Driving Forces Chapter 10
“Want to tell me what's making you squirm on the couch?” Kate raises her perfectly sculpted brow at me.
I’ve been seeing Kate for about a month now, twice a week. Edward gave me his counselor's office number and she’s who they recommended to me. She’s feisty and sarcastic, but she’s also understanding and knows the pain I’m experiencing. She, too, had a miscarriage during the last trimester.
Blowing out some air, I respond, “I feel that there may be more developing between me and Edward.” She doesn’t lower her brow, knowing that I’m just skimming the surface of what really bothers me. “We’ve been pretty much staying with each other every night, whether it's his place or mine. We hold hands all the time, and he likes to cuddle. I don’t know what to think or how to really feel about it.”
Kate hums as she writes something down. “Would you want more with him?”
The question rolls around in my head over and over. I think about the feelings he gives me when he takes my hand. I remember the butterflies I get when we spoon on the couch watching a scary movie. The silly faces he makes when he’s concentrating on work at the office. But then I think about the panic in his eyes when we woke up and my leg was hitched up and pressed against his crotch. It caused a panic attack that took Alistair coming over and an extra session with Eleazar to calm him down. I still can’t get his broken face out of my head.
“I don’t think it matters what I might want. Edward is too fragile to even talk about an intimate relationship.” I hear the sadness that laces my tone.
Kate sets her notepad down and comes over to sit next to me, taking my hand. “It doesn’t have to be intimate, maybe just a few friendly dates. I think you might be surprised at what Edward wants.”
I shake my head. “I’m messed up enough as it is; I don’t want to take him down with me.”
“Messed up, no.” Kate softens just a bit. “In pain, yes. What happened to you doesn’t make you messed up. What you’re feeling doesn’t make you messed up.”
I nod my head, understanding what she’s saying, but doubt still lingers.
She walks back over to her chair. “I think I’ll give you homework. By our next session, I want you to write down your feelings about Edward. What would you like to happen in the future? What would give you the motivation to approach Edward for more than a friendship? Okay?”
I bite my lip. “I can try.”
I go home and think about everything she said. Knowing I’m going to overthink it, I pull out a notebook and start working on my ‘homework’. But as I stare at the blank paper I have no idea where to start. Do I start with when I began to realize that I have more than friendly feelings toward him? Would I begin with how strong he makes me feel because, after everything he’s probably been through, he still manages to smile every day? Maybe I start with what I want for my future. I want to feel less angry, and less pain. I want to kiss him.
My head hits the desk with a thud and I let out a frustrated sigh. I am going to hell. Needing to put my focus somewhere else, I take out paperwork and focus on the contracts and cases that need my attention.
After a bit of time has passed, I hear a knock on my front door.
Remembering tonight is Edward's group therapy, I realize he’s probably dropping Emma off, but when I answer the door, Edward is there alone with his hands in his pockets and his shoulders hunched.
“Where’s Emma?” I can hear just the slightest panic in my own voice.
Edward meets my eyes. “I left her with Rose. I um…wanted to ask y-you...”
I wait patiently, but also with my nerves on edge. He can’t be asking what I think he's asking.
He growls as he hands me a piece of paper. “I want you to come tonight. To listen. If you can, stay in the back where I can’t see you, but I want you there.”
I feel a very slight pang of sadness that he didn’t ask me what I thought he was going to, but also relief that it wasn’t that. I take the paper, pressing it against my chest. “I’ll be there.”
He sighs in relief. “Okay. I’m going to head that way. Um… I’ll see you after.”
I nod in agreement, watching him walk to his car and drive away before I shut the door.
He wants me to be there tonight. He wants me to come and listen. How should I feel about that? Should I be taking this a certain way? Does this mean something? I find myself pacing around the house, my mind going a thousand miles a minute. I stop in front of my door, immobile and scared to death. Finally, I pull out my cell phone and dial.
“Bella?” Kates wary voice answers.
“Edward wants me to come to his meeting tonight. He wants me to listen to what happened to him in the past.” I choke up from the fear.
She doesn't immediately answer, and I can hear the wheels spinning in her head. “What about that worries you?”
Taking a deep breath, I say, “Should I think anything of this?”
A small sigh enters my ear. “Be there for him as a friend, but try not to think of it any other way. He wants you there, so be there.”
“Yes, yes. I’ll be there.”
With a new determination, I say goodbye and head out the door. It feels like a never-ending drive. Even with the reassurance from Kate, I feel nervous. What if I can’t handle what he has to say?
Pulling up to the building and parking, I take a deep breath. It doesn’t matter what comes out of his mouth. It doesn’t matter if I throw up afterward. I will be there for him.
I let out the breath I was holding and go in quietly, pretty sure the meeting has begun. I see Alistair and Eleazar sitting in the circle. I keep to the shadows so that I don’t disturb anyone. Spotting both of them makes me worry so much. The need to be close to Edward is strong. Taking a deep breath, I find a seat where I can still hear, but far enough in the back to hopefully not be seen.
There’s a small wooden podium that Edward steps up to, and he clutches the edges of it. His face seems a bit green, making me grab the edge of my seat so I don’t get up and go to him.
Clearing his throat, he begins. “My name is Edward Swan. A little over a year ago, I was fighting for my life.” He takes a shaky breath. I can already feel tears clogging the back of my throat. “I grew up in foster care. I don’t remember anything about my birth parents. I’ve had a few good foster parents and a few bad.” I watch him subconsciously rub his right arm before gripping the podium again. “I met Tanya my senior year of high school. She was the only person to be nice to me, to show me attention. We started a relationship about midway through the year. Toward the end of the school year, about the time I aged out of the system, she told me she was pregnant.” He roughly wipes his hands on his jeans and looks over to Alistair and Eleazar before he continues. “Her parents kicked her out of their house, so it was just us. I got a job and so did she. I was excited to be a dad. I was going to show my baby so much love. I promised that I was going to be the best dad in the world.” He stops and shakes his head. “Emma was just a few months old when Tanya started calling me names, like idiot or stupid. Then she began hitting me. They weren’t hard hits at first, but as time went on, they became harder and more frequent, and the name-calling got much worse.
“On Emma’s first birthday Tanya hit me with a baseball bat because I had to pull a double shift at a factory and then work a few hours at my second job to make sure we had enough for rent and a perfect birthday for our daughter. She broke my forearm.” His voice cracks just a bit. “The... sexual...” He pauses, looking down and shifting his feet. “I stopped being able to have sex with her after that. I couldn’t.” He lets out a harsh breath. “When I wasn't interested in having sex, she would sit…sit…”
Tears stream down my cheeks. I have to cover my mouth to hold in the sobs because of the images that pop into my head.
“She would sit on my face until I couldn't breathe.” His face is pale, and his knuckles are white from clasping the edges of the podium. “I lived with everything she did to me because I was so scared that she would take my Emma away from me. The one thing that kept me going, kept me moving forward. I didn’t report her because I thought no one would believe me.” He lets out a humorless laugh. “I stayed, I survived everything, until I almost didn’t. One day, I had a shift at work, but Tanya was high out of her mind, so I decided to take Emma with me. I’d done it so many times before that I didn’t think it would be a big deal.”
Tears fall silently down his face. My legs are pulled up to my chest as I hold everything in. This gorgeous, beautiful man, and what he has been through... God.
“I had Emma ready to go and we were about to head out the door when Tanya began shrieking about me stealing her daughter.” His eyes are glassed over as he relives the moment in his mind. “I tried to calm her down and kept Emma behind me. Tanya repeatedly hit me and screamed at me, and the next thing I knew, burning pain shot through my stomach. My… my hands went the wound on my stomach, and then I felt another pain to my side and then my back. I could hear Emma screaming. I remember trying to calm her, reassure her that I was fine, but there was blood everywhere.” I watch Edward's eyes clear as he looks around the room. “I was told a neighbor called the police. Tanya was taken away. Emma was put into temporary foster care. I was in the hospital for a month. During that time, Alistair showed up and began talking to me. He helped me through the process of getting sole custody of Emma and pressing charges against Tanya.
“It’s a long, tough road, healing from everything. Especially when society tells you that men can’t be raped, that they can’t be domestic violence victims.” He clears his throat. “I never thought the nightmares would end, but I haven’t had one in a month. I really believed that I was stupid, and dumb, and couldn’t amount to anything. But now, I’m an assistant to a renowned lawyer and I’ll be starting paralegal classes soon. Maybe one day, I'll even be a lawyer.” His lips pull up to a small smile. “I’ve even found a woman, an amazing woman. I still have so many things to work through, but for the first time, I feel like I'll be okay. I know how some of you feel. I’ve been there; I’m still there sometimes.” He looks over at Alistair and Eleazar. “But it will get better.”
I don’t hear much after that. Anger burns through me, followed by sadness. My eyes follow Edward as he goes to Eleazar and they talk as Alistair addresses the other attendees. Edward looks around but doesn’t seem to find what he’s looking for. My feet begin to move on their own accord and his eyes land on me as I walk to him. I ask him with my eyes if I can touch him, and he nods slowly.
I embrace him, and everything inside of me knows exactly what I want for my future.