Behind Closed Doors – C31

DISCLAIMER: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m here having fun.

-BCD-

Chapter 31: The Hope

The ride to Long Island should be an easy one, but after my lunch with Carlisle, I’m teetering on the edge of a bad mental place. I know it. I can feel it. I’m helpless to stop the odd tingle as it spreads across my body from head to toe. The sound of the tires against the road is grating on my nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard. The way Rose and I are sitting is eerily familiar, and I shift in my seat, hoping to ease the tension filling my muscles.

I’m restless as my mind obsesses with one narrowly focused plan: open the door and jump. My brain shouts Escape! repeatedly, but I’m frozen in place, trying to think of anything else to stop this impending derailment and failing. I had no idea we would be on the road for almost three hours, and something about riding in the back seat has triggered me, pushing me over the edge. Rose must see it immediately, because when I realize what’s happening, we’re no longer moving, but pulled to the side of the road.

She’s holding my hand as her words start to register. “Bella, breathe. Listen to my voice. We’re going to take a deep breath together.”

We’re in the back of a luxury car and her family driver watches the two of us from the front seat while speaking to someone on his phone. I can’t understand what he’s saying as my heart feels like it’s about to beat out of my chest while I can’t seem to catch my breath.

“Bella?”

My eyes find Rose again as she squeezes my hand, reaching for the other to stop it from shaking.

“You’ve got this,” she encourages, as I nod quickly. “Let’s breathe in together.”

I close my eyes and feel tears streaming down my cheeks, but focus on taking a deep breath.

“Good, now let it out slowly. Again.”

In and out. In and out. Over and over I breathe until it becomes easier and my body starts to relax.

“You’re doing great, Bella. Keep going.” Her reassuring smile and gentle voice feel like a lifesaver as my thoughts calm.

“You’re in control here. Do you want the window down? Some fresh air may help.”

A bottle of water is passed from the front seat to the back, and she relays it to me. I press it against my forehead, as the coolness feels incredible, but fail at getting the lid off with my shaking hands, needing her assistance once more. I guzzle nearly half the bottle, but have difficulty clearing my throat.

When I’m able to speak, I make a request. “I… can I just step outside for a minute or two?”

“Sure thing, Miss Swan. I’ll be right there to assist you.” The locks on the back door open instantly, and I watch the driver exit the vehicle.

“You’re okay,” Rose reassures, releasing my hand. “We’re in no hurry. Take your time.”

The relief I feel when the door swings open and I slip from the vehicle is all-consuming. I grasp onto the side of the car to keep from falling to my knees. It’s the exact same feeling I had when I realized Rose and I were rescued on a dark, dirt road in the middle of nowhere, an ocean away.

As I look around, the two locations couldn’t be more different. It’s day and not night. We aren’t alone as traffic whizzes past us on the side of the road. I can see life everywhere. The area is thriving with it—homes, families, children, businesses, workers. My body relaxes further at the normalcy all around.

“This is good.” I bob my head up and down in recognition. “We’re in New York.”

“We are, Miss Swan. Another hour and we should be arriving at the Hales’ residence.”

“What’s your name?” I ask the older man who looks ready to spring to my aid at a moment’s notice.

“Everyone calls me, Mr. Jenks, ma’am.”

“Jenks,” I repeat, nodding my head. “You’re our driver.”

“Yes, ma’am. I drive for Mr. Hale.”

“Your first name doesn’t start with a K, does it?”

“No, ma’am. It’s Jason.”

“Okay. That’s good.” I take another deep breath and blow it out easily. “I’m okay.”

“Bella, would it be better if you sit in the front seat with Mr. Jenks?” Rose asks, as she’s perched on the edge of the black leather seat next to the open door.

“I don’t know.” I consider my options, knowing I can’t flee the back seat if I ever want to face the demons that haunt me. “I feel like lying down. I’m exhausted.”

“Whenever you’re ready, you can stretch out on the seat. There’s plenty of room.”

It’s a compromise I hope I can handle. “Okay. I think that would be good.”

“Do you want me to ride in the front or stay with you in the back?”

“Stay.”

“Okay.” She smiles, reaching out to hold my hand. “We have a plan.”

“Plans are good,” I agree, ready to continue with our journey, but anxious to reach our destination.

-BCD-

Rosalie’s family home is actually located in the Hamptons. It is larger and more luxurious than any home I’ve ever experienced, and compared to my mother and Phil’s home in Miami that’s saying something. From the moment we walk through the grand entry doors, I’m in awe at every turn. Rosalie gives me a quick tour of the important areas. We find her father working in his home office, while her mother says a quick hello upon our arrival, but leaves to play tennis with friends. When we arrive at my guest room, I’m eager for some time alone to rest and pull myself together after my earlier panic attack.

I’m feeling much better when I find Rosalie in the kitchen hours later, and we decide to spend some time by the pool. The Hales’ have a staff ready to attend to our every need, but there isn’t a soul in sight once we settle into our loungers.

“This is beautiful, Rose. Your home is incredible. It’s so private here too.”

“Thanks. Are you feeling better after your nap?”

“Yes. The shower felt wonderful too.”

“I’m glad. If you need anything, Bella, don’t hesitate to ask.”

“Thanks.” I reach out, bringing a stemless wine glass to my lips and nearly drain the entire glass in one gulp. “Dear goodness, what’s in this? It’s delicious. I can’t taste a bit of alcohol.”

“Pink lemonade.” She chuckles, refilling my glass from the nearby pitcher. “No alcohol after your attack. Doctor’s orders.”

“Whose doctor?”

“Mr. Jenks called our family doctor. He advised us on how to care for you during and after your attack.”

“I’m so embarrassed.”

“Don’t be, Bella. I’m glad we were able to help you. Have you been experiencing those a lot recently?”

“No, not exactly.” I’m less than forthcoming with the truth, but I suspect she already knows.

Rose nods, but when I don’t expand any further, not wanting to worry her, she changes the subject.

“Are you hungry? I think the chef is fixing us a tray of snacks, if that’s okay?”

“Sure. It would probably be good for me to eat something. I barely touched my lunch.”

“I meant to ask earlier, how did your time with Carlisle go?”

I sag against the lounger at her question. “I think he’s lost all faith in me, and he gave me a verbal lashing again about not seeking professional help. He found a therapist for me after we returned, but I haven’t taken the next step.”

“He wants what’s best for you. It tells me he cares. Carlisle has always been your mentor, but now, he’s being your friend. Under his guidance, you had something happen to you that every journalist fears.”

“Oh, Rose. I didn’t listen. He told me to be careful… warned me multiple times not to do what we were doing. I am so damn naïve. When am I ever going to learn? It took everything I had not to leave the restaurant sobbing out of control when we parted. He doesn’t think I’m good enough for The Times or probably even The Post at this point.”

“You know that’s not true. I disagree with him and think there’s nothing wrong with keeping your interview at The Times. But he has a point about seeking out treatment for helping you cope with what we went through. When we return to Berlin, I’ll go with you to the therapist he suggested or a different one of your choosing. I’m sure Hilda would too, if you asked her.”

I wave a hand in her direction. “How are we not experiencing the same things? You’re breezing through life, while I feel like the world is going to close around me.”

“You know that recovery is different for everyone. I sought out a therapist not long after we returned, because I knew the benefit, since I had been to one in the past. So, I’m only slightly ahead of you in the process. My therapist has been using a combination of treatments to find the right solution for me. I think acupuncture has been the most successful of all his techniques, because I refused medications.”

I release a sigh of resignation. “I’m…”

“…scared? Worried about triggers, flashbacks, or nightmares?”

“Yes to all of the above and more. I’ve been busy trying to ignore and bury those memories.”

“I had the same concerns, but I don’t think you have anything to lose. You only need to make the commitment and invest the time in yourself.”

I nod, knowing she’s right, but I’ve resisted therapy or medication up until now. “Carlisle didn’t like the idea of the television show or my becoming involved with Edward again.”

“Because he doesn’t believe you are ready for either. Bella, I know this is a long shot, but is there any chance that Carlisle could be jealous of Edward? No, I’m not saying this right. Do you think that Carlisle’s reaction to Edward could be because he has a personal interest in you for himself?”

“Carlisle? Interested in me?”

“Yes.”

“He’s my mentor and old enough to be my father. We tease and flirt all the time, but it’s never gone any further than that.”

“Older men date younger women all the time. It isn’t a far-fetched idea. I just think he could be jealous, which would explain his negative reaction about you and Edward or you with anyone. I’m guessing you confided in him about whoever you were dating in the past, but you didn’t share anything about Edward.”

“I don’t know, but maybe you’re right. I didn’t tell him about my involvement with Edward.” I run my hand through my hair nervously as I consider her other concern. “I just don’t see Carlisle that way. We have a lot in common, but it’s a professional relationship.”

“And it’s Edward you want.”

“I do.”

“This is why I think a second chance with him is a good idea. He could be a wonderful form of support as you move forward, but I have some reservations.”

“Reservations? Like what?”

“I suspect Edward and I have similar traditional backgrounds. So, I have a good idea of how he was raised and the expectations placed upon him. His family isn’t going to be as accommodating about going against their expected norms.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if his parents didn’t already have someone picked out for him. So, if he’s making any kind of commitment to you, then you need to be prepared for the backlash.”

I think back over our previous conversations. “A long time ago, he said his father expected him to join his law firm in Chicago, but Edward pushed back and moved to D.C. It isn’t like he hasn’t stood his ground for what he wanted.”

“And he won’t treat your relationship any differently. He’s here fighting for you, but are you willing to fight for him? I’m your friend Bella, but from what you told me about your previous relationship, Edward was the only one making an effort. You need to really ask yourself how it’s going to be different this time.”

“We discussed how there was no chance we would be keeping our relationship a secret or hiding it this time.” I recall our earlier discussion. “And doing better with communicating. The distance won’t be easy, but he’s firing his agent.”

“I’m not convinced that she was really the problem. But how did he react to you telling him you didn’t want to get married or have kids?”

I look away from her unwavering gaze. “He’s ready to figure out a new way of doing things.”

“So, he’s bending to you—trying to please you, again. What are you doing for him?”

I focus on fiddling with a thread of the seat cushion, and it takes little time to conclude I’ve got nothing to share.

Rose takes another drink from her glass. “That’s what I thought. You want to be equals, but you have no plan how to be what he needs.”

She swings her legs over the side of her lounge chair facing mine and holds out her hands, palms up and at equal height. “We’re going to do a little exercise in the effort invested in your relationship with Edward. Now tell me, what’s the first thing you did for him when you started seeing one another?”

“It was probably his birthday. I made him a cake and gave him a new tie.”

“Okay.” Her left hand lowers slightly. “And what did he do for your birthday?”

“We flew to a resort in Arizona for a long weekend.”

Her left hand rises while her right hand lowers considerably. “Who made the next move?”

“Edward rented a cabin for a week in the mountains after Christmas.”

“Really, Bella?” She lowers her right hand again, and it’s quickly becoming obvious the imbalance. “Okay, after two vacations, what did you do?”

“Uh… I was here in New York for work, and he flew in for Valentine’s Day to surprise me.”

“This isn’t even close.” She shakes her head and drops both hands. “I hope you came up with something magnificent between Valentine’s Day and when you moved to Berlin.”

“I…”

“You didn’t, did you?”

“Um…”

“Bella, I love you, but you were a shitty girlfriend and he deserves more than what you gave him. This isn’t about the money spent, because you have enough to treat him to any of those things he planned for the two of you. It’s the thought and planning, plus the emotional investment in the relationship.”

“The sex was incredible and… and I would make us dinner from time to time. There were also sleepovers here and there at his place, because we couldn’t be at mine,” I defend, scrambling to come up with anything that could improve her opinion.

“I stand by my conclusion, but let’s talk about your current situation. After your time alone over the past day and a half, has he asked you for anything?”

“To co-anchor the new show.”

“Because he is figuring out a way for the two of you to be together, despite living thousands of miles apart. What else?”

“He wants me to move in with him.”

“And what do you think about that request?”

“It makes me nervous.”

“Why?”

“What if…”

“The next words out of your mouth better not be, ‘it doesn’t work out.'”

“Uh…”

“Damn it, Bella. You’ve got to stop thinking so negatively. This—this is one of the many reasons you should be going to therapy regularly. How do you feel when you’re with Edward?”

“Safe. Protected. Loved. Confident.”

“And that’s why I think he will be good for you—the confidence. It’s something that has dwindled since you arrived in Berlin and after we were taken, but it’s returning. You’re getting your spark back,” she offers encouragingly.

I let my head fall back against the lounger and stare up at the sky, longing for easier days. This one has been an emotional rollercoaster from the start. She’s right, though. I have been missing that spark, the one that drives me to do my job, finding and sharing the truth. I think briefly this morning, I felt it with Edward and the possibility of working together. Maybe he’s the key to all of this—finding my way after everything. I chuckle, lift the pendant of my necklace, and stare at its intricate design. And he’s the one who gave me a key. If only I had the courage to use it and unlock my fears of the unknown.

Rose clears her throat, interrupting my thoughts and getting my attention. “I understand you didn’t ask for my opinion, but Bella, I think as your friend, I need to say something about your relationship with Hilda. I didn’t believe you were really in a headspace to listen to me before or even consider my advice, but you…”

“Yeah?”

“You…” she hesitates, choosing her next words carefully.

“Just say it.”

“It was difficult to watch, but you deferred to her for everything, right from the start. I just showed you the imbalance with Edward, but the one with Hilda was even larger because you let her take the reins. I understand doing so made it easy for you to blend in with the rest of us, but Bella, it’s like you’re her puppet and she’s manipulating your every movement. I warned you that first day at the office to be careful or she would get you in trouble. Hilda doesn’t do anything unless it’s to her benefit. I know you care about her despite all the changes in your relationship, and she’s our friend, but I don’t think what you had with her was healthy.” She pauses, taking another drink from her glass.

I turn my head watching her profile as she glances briefly my way.

“You probably won’t like this either, but I’m going to say it anyway.” She shifts her eyes back to mine. “Her getting pregnant while we were gone was probably the best thing to happen to you or your relationship. It allowed you to see who she is. Yes, she cares for you in whatever way she can, but everything was always on her terms—her apartment, her car, her connections—I could go on and on, and you just went along. I think you put her on some kind of pedestal from the start, and it fed her ego.”

Rose’s words feel like a punch to the gut.

I brush away a tear threatening to fall. “I didn’t realize you think so little of me.”

“Hey.” Her voice softens. “Bella, I’m only being honest with you. I am your friend.”

“If I’m being honest with myself, it’s felt like quicksand with her ever since we returned. One wrong move and I’m in over my head. I shouldn’t ever have tried to label anything between us or introduce her to my dad as my girlfriend. That was incredibly stupid on my part.”

“You and I both know whatever happened while we were gone had nothing to do with you and everything to do with her.”

“Maybe.”

She nods, settling back against her lounger. “From everything you’ve told me, I suspect Edward was good to you when you were together, even though you made some mistakes, and he will be again. I’m only pointing out that you stopped making your own decisions when you moved to Berlin, so you wouldn’t have to worry about making any mistakes.”

“Rose, what does he see in me, if our relationship was so one-sided? And it sounds like I’ve become someone I don’t recognize—a former shell of who I was while I was living in D.C.” I sniff back a few tears. “Oh, God. What am I doing? Why does he still love me? It doesn’t make sense.”

“Love doesn’t always make sense.” Rose chuckles. “You spent most of your relationship waiting to push him away. Did he ever stand a chance or were you ready to walk because you were waiting for him to prove that you couldn’t trust him?”

She’s right, but it’s difficult to admit my mistakes. “I need to trust him. I know.”

“And you. You need to trust yourself. You are strong and resilient. He knows you, like I know you. I have a suspicion that the two of you are better together than apart. You feed off of each other’s strengths and help minimize your weaknesses.”

There’s something else that’s been bugging me and I wonder if Rose knows anything about it. “What about… did Emmett say anything about Edward being with anyone else when we weren’t together?”

“No.”

“Edward mentioned someone to me, but I didn’t want him to expand on the conversation because I don’t think I can handle hearing about it.”

“Bella, I want you to think about this next line of questioning very carefully before answering.”

“Okay.”

“If you found out that Edward was fucking everyone he wanted in D.C. right up until he got on the plane a few days ago to fly to New York, would you still want him? Would it matter? Do you truly love him and want to move forward with him, despite whatever mistakes either of you made in the past after you left him?”

The uneasy feeling in my stomach at the thought of Edward with anyone else returns with her words. “He’s not like that,” I defend.

“Exactly. Because you do know him. So why do you continue torturing yourself with these same ideas you had during your relationship as well as after it ended? Who gives a fuck who he was with or who you were with? You are both here at the beginning of a second chance and with the opportunity not to keep living in the past. You need to ask yourself, does it really matter?

“Are you finally ready to leave your baggage behind you? Because if you’re going to keep holding the past against each other, you don’t stand a chance at a future together. Doing that will only give those in either of your pasts the power to divide you.

“He’s made his case with his actions and words by traveling to New York, standing in front of you and saying, ‘I love you. I choose you.’ It’s time to make your move, because I don’t think he can be any clearer. Now, what are you going to do?”

This is what Rose does. She makes everything so simple and obvious. She gives it to me straight and helps me to think through my next steps, calling me on my bullshit whenever necessary. Her insight, clarity, and opinions about Hilda aren’t easy to hear, but probably exactly what I need. I love that she is fearless in offering her opinion, even when that differs from the majority or someone like Carlisle.

My mind is filled with numerous possibilities, as I stare out in the distance, listening to the waves crashing along the shore intermixed with a seagull’s squawk every now and then. She’s silent while I process and sort through what I should do. As happy as Edward makes me, I want to make him happy, give him hope for our future, and let him know I choose him too.

The sun is setting when I turn my head in her direction, a smile threatens at the corners of her lips. Rose can tell instantly I’ve made a decision.

“What’s the plan?”

“I’m going to D.C. and spend as much time with him as I can.”

“After your interview with The Times?”

“Yes. I think I’ll keep it a surprise and not alert him to my plan. Do you want to tag along? I suspect there’s someone who wouldn’t mind additional time with you either before we return to Berlin.”

Her smile widens at the thought. “Absolutely, but first let’s soak up all the downtime and pampering we can. Grab your lemonade.”

She lifts the pitcher and refills both of our glasses then raises hers, offering a toast. “To new beginnings.”

“And friendship,” I add, clinking my glass with hers.

She smiles. “And love. May it always guide us home.”

A/N: This is the final chapter of the expansion of the one shot in Bella’s POV and always the point where I knew I would leave them . . . for now. Interested in more? I’ve been on the fence about whether or not to continue writing this story. I planned for this one to be a three-part series. The next portion of their story will be told in Edward’s POV, but I’m currently working on other projects at this time. Fingers crossed I’ll find time to return to this story in the future. 

Huge thank yous to: Hadley Hemingway for her guidance and patience when I was finding my way through the one shot in anticipation of this side of the story. LizziePaige and Honeymoon Edward for giving me great advice and suggestions with every chapter. purpleC305 for being one of the first people to encourage me in taking that step over two years ago to share my words, and Midnight Cougar for being with me every step of the way. xx

Don’t forget to check out the photo gallery for this story.

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