Driving Forces Chapter 15
I watch again as Bella picks up her pace to pass the bedroom door that’s kept firmly shut on the way to Emma’s chosen room. She turns her head just slightly as to make sure it doesn’t cross her eye line. Biting my bottom lip, I wonder if I should say something to her. I’m making progress, leaps and bounds, since court, but I’m still not good with conflict. I know when I bring up my concerns about Emma being on the same floor as the empty nursery that there will be conflict. Not that I care about it myself, but I know how curious Emma is. I know eventually she’ll open the door to see what’s inside, and I worry how Bella will react to it.
Setting the box I’m caring down in Emma’s room, I can’t help smiling at the view I have. Bella is helping Emma put away some books on the new shelf. Bella kisses the top of her head and giggles as they share secrets between them.
Smiling at my girls, I say, “I think this is the last box, pretty ladies.”
Bella chuckles. “All right, I guess we should get everything put away, now.”
I lean against the doorframe, watching them work together.
It's just a week into November and about two weeks into the remodel of the house. Bella wanted to make sure the house reflected all of us. I think it was just an excuse to change up the things she didn’t like from when she was married to Jake. I also think it’s to avoid going further into her healing process. She hasn’t seen Kate since our date, and she hasn’t attended a group meeting since then, either.
Bella smirks as she turns to me. “Aren’t you going to help us, Dad?”
Unable to help myself, I dramatically drop my arms to my sides. “I suppose I could.”
My girls giggle at me as I being to help them put Emma’s stuff into her closet. I continue to overthink about Bella and how I don’t want her to become the angry woman who hired me all those months ago. I want her to be this carefree, amazing, sexy woman who has made us her family. My family.
“You know what we haven’t gotten yet?” Bella stands up to look at Emma with a twinkle in her eyes.
“What?” Emma moves her body in a three-sixty manner, trying to spot what they could have missed for her new room.
Bella squats down in front of her and loudly whispers, “We didn’t get you new bedding for your new, freshly-painted room!”
Emma’s mouth pops open and then she grabs Bella’s face. “Can we go right now?”
Bella chuckles. “Of course, little lady!” Bella swoops down, picking Emma up and propping her on her hip. Her brown eyes flicker to me. “You are coming, right?”
I sigh, not really wanting to go to another store. “I was thinking about cleaning stuff up and putting more of my things away,” I murmur, biting my lip and hoping that this isn’t the last straw.
I’ve made strides since I gained closure at court, but I still have many insecurities. The biggest one is the worry that Bella will get sick of all of them. Between my nightmares and the fact that she can only touch me on top of my clothes and above the belt; I worry she can’t handle it.
Bella gives me a reassuring smile. “Emma Bear, I think we tired Daddy out with all the shopping we’ve done. I think just me and you will go out and get some things.”
Emma giggles. “I think we have to, Mama Bella.”
Mama Bella is a new development that Carmen had us all sit down for so that Emma could ask if it was okay. Bella was honored that she wanted to call her that. I was happy that she found someone she wanted to be her mom. On the other hand, I worried about Emma making that type of attachment.
Bella kisses my cheek as they head out the door. I sigh, taking in my surroundings. This is the first time I‘ve had the entire house to myself and I can’t help taking a personal tour. This tour leads me to the one door that Bella can’t look at. Chanting to myself that it’s my house, too, it’s my house, too, I gently open the door and see the nursery I assumed was there.
The crib isn’t put together; the pieces are laying on the ground. Piles of clothes that have yet to be put away are scattered along the floor. A light layer of dust covers every surface. I feel a warning not to touch a thing because I fear if she knew I was in here, I really would have crossed a line. I stand in the doorway looking around. I can just feel the love Bella had for her unborn daughter. I can also see the love Jake had. All the furniture seems homemade with a unique lacquer and tribal engravings. Knowing I’ve already taken too long, I gently shut the door, hoping that it isn’t noticeable I looked. I begin to feel worried for Bella. I know she’s making progress, but as I stand there in the hallway thinking, I worry that she dove straight into my problems and forgot hers.
I go back downstairs, wondering if I should approach her about this. Should I ask her about Kate, ask if she thinks it’s time to work on her again? I fall into a nearby chair, running my fingers through my hair. Then I hear the door fling open, followed by giggling. The corners of my lips pull up as I get up to find out what they’re up to. Walking into the foyer, I know.
They got more than bedding.
I tsk. “Bella.”
Her eyes widen, and her mouth makes a little O. “Edward, I swear it’s not what it looks like. We thought while we were out we could get stuff for your office as a surprise.”
Rolling my eyes, I reply, “Let's get everything put away.”
I take my seat next to Alistair’s chair, who isn’t present just yet. Even with the leaps I’ve made in my healing, I always come to the meetings. They remind me that I’m not alone, and I want to be there for the others, as well. I could help someone else take another step in their healing.
Al walks in with a new gentleman who seems really familiar, but I don’t place him until he takes a seat. His shaggy black hair is hanging over eyes covered with sunglasses. His bronze skin is spotted with fresh marks that I know all about.
Jacob Black is sitting across from me, looking beaten down.
“Let’s get started. I want to introduce Jake.”
We all say hello.
“Why don’t you start off telling us about yourself.” Al puts his hand on Jake’s shoulder, comforting him.
Clearing his throat, he begins. “I’m Jake. I’m married with one daughter and another on the way.” He shakes his head as he looks at the floor. “I was raised to never hit a woman, that we’re just supposed to be a man. Leah has always hit me or threw things at me, but I just shook it off. But as time went on and we got married, things got worse. I had no one. I alienated the only family I really had by cheating on my first wife.” His voice breaks toward the end. “I want to leave her. I know the child she’s carrying isn’t mine. I tried to take my little girl and just go, but she caught me.” He pulls his glasses off his face.
A collective hiss goes around the room. I recognize the bruise, and I know what it was she used. I clear my throat. “Is your little one okay?”
Jake’s eyes widen slightly when he sees me, but it doesn’t deter him from answering me. “She is. I managed to get her to her room before it went down. Leah went crazy, then she told me that my daughter wasn’t mine, that she just said that because she wanted to take me away from my first wife. She hated…” He stopped, looking so ashamed at was he was going to say next. “My first wife was her stepsister. Leah hated that Bella had everything she wanted, and she took advantage when I was drunk and feeling lonely. I never thought about it again. But when she showed up saying she was pregnant, I knew I had to be there. I’d just lost my other baby, and I—I—” Tears spill over and streak down his face. He looks up at me, wanting someone to tell him it’ll be okay.
“You did what you thought you had to do. It's okay, Jake. But it's not okay to take a beating. It doesn’t matter if it’s from a spouse,” I say, trying not to be too rough on him. “No matter how much you think you deserve it.”
He nods his head. “I don’t know what to do.”
Alistair gives me a look. “Well, you’re here, and that’s a start. We’ll help you, whatever you decide to do next.”
That’s how most of our night goes. We talk about the small problems each of us are having, and what we plan to do.
I take a deep breath before letting it out. “I’ve moved in with Bella, and she decided to ‘remodel the damn place’ so that it reflects that Emma and I are living there. Her words, not mine.” I snort. “But I noticed that she hasn’t been doing her own healing and working on herself, and I worry that she’s going to break when it comes to the room that’s just down the hall from Emma. I worry that one day Emma will want to go look, and…” I pause, taking my bottom lip between my teeth.
Al nods his head. “Maybe you should just sit her down and talk to her. She’s a very reasonable person, Edward. What is it that has you worried about talking to her?”
I shrug, but I know exactly what’s eating at me.
“Bella doesn’t yell. She’s so patient and understanding,” Jake speaks up. All eyes are on us as they make the connection between us.
I swallow hard. “I know. I know she probably won’t get mad at me. I just also know it’ll hurt her, and I don’t want her to be hurt. I know the significance of the room. I know how painful it is for her. And…”
Al and Jake both nod. I watch Jake as his own pain covers his face. His eyes water and his mouth pulls down. “Talk to her.”
I nod, knowing they’re right.
I don’t want to talk to her during our week alone, so I leave it until after work today when Emma heads over to Rose’s house for a sleepover.
A groan escapes my lips as I get up and walk to her office to let her know I have to make copies and hit up Jasper’s office to drop off some contracts he needs. Bella’s hunched over her computer with a pencil sticking out of her mouth. She looks so gorgeous.
“What has you concentrating so hard?” I chuckle as she looks up at me with wide eyes.
She grins. “I was looking into the community center Alistair works at. They really need more access to lawyers, and I was thinking that I wanted to help. But…” Her eyes meet mine. “If I do this, I would have even less free time.”
I hum. “Well, I can take over all the contracts. I’ll have the knowledge since I’m going to school in January. I mean, it would be tight, but I think we could manage it.”
She shocks me by jumping out her chair and kissing me silly. “You are too amazing.”
A snort escapes my lips the same time I feel the heat rise in my cheeks. “I have to go make copies.”
Together we watch Emma take off with Rose. Bella intertwines her fingers with mine, pulling me into the living room to lounge on the couch and put on a movie.
I know this is the moment I need to talk to her. My heart picks up and my palms get sweaty at what I’m about to do next.
Bella’s brows pull together as she takes me in. “What’s wrong, babe?”
My throat feels like I’m swallowing sand. “I worry about you.” My voice comes out shaky.
Her eyes widen, and her mouth pops open slightly. “Why?”
Not wanting to lose momentum, I proceed quickly. “I think you’ve been so focused on me, that you’re forgetting your own healing. I’ve noticed you haven’t been to your own group meetings or gone to see Kate. I worry that having your daughter’s room on the same floor as Emma’s is going to cause you to have a breakdown.” Everything I say comes out in a rush. I hope she understands some of it.
She takes a sharp breath. “Oh.”
I pull her close to me, playing with her fingers. “You’re everything to me, Bella. I love that you care about Emma and me so much, but we care about you, too. I’m worried that you’re avoiding feeling those feelings again. I’m enjoying that happy woman that takes my daughter out for shopping sprees. I worry that you’ll go back to the grouchy woman I first started working for that did nothing but work.”
Her head falls on my shoulder and I can feel tears on my shirt. “I’m sorry, Edward. I’ll start going back to Kate. You’re right. I get so wound up when we’re anywhere near the nursery.”
My lips press against the top of her head. “Whatever you need, I’m here for you, just like you are for me.”
She nods against me.
Together we are going to get better.