants roughly as the memories of Tanya flow through me. “No, NO!” It hurts so much. I squeeze my eyes closed and try to shake the memories out of my head.
“Edward, you’re safe, you’re in a safe place. Breathe in; one... two... three... four.”
I breathe in and then out, finally breaking free of the overwhelming feelings. Our eyes meet, and his show nothing but compassion.
“I’m sorry.” My voice cracks.
“There’s nothing to apologize for, Edward. You were assaulted in so many ways. It wasn’t your fault.”
I nod my head, still unsteady.
“What are you doing this upcoming weekend?” He changes the subject to something safe to help me get out of my head.
I can’t help but smile when thinking about my plans. “Bella is coming school shopping with us, and then she asked me to accompany her to a family dinner for moral support.”
A ghost of a smile plays on his lips. “Why does she need support at a family function?”
My smile falls as I think about why. “She wants to see her family more outside of work, but her step sister is married to her ex-husband. It’s complicated.” Rubbing the back of my neck, I wonder if I’m good enough to be the support she needs.
“You are good enough.” I swear the man can read my mind. “That’s all the time we have for today. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you next week, same time.”
I wave as I let myself out, thinking about Bella and whether there might be more than friendship between us.
Bella is giggling as she helps Emma put things away from our shopping trip. It’s been such a great day. Though I must admit Bella bought way too much stuff for Emma, I didn’t have the heart to stop her. She was beyond happy, and so was Emma.
As I’m putting away a few groceries Bella comes in the kitchen. “Thank you for not putting a stop to my overspending.”
Chuckling, I answer, “Well, I thought if I did, I would lose Emma to you.”
She rolls her eyes at me, chuckling. “That could have been a possibility.”
I look over at her. There are very few times that I have ever noticed Bella getting nervous, and when she does, she fidgets and chews on her fingernails.
“Can I ask you something personal and you won’t get upset?” I wonder if she can hear me as I whisper.
Sitting down, she doesn't take her eyes off me. “You can always ask me anything, and I’ll try to answer it.”
Clearing my throat and sitting across from her, I can hear Emma in her bedroom playing. “Your dad and siblings seem awesome so why would they tolerate Leah and Jake?” I pause for a moment to arrange my next words. “I’m surprised that Jake even has the balls to step foot on your dad’s property.”
Bella’s face takes on this faraway look, and she sighs. “Jake actually was sent to the hospital with a broken nose and fractured ribs when everything went down. Leah cried, and refused to let anyone near her and Sara for six months.” She runs her fingers through her brown locks. “I sat them all down, and said they needed to forgive her and Jake. Sara is an innocent child that deserves to be part of this wonderful family. I lied and said I forgave them, and that I wanted to start having them to family dinners.” Tears are silently falling down her cheeks.
I reach across the table and take her hand, squeezing it just a little. I’m in awe of her sacrifice and strength.
“Jake wasn’t—” She lets out a frustrated sigh. “Despite the cheating, and leaving me after I lost our daughter, he was nice. He cooked, he took care of me, and he would sacrifice his happiness for mine all the time. And sometimes I think that’s why he never told me that he wanted to leave me; he couldn’t stand to hurt me that way. He hurt me a lot worse, but—” Her mouth snapped shut with a growl.
“I get it, Bella,” I murmur, scooting closer to her as she rests her head on my shoulder.
“I really hate him. And I’m still so angry with her, my sister who I would die for.”
“Maybe you should talk to someone about it. There are lots of support groups, and I know a really good counselor.” I wrap my arm around her shoulders.
“Yeah, maybe I should.”
“How about we order pizza, pick a silly movie from Netflix, and just chill here.”
She giggles. “I think that sounds a lot better than going to the awkward family dinner.”
“I concur.” I chuckle. And that’s what we do; order pizza and buy some junk food from the corner store. We pick a kid-appropriate silly movie so we can laugh.
We put Emma to bed and pick an adult comedy for us to watch. We laugh until Bella falls asleep on the couch. Covering her up, I can’t help but think about her situation. I pick up my phone and text a few people, telling them my concerns and my plan. It isn’t long before everything is set in motion.
The next day, Emma is all giggles when I tell her what I have planned for Bella. This, of course, makes Bella question everything.
“Why are we so giggly, miss Emma Bear?” Bella tickles her, making her laugh more.
Emma is laughing so hard tears are streaking down her cheeks. “It’s a surprise!”
Before Emma can give away too much more, I say, “Let’s go, ladies, our chariot awaits.”
The entire drive to Bella’s home, Emma bounces in her seat and Bella tries giving me a stare down. Good thing she’s smiling as she does it, or I would probably crack.
As soon as we pull into her driveway we see it lined with her family’s cars. Her mouth pops open. “What’s going on, Edward?”
Clearing my throat, I pray that I didn’t cross a line. “I know you want to be part of family dinners, but it’s too painful to see Leah and Jake. I also know you enough, I think, that you don’t want to tell anyone because you don’t want to make a fuss. So as your designated best friend, I called your family and told them to set up a dinner at your house.” I’m rambling now, and sweat is forming on my palms and trickling down my forehead. I really worry if I’ve made a mistake with this plan.
“Edward, may I hug you?” Her words erase all the worry.
She lunges across the console and squeezes me tightly before bursting out of the car to greet everyone. Of course, Emma is on her heels so she can greet her best friend, Ollie.
It’s what I always wanted to be part of when I was a child; the laughter, children running around, and family being together. Almost immediately, Bella, Alice, and Rose go against Emmett, Jasper, and Seth in a touch football game.
I meet Carlisle and Esme, and they’re just as nice as the rest of them. I have a hard time believing this nice family could have been so blind to Bella’s pain.
“It's not that we were blind,” Esme answers me as I ask her as nicely as I can. “We were just doing what Bella asked us to do. It is hard, painfully so, to watch her try to muscle through her pain. To pretend that everything is okay. The least we could do was give her what she asked for.”
Sue hums in agreement. “I want to thank you for speaking up when she wouldn’t.” She pats my hand.
Shrugging my shoulders, I look out at Bella in the yard, sporting red cheeks and sparkling eyes. “I would do anything for her.”