DISCLAIMER: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m here having fun.
Chapter 25: The Girlfriend
From the window of our hotel suite, I can see the Brandenburg Gate. Tourists roam the area taking selfies and marveling at the grand structure. It is one of the most recognizable symbols of Europe and Germany’s turbulent history, but the gate also represents the unity and peace found in the region today.
I would love to calm my inner turmoil and tap into that peace as my emotions are all over the map. Despite feeling refreshed and more at ease after a haircut at the spa, reality is setting in and I’m worrying about everything imaginable. My mind has the attention span of a gnat, not settling on one thought for more than five minutes.
“What?” I ask, pulling my attention away from the welcomed distraction beyond the window.
“Bella, I asked if you vere ready?”
I look down at the dress and heels I’m wearing, deciding this is as much of an effort as I’m willing to make when I feel emotionally and mentally drained before we’ve even left the room. “Oh, yeah. Sure, I’m ready.”
“Good. Rozalie vill meet us downstairs.”
Hilda tilts her head, watching me more closely. “Are you?”
I shrug. “I don’t know. I guess I’m feeling a variety of things—guilty at the moment.”
“For everything—let’s start here.” I spin around in place, holding out my arms. “Here I am in this five-star hotel suite with every luxury at my fingertips. I have clean drinking water, a flushing toilet, hot shower, king-sized bed with linens that probably cost thousands of dollars, and there’s a lock on the door for privacy. Most people don’t realize how much the simplest versions of these things are worth until you don’t have them. Hilda, we call a number and food arrives as much as we can eat. It all feels like too much—wasteful when so many others are going without night after night. And here I am dressed up for a dinner I don’t want to have with my father.”
“Ve vill be there vith you. You’re vorried.”
“It isn’t just him wanting to club me over the head and drag me back to D.C. like some prehistoric caveman. Or my mother saying that none of this would have happened if I had only listened—according to her, it’s my fault I was kidnapped. And, oh, why can’t I just marry one of Phil’s associates, like Felix, and be a good little housewife? I know I’m paraphrasing, but her words make me so angry. I’ll never marry that cheating son of a bitch or anyone like him. Do they not even know me at all? After thirty fucking years! What if I never get married or have kids? I think it would give her a heart attack or aneurysm if I mentioned that was my plan—not that I have one. But not everyone fits into their little cookie cutter mold of what a woman should be.”
Hilda smiles briefly. “Your cookie is one of my favorites.”
“Stop.” I chuckle, knowing she’s trying to distract me, but I share a brief glimpse of the dark cloud that fills my thoughts with real dangers. “What about Z’s sisters or others in their organization? Don’t you think they or somebody else will come after me for what I’ve said or what I plan to expose? And what about what happened with Z? Retaliation and revenge directed at me or Rose for Z’s death are very real possibilities, considering the entirety of the situation. Her sisters won’t forget, especially K.”
“You’re zafe here.”
“In this hotel. We both know I can’t stay here forever. We’re all vulnerable at some point. I’m getting ready to repaint a bright red and white target on my back for everyone to see.”
“You should stay here and vrite your story. That reminds me. I have your computer and phone.”
“Ugh. I don’t want my phone yet. What if I lost it?”
“Fine. I’ll power it up later. My text, email, and phone apps are probably bulging at the seams. I wonder when I will get back the notebooks they took. I know I can write without them, but it would be nice to have them before I begin.”
Hilda shrugs. “Ve are staying here for two veeks. I should find a new apartment by then.”
“We can’t return to ours? I thought maybe things would settle down soon and we could return.”
“Many people know where ve live. It’s for the best.”
In light of my recent conversation with my mother, there’s something else that has been bothering me, and I’m worried about how she will react. “Hilda?”
I watch as she slips on her shoes and refreshens her lipstick in a nearby mirror.
“I doubt my father knows about us other than we are roommates.”
“Zo? He vill know zoon.”
“I want to be fair to you. There’s so much I don’t know. What about you? And us? Is there still an us?” I wonder, because something feels off between us and I don’t think it is only me.
Despite our initial reuniting, she’s been more elusive than normal.
I’m not surprised when her eyes avoid mine. “Ve are good.”
“What about what you want? Do you ever think about getting married or having kids someday?”
“What if you meet someone who wants those things with you? I just told you I don’t see myself doing either, but that doesn’t mean you can’t… I mean, my God, Hilda. What if someone came after you or-or anyone I love because of my words? Let alone an innocent child? I just can’t…”
“I don’t know, Bella.” A wave of sadness sweeps across her beautiful features when our eyes meet, then she looks away. “Ve all understand the risks ve take vith every story ve vrite.”
I shake my head. “I could be keeping you from meeting that perfect someone or pursuing your own wishes. Maybe we should let things cool off a bit before jumping back into anything.”
“You aren’t keeping me from anything. I live vithout regrets and you should too.”
“But if you—”
“You vill be the first one I tell. But Bella, I’m very happy vith what ve have. Nein changes.”
“Okay, if you’re sure.” I watch her carefully.
“I’m zure. Let’s go meet your dad.” She gives me a small smile, but it is less than reassuring as doubts fill my thoughts.
I’ve never seen my father cry, and this could be a first as his eyes fill with unshed tears after the host leads us to his table and he gets his first good look at me in months.
“Oh, Bella.” He reaches out, wrapping me in the strongest hug imaginable. “Thank goodness you’re okay.” He pulls away, sniffing back any tears before I can see one fall. “You cut your hair.”
“Yeah, something new.” I’m still getting used to my new chin-length bob, which is much shorter than my normal look, and I haven’t stopped touching the soft, easy waves. “It feels lighter.”
“You look wonderful.”
“Thanks. You do too.” I smile, then step to the side. “Let me make some official introductions, but you probably already know. This is Rosalie Hale, my roommate.”
“Hello, Mr. Swan. Please call me Rose.” She holds out her hand in greeting.
I watch as he politely shakes her hand and nods. “Rose. We’re all glad to have you back too.”
“And this is my girlfriend, Hilda Schmidt.”
I know I don’t imagine it when she visibly shrinks at my introduction. Hilda’s forced smile isn’t like her at all, but she extends her hand to my father.
“Mizter Svan. It’s a pleazure to meet you.”
His eyes shift to me, then back to Hilda, finally shaking her hand. “I thought you were all roommates.”
I raise an eyebrow in challenge. “We are.”
He nods and points toward the empty chairs at the table. “I see. Well, please, let’s sit down.”
“Bella, vy don’t you zit next to your father?” She shuffles awkwardly around me and takes the seat opposite his while Rose sits in the remaining open spot.
The next hour is one of the most awkward meals I’ve ever witnessed. It’s full of stunted small talk and half-eaten, five-star cuisine as everyone pushes forkfuls of pretentious food around their plates until Rose sets her napkin on the table and clears her throat.
“I want to apologize for cutting our evening short, but I’m not feeling well, and I think I’ll return to our room for the night. It was wonderful to meet you, Mr. Swan.”
“Thanks for joining us, Rose.”
“I agree. I think I’ll call it a night too.” Hilda reaches out and squeezes my hand gently. “Bella, pleaze stay. Enjoy zome time vith your father. He has traveled a long vay to zee you.”
As she stands, I tug on her hand and lean in until she meets me halfway, pecking my lips with a brief kiss.
I give her a reassuring smile and a promise. “Okay, I’ll be up a little later.”
“Good night, Mizter Svan. Thank you for dinner.”
“You’re welcome, Hilda. Good night.”
We watch as Rose and Hilda exit the restaurant together, then I wait for him to break our uncomfortable silence first.
“This is what he’s done to you?”
“I have no idea what or who you’re talking about.”
“The hell you don’t. You know exactly who I’m talking about—Edward Masen.”
“And what would Edward Masen have to do with me?”
“Bella, stop acting like you don’t know. I know everything.” With his slip of what he knows, he backpedals immediately. “I mean—”
“I know what you mean.” The anger in my voice rises. I’m not surprised at his admission, but I’m ready to call him out on sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong. “And how did you come about that information?”
He stumbles with his reply, but finally comes up with an answer I can’t believe. “He came to my office asking for information about you.”
He lowers his voice, punctuating each of his words with his own displeasure. “I can’t believe you let him run you out of the country, and now you’re here putting your life in danger.”
“I didn’t let him do anything.”
“Are you with-with her?”
“Really, Dad? I can’t believe you need me to spell it out for you.”
“Oh God, Bella. What are you thinking? Do you know how this looks? Harry and Billy were right. I shouldn’t have let you move here.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me. You let me? Listen, Dad. What I do with anyone, including Hilda, is my business. I don’t give a fuck how it looks—”
“Watch your language.”
“And for the record, so there isn’t any confusion, this is exactly how it looks. I’m in a relationship with someone who isn’t keeping me on the side or as a dirty secret. No one is using me for my connections or their own political gain.”
“I don’t think—”
“Save it. This isn’t your call. Hilda has been there for me the entire time I’ve been in Germany. She’s not only my lover, but also my girlfriend. If you can’t accept that, then we’re done here. Thanks for coming to check on me. Please tell everyone I’m fine in your report.”
I move to stand, but he reaches out and grabs my arm, which causes me to recoil backwards.
“I’m sorry.” He puts his hands up in surrender. “Please don’t leave. I didn’t say I couldn’t accept it, but how will it work with you in D.C. and her here? He at least loves—”
“Don’t you dare say that,” I warn. “You don’t know what you’re talking about, and sometimes that’s not enough. I’m not going back to D.C. I’m staying here to do my job—that’s final.”
My notebooks and Rose’s camera bag were delivered to our new apartment recently. She’s been hiding out in her room working on processing her digital images from during our time away, while I’m busy writing about my experiences and sending them to Carlisle for his review.
We had a small welcome home dinner with our co-workers during our hotel stay, and I shared with Binyamin everything I learned about his mother and sister, giving him new hope in his search. I made him promise not to go anywhere without Rose or myself. Little good it did, because Alistair said he left the next day for Greece, hell-bent on finding answers.
One of the first people I spoke to after we returned to Berlin was Carlisle, followed by a quick call with Emmett. Demetri was next on my list in a conversation filled with heartbreaking tears and promises to text or talk daily. Angela said she had called in every favor possible to find out anything she could in order to ease their pain of the unknown, but the details of my disappearance were impossible to get from anyone including my father.
I’ve decided against issuing a statement, choosing to remain silent about what Rose and I went through. Jacob isn’t happy with my decision, but we want the first words and photos we share to be about those still held captive by the system.
It hasn’t been easy, but we’ve been slowly getting back into the swing of things. Rose and I have been staying out of the public eye in an effort to curtail interest in us, choosing to work from home for as long as necessary.
I’m in the middle of a sentence when Rose walks into the kitchen where I’m sitting and drops something on the table next to me.
I pause and look over to see what it is. “Is that…?”
“Is it yours?”
“Really, Bella? No, it isn’t mine. Outside of you sliding into second base, I haven’t had sex in months.” She wiggles her fingers.
“I’m only kidding,” she teases, then waits, quirking an eyebrow.
“Well, don’t look at me. It isn’t mine either, and I’ve been with you for the past few months without any baseball euphemisms.”
We stare at the pregnancy test until I break the silence.
“Where did you find it?” I whisper. A lump forms in my throat and my heart drops to my feet at the implications of such a test.
“In the bathroom trash can.”
I release a stuttered breath. “Are you thinking…?”
“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m thinking. Who else could it belong to?”
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
I scrub my hands over my face at this new turn of events. “Hilda didn’t say anything.”
“What do you expect her to say?”
I shake my head and my voice shakes. “I-I don’t know. Maybe she’s going through something, if she thinks she’s pregnant.”
“Well, from the looks of it, I would say she is pregnant. Where is she?”
“I don’t know. She left early.” I sigh heavily.
“I wonder how far along she is.”
I shrug, but my heart breaks at the timing of this new development.
“Have you two…?”
I release a heavy sigh and stare at the test lying so nonchalantly on the table as the questions begin to mount.. “Uh… not since I got back, but it isn’t like I can get her pregnant.”
“So, probably while we were gone?”
Fuck, I can’t believe this.
“Yeah. Um… yes. That would be my best guess.”
Warning bells are ringing in my head, and it takes a great effort to say all the right things, because my heart is pounding in my chest and my brain is screaming that Hilda’s a cheater like Felix. We have an open relationship and have never made any promises to one another. The problem is that while I know this is true, it doesn’t make those old feelings creeping back any easier to continue this conversation.
“I wonder who?” Rose glances down at the test again, looking thoughtful.
I rub my temples, trying to ease the tension building, and keep my voice steady not wanting to lose it in front of Rose. “I have no idea. It may or may not be anyone we know. But if Hilda wants to have this baby, then we should be here to support her without conditions.”
“Does she want kids? I’ve never heard her talk about them.”
I raise my hands, letting them drop in resignation. “Fuck, Rose. I don’t know. We were talking the night my dad was here, and I couldn’t get a straight answer out of her after I shared how I didn’t want to marry or have kids.”
“Really? I’m surprised you aren’t a fan of marriage or children?”
“Yes, really. Why is that so difficult to believe? If those things are important to her, then I have no issues with her finding someone to share them with. I’ll always be her friend.” No matter how impossible that may feel at the moment as I agonize over the bittersweet realities.
“What about lover? Aren’t you even a little hurt she was with someone else while you were gone, your whereabouts and well-being unknown?” She watches me closely. “I understand, you are both open about your relationship, but clearly, she’s been with a man recently, if she’s pregnant.”
“God, Rose. I don’t know what—” My voice breaks as I sort through what I’m feeling. “Okay, I’ll admit that maybe I’m a little hurt, but there are a lot of things I don’t know about Hilda. She may not want to keep the baby. Maybe it was an accident or there’s some other explanation. I-I don’t know—just go put that back in the trash.”
“Why don’t you want to get married or have kids? And don’t freak out. I’m not trying to upset you; I’m only curious. Is it because of your parents?”
I release a deep breath. “My parents never married—thank goodness. It would have been the biggest mistake for both of them.”
“But your mother is married now.”
“Phil is a good man, but my mother and I have different ideas about marriage.” I run my fingers through my hair. “She’s happy to lose her identity by taking his last name and submerge herself into his life. She doesn’t work and didn’t raise me. I lived with my dad.”
“What does she do then?”
“Drinks and spends Phil’s money.”
“That can’t be all, Bella.”
I shrug. “Okay, she goes to the spa, sits by the pool, and gossips with her friends at all the appropriate charity events. She’s on a perpetual vacation, but I wouldn’t want her life for the world. It would drive me crazy. She drives me crazy.”
“The marriage must not be that bad if she’s stayed with Phil for all these years.”
“I suppose it’s what she needs, but I enjoy working and love my job. I’m happy being single. I love my independence. I have friends like you, and I get to travel anywhere in the world without a second thought. I don’t need to ask for permission when I want to go somewhere or buy something because I can support myself with my own money.
“I’m happy and fulfilled without marriage. Why rock the boat and become someone who is bitter and resentful of being coerced into a marriage I never wanted in the first place? Just because two people get married, it doesn’t mean they will stay together. There are no guarantees. You can be committed to someone without tying the knot. There are other options.”
Rose smiles. “You never dreamed about the fairy tale?”
“No. I was never someone waiting for a prince to arrive on a white horse and sweep me off my feet. I’m not that kind of girl. I was always ready to slay the dragon myself.”
“You could still have kids.”
My heart sinks with the thought, and I know there’s no way I would ever put a child in jeopardy because of my career. “I think I’m better with the title Aunt Bella than Mom.”
“I think you’re selling yourself short. You’d be a great mother.”
“What about you?”
“I can’t help it, Bella. I want the fairy tale and kids. I understand your way of thinking, but I want to be a wife and mother. There was never a time when I didn’t think it would happen for me. Did you know I was arranged to be married?”
“I had no idea.”
“I haven’t shared it with many people, but I was to be Mrs. Royce King, Jr. Do you know the Kings from New York?”
“No, I don’t. What happened?”
“Long story short—we met.”
I chuckle. “Sometimes, that will do it.”
“I took one look at him and knew I didn’t want to be married to a gay man the rest of my life. His parents thought I could ‘fix’ him. I never decided whether to take that as a compliment or an insult. But you can’t ‘fix’ someone’s sexuality—even though they had the confidence my beauty would do the trick.
“Our fathers began negotiating the marriage like any other deal or merger, arguing through the details of the prenuptial agreement, while outlining guidelines of expectations—a timeline of sorts. His father wanted Royce to have not only a single heir to their family fortune, but also additional grandchildren before he would turn over the company to him.
“I was excited for the possibility of a large family being an only child, and I was willing to co-parent with him. I thought we could have an open marriage and continue to go along with the planning. But Royce had his own stipulations and was insisting his partner be in not only the room during natural conception, but also a participant. I’m not a prude, Bella, but I wasn’t willing to participate in what they wanted.”
Rose nods. “They suggested having a trial run to see how we would all get along, and I agreed to stay with them for a weekend, not understanding exactly what they had in mind. It was the first time I had ever been around a relationship like that—not gay, but dominant and submissive.
“The submissive, but his partner expected me to be as well, which completely goes against my nature. I had played the role of the perfect, doting daughter for years, so I can understand why they thought I would be a natural fit for their relationship.”
“Did they have a dungeon or playroom of some kind? If the Kings are rich, Royce can probably afford something like that easily.”
“Bella, you surprise me with your knowledge.”
I smirk. “Curious minds do exhaustive research every now and then.”
“I see. Well, we did some play, but I just couldn’t get into it. I safeworded constantly. At the end of our weekend, I knew that wasn’t the relationship for me if it was what Royce needed. So, we talked to our fathers, putting an end to the agreements and planning.”
“At least everyone accepted your wishes and didn’t make you go through with a marriage you didn’t want.”
“It sounds like your family is more than financially stable. I’m wondering why are you working, Rose?”
“Because, like you, I love my work. I love traveling and photography. Both give me the opportunity to be a normal person or as normal as possible. Most people don’t know the Hale name outside of New York, and I’m able to live a different life from my parents. They were disappointed everything fell apart with Royce, but they are still trying to find the perfect man for me in order to continue their legacy. I hope I can beat them to the punch and find the right guy who isn’t hung up on business and money like all of their proposed candidates. For me, the name thing isn’t a problem. It isn’t that I’m not proud to be a Hale, but if I took on my husband’s name, it would add another layer to my anonymity, which I find appealing. The problem is the men they select tend not to like my having a career or the travel I do.”
I’m interrupted as the door of our apartment bangs open in a flourish and Hilda storms inside.
“Ich kann ihm nicht glauben!” She stomps through the entry to our bedroom door and slams it shut.
We can hear her shouting, but I can’t understand a single word.
“What is she saying?”
“Something about not believing somebody.” Rose lowers her voice and tucks the pregnancy test up her sleeve and out of view. “I’ll be right back. I’m going to go put this back in the bathroom trash can.”
I nod as she slips away then wonder what has upset Hilda.
“Blöd!” Hilda charges out of the bedroom toward where I’m sitting still shouting in German. “Wie kann er denken, dass ich zustimmen würde?”
“Bella… es tut mir leid.” She drops into the chair next to mine, covering her face in frustration.
I reach over and gently rub her back. “English, please.”
“I am zo zorry, Bella. I don’t know what to do. This is not how I vanted you to find out, and now he’s forcing my hand.”
“What is it? What’s wrong?”
“Ich bin schwanger.”
My stomach drops when she confirms Rose’s and my suspicions.
Oh, God. It’s fucking true. Fuck.
Why couldn’t Rose and I be wrong this time?
I’m doing everything I can to hold back my tears and lower my voice. “What… what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know, Bella.” Tears fill her eyes as she stares into mine. “I’m zorry. He… he vants to marry me.”
“Who? Who is he, Hilda?”
She swipes away a tear trailing down her cheek and reaches over lacing our fingers together. “Halistair.”
A/N: Huge thank yous to LizziePaige, Honeymoon Edward, purpleC305, and Midnight Cougar for their help with this story. xx
When Rose and Bella returned to Berlin, they were separated upon arrival and Bella went with Hilda. A little unexpected, but that was the point when Hilda was planning to tell Bella about her involvement with Alistair. After seeing Bella’s mental, emotional, and physical state, Hilda abandoned that plan, finding no good way to share the information, and tried to be the support she needed. Bella was focused on jumping back into her life where they left off, probably pushing for too much too soon, but she knew something was off with Hilda. And now, the truth is out.
Ich kann ihm nicht glauben! = I cannot believe him!
Blöd! = Stupid!
Wie kann er denken, dass ich zustimmen würde? = How can he think that I would agree?
Bella… es tut mir leid. = Bella… I’m sorry.
Ich bin schwanger. = I’m pregnant.