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Paved With Good Intentions

Summary:
created by jace If you loved someone, how much would you be willing to sacrifice? Bella makes the most difficult decision of her life; now she has to live with the consequences. A Bella/Edward story.


Notes:


10. Present

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3782   Review this Chapter

Several hours later, I was awoken from my pleasant sleep by an intense stomach ache. Moaning, I rolled over in the bed, trying to ignore the queasiness that was gnawing at my gut so that I could go back to sleep. Eventually I lost the battle, staggering into the bathroom where my dinner made its reappearance. Ugh. Horrified, I wondered if I was sick because of the dinner, which I had made and shared with Edward. What if I had made Edward ill with the food I had prepared for him? The way my luck had abandoned me, it was entirely possible. I truly hoped not. The food had tasted fine, and I kept a clean kitchen. Surely I hadn’t given Edward food poisoning.

I crept back to bed and eased my aching body under the covers, groaning as my stomach cramped even tighter. It felt like I was running a low fever; you didn’t get fever with food poisoning, did you? Maybe I had caught a bug. Adria had held one of her children’s art classes on Saturday; I was willing to bet that every one of those cherubic darlings had been just swimming in germs. Or there was that lady at church yesterday, the one who shook my hand and thanked me for attending. Her nose had been suspiciously red…

Eventually I drifted into a restless sleep, waking in the morning to the sound of the phone ringing. Sunlight streamed through the windows and across the bed as I clumsily reached for the handset. “Hello?” I mumbled groggily.

“Good morning, sweet Bella.” Of course his voice was the only thing that could make me feel better.

“Edward.” Suddenly I remembered my concern from the previous night. “Are you feeling okay?”

“Yes, why?”

Thank goodness. If I’d gotten him sick, he would probably never have eaten my cooking again. I’d already decided that cooking for Edward was going to become one of my new favorite pastimes…if I stayed. Unfortunately the thought of food upset my precarious stomach. “I’ll call you back,” I stammered into the phone, slamming it down and racing into the bathroom just in time.

The phone started ringing again while I was still washing up, and it continued its harsh claim for my attention until I crawled back to bed and lifted the receiver with a shaky hand. “Hello,” I whispered.

“Bella, what’s the matter?” he asked urgently.

Oh, it was wrong of me to enjoy the concerned tone of his voice. I usually hadn’t liked it when Edward worried, but it had been so long since I’d had him fuss over me. “It’s nothing. I’ve caught some kind of stomach bug; that’s all.”

“You sound dreadful,” he said. “I’ll be right over to take care of you.”

“No,” I protested. The last thing I needed was for him to see me looking this miserable. “You have class this morning.”

“Bella…”

“I’m fine, Edward,” I insisted. “Go to class, and spend some time with your sister. I’ll call you later.”

He argued a little more before finally giving in reluctantly. After making me promise to call if I needed anything, he hung up.

I dozed most of the morning, being careful not to move very much so I wouldn’t upset my aching stomach. Thankfully I wasn’t sick too often, and I hoped that the virus would be short-lived. By early afternoon I was enjoying a lovely daydream involving Edward and the meadow when a knock on the door startled me. I made my way across the room gingerly, wincing as I opened the door and saw who it was.

“Still opening the door without checking first?” he teased. His tone was light, but his eyes scanned my face worriedly.

I was mortified; I knew I looked horrible. “Edward! I told you to go to school –”

“– and to spend time with my sister; I remember.” He grinned. “I finished class, and as soon as my sister heard that you were sick, she asked me what in the world I was doing hanging around her office. She practically kicked me out and told me not to return until you were completely recovered.” He looked at me, the picture of pure innocence. “You don’t want me wandering all over town homeless, do you?”

I groaned and leaned my head against the door. “Laying it on a bit thick, Masen.”

His hand reached to cup my chin, and he lifted my face to meet his. His eyes gazed deeply into mine as he whispered, “Please, Bella. Let me take care of you.”

He really shouldn’t dazzle me like that when I’m not feeling well. It isn’t fair. “Okay,” I replied woozily.

He laughed gently as he stepped into the room, carrying a grocery bag. “Go back to bed, Bella. I’ll get you something to drink and do my homework while you rest.”

“This really isn’t necessary,” I grumbled. “I’m already feeling a bit better.” Of course, as soon as I said that my stomach lurched again and I had to hurry to the restroom.

“So I see,” he replied from the bathroom doorway.

I leaned back against the wall, utterly humiliated that he was seeing me like this. “I really am feeling better,” I said. “I think that might have been the last of it.”

“Let’s hope so.” He reached down to slip his arms under mine, lifting me gently. “Come on, let’s get you cleaned up. He helped me wash my face and got my toothbrush ready, making me feel like a toddler. After I was in bed, he brought me some Sprite and a cool washcloth for my face. His hand was gentle as he touched my cheek and brushed my hair away from my forehead. “Rest,” he murmured. He continued to gently stroke my skin until I drifted to sleep.

It was evening when I woke again. Edward was sitting in the chair across from the bed, his head bowed over a book. Wanting to study him unobserved, I was careful not to move as my eyes noted the lock of hair that fell over his eyes, the strength in his shoulders and arms, and the controlled grace of his hands. He was such a beautiful man, and he seemed determined to be mine. I still wasn’t sure that I should stay with him, but I could feel myself beginning to fall.

I could have stared at him forever, but I needed to use the restroom again…thankfully, for a more ordinary reason this time. I shifted, and he lifted his head to look at me. Instantly he was by my side, wrapping his arm around my waist as I tried to stand. “Are you sick again?”

I shook my head. “I need a human – I need to…” I waved my hand in the general direction of the bathroom as unshed tears weighed heavily in my throat. Finally I drew a shaky breath. “I’d like to clean up.”

“Of course.” He helped me to my feet and half-carried me across the room. Once we were standing at the bathroom door, he asked awkwardly, “Do you need…anything?” He gestured rather aimlessly at me, the shower, and the apartment in general.

I laughed gently. “Could you bring me some clean sweatpants and a shirt? On the shelf in the closet.”

He was across the room and back in a flash, eager hands holding a bundle of clothing. “I thought you might also want…um…” He thrust the clothes at me, and I was embarrassed to see a pair of red cotton panties lying on top. I blushed to match.

“Thank you,” I whispered, taking the clothes from him and closing the door.

“Let me know if you need help…or...anything,” he called through the door. He walked away, muttering under his breath. A few seconds later I heard a loud thump. What on earth? I opened the door slightly and peered through the slit. He had both hands braced on the kitchen bar and was banging his head on the counter. “Stupid, stupid, stupid,” he said over and over again.

Giggling softly, I shut the door.

I took my time in the shower, enjoying the warmth of the water on my body. It was so good to feel well again. Drying my hair with a towel, I dressed in the soft clothes Edward had brought me, thrilled to be clean.

He was working in the kitchen when I opened the door. “Better?” he asked as he came to my side.

I looked around the room in astonishment. “Edward, what have you done?” Every surface in the apartment was spotlessly clean. The bed had been stripped of its linens, and a comforting smell wafted from a pan in the kitchen.

He helped me over to the chair. “I just cleaned up a bit. You’ll have to sit here until the sheets finish washing. Would you like some scrambled eggs?”

My stomach reminded me that it was quite thoroughly empty. “That sounds good,” I replied.

He sighed with relief. “Thank goodness. If you didn’t want that or canned soup, I was out of ideas.”

“Can’t you cook?” I asked. When he shook his head, I laughed. “I could teach you.” If I stayed. Again I was facing that dreaded crossroads. Stay or go? Heaven or heartbreak?

Oblivious to my inner turmoil, he brushed my cheek with his hand. “I’d like that,” he said. “For now, rest while I get you some food.” He brought me the eggs and then left to put the sheets in the dryer. His face was serious when he returned.

“Did the washing machine eat the sheets?” I teased.

“What?” He looked at me, startled. “Oh, no. I’m just thinking.”

“About what?” I asked cautiously. Something was obviously troubling him.

He looked at me for a long moment before grabbing one of the bar stools and carrying it over to my chair. Sitting in front of me, he took my hand in his. “Bella…I’m not sure how to ask this.”

I was starting to get very nervous. “You can ask me anything, Edward.”

He stared down at our joined hands. “It’s just…you were sick earlier today, but you got better so quickly. I know there was someone in Forks, and that you were very close to him. Is it possible…do you think you might be…” He sighed and ran his free hand through his unruly hair. “Bella, are you pregnant?”

I stared at him, so shocked I could hardly breathe. Then I burst out laughing. “No! Edward, I can assure you – I am most definitely not pregnant.”

He studied my face carefully. “You’re sure?”

“I’m positive,” I said firmly. “He and I never…I’ve never. Not with anyone.”

He let out a deep breath and smiled sheepishly. “Good,” he murmured. “That’s…good.”

I looked at him, wondering. I shouldn’t ask, but… “What would you have done if I had said yes?”

“Partly that would depend on whether or not he was still alive,” he replied darkly. At my startled glance, he said, “You said you lost him, but you never explained exactly what that meant. If he was alive, then first I was going to have to find him and beat him to death.” He grinned at me, but it had an edge of truth to it. Then his hand tightened on mine, and he continued earnestly, “Then I was going to come back here and offer to take care of you and the baby.”

My heart fluttered in my chest, even as I stared at him in shock. “Edward! You’re seventeen, and you’ve known me for five days.”

He shrugged. “The moment I met you was long enough.”

I shook my head. “Edward…”

He cupped my cheek with his hand. “I know this is fast, but I also know that I’ve been looking for you for a very long time. Now that I’ve found you, I’m as sure of this as I’ve ever been of anything.” His loving gaze held mine, his eyes smoldering until I thought I would melt from the heat in them.

So close to falling. “I…”

Sensing my hesitation, he dropped his hand and leaned back. “Of course, I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable. If you want me to leave–”

“No!” I said quickly. Reaching out to take his hand, I drew him close to me again. “No, I don’t want you to leave. I’m just…afraid.”

His lips twisted in a gentle smile. “I understand. I don’t want you to ever be afraid, and I promise to wait as long as it takes.” He gave my hand a gentle squeeze. “Finish your eggs while I go get the sheets.”

When he returned, he made the bed and insisted on cleaning the dishes before returning to the living room. Holding up our book, he looked at me with a question in his eyes. Nodding happily, I moved over in the chair and placed my legs across his after he sat. Leaning my head against his chest, I closed my eyes as he began reading. I was still tired, and it wasn’t long before the deep beauty of his voice lulled me to sleep. I was aware of his gentle chuckle and strong arms lifting me against a warm chest. I floated on happiness to my bed, and an angel pressed silken lips against my cheek before dreams claimed me.

~~~~~~~~

Staring at my reflection in the bathroom mirror, I tried to apply mascara without poking myself in the eye. I missed Alice so much right now that it physically hurt. I was an hour away from my first formal date with Edward, and this was supposed to be Alice’s time. She would have made me look a hundred times better than I possibly could by myself. Even more importantly, we would have spent this hour together. She would have fussed and scurried, and I would have pouted and complained until she threatened to dye my hair purple. I would have known that her primping was a sign of affection, and she would have known that I only grouched to make her laugh. In the end, she would have loved me, and I would have loved her. Instead I was alone, on a night when my best friend should have been helping me get ready for one of the biggest dates of my life.

Edward was taking me to the opera. What kind of seventeen-year-old boy takes his date to the opera? My seventeen-year-old boy, that’s who. Really, boy isn’t the appropriate word. Edward had lived through enough, both as a vampire and a human, that he had the maturity and emotional depth of a man. But…the opera. I’d liked the little bit of opera I’d listened to, but I didn’t know much about it. How was it possible that he could outclass me, even as a human?

I hadn’t even been sure what to wear. He’d invited me the day after the horrible stomach virus incident, and I’d spent the better part of the afternoon panicking because I didn’t have a dress. Most of the formal dresses that Alice had picked out for me I had insisted on returning. The few that she absolutely refused to let me give away I’d hidden in Edward’s closet. The following day, Carolyn had taken pity on me and directed me to a shop during my lunch break, where I’d grabbed a few random dresses off the racks and marched into the dressing room like I was on my way to the executioner.

None of the dresses had worked. One was too small, another was designed for somebody with Rosalie’s bust, and the last one was an unfortunate shade of orange that made me look like a tangerine. I had missed Alice then, too. I’d sat on the bench in the dressing room, tears streaming down my cheeks, as I’d wondered what in hell I’d done to my life. I’d been about to launch into a full-blown panic attack when the store manager had checked on me.

“Is everything all right?” The woman peeked carefully around the curtain. Seeing my tear-stained face, she murmured, “Oh, dear.”

“I’m sorry,” I said shakily, raising my hand to wipe my cheeks. “I need a dress, and I’m not very good at this.”

She looked at the orange disaster, which I was still wearing. “Well…it’s not exactly the right shade for you, but the cut is flattering,” she said diplomatically. “Would you like me to bring you a few things?”

I nodded. “Yes, please.” As she started to leave, I added. “Could you…do you have anything in blue?”

She cast another glance at me, in all of my tangerine glory, before smiling in relief. “Yes, I think that would be a very good idea,” she said.

She was a miracle in the guise of an ordinary shop employee. She brought back four dresses, each more beautiful than anything I’d ever seen. I’d loved them all, but the second one was the one that left the shop with me. It was strapless, with a sash that framed the breast and wrapped around the waist to tie in the back. The skirt flared out just a little and fell all the way to the floor. Silver beading was woven into the bodice and sparkled down the skirt in an asymmetrical pattern. Most importantly, the dress was exactly Edward’s shade of blue – the color he loved to see me in so very much.

If there was one benefit to not having Alice as my own personal shopper, it was that I was allowed to purchase my own footwear. I selected ballet flats, knowing that it didn’t really matter what I wore because the dress was so long. The evening would be much more enjoyable if I didn’t have to worry about breaking my ankle.

We had tickets for Saturday night. I’d left work early to have time to dress, for all the good it did. I’d gotten spoiled, having Alice to count on for makeup and hair. I finished with my preparations and grimaced at my expression in the mirror. It would have to do. Sighing, I walked out into the living room and picked up my evening bag. I put my ID and lipstick in it and held the velvet pouch in my hands as I struggled with guilt and indecision. I knew that at some point I would need to leave the bag behind me, that there would come a time when I would have to put it away in a drawer and say goodbye to the immortal love who had forever altered my heart. I wasn’t ready yet. If I went out tonight, wearing Edward’s favorite color for this carbon copy of the man I loved, I would need the courage stored in that little scrap of fabric. I tucked the pouch into my evening bag and tried to convince myself that it wasn’t cheating if the man I was dating and the man I loved were two sides of the same coin.

Edward’s face when he saw me told me that he, at least, didn’t notice the lack of Alice’s influence. His eyes glowed as he looked down at me; he reached for my hand and raised it to his lips, whispering, “Lovely.” I blushed, and the light in his eyes darkened with desire. The energy between us blazed through the apartment until I was amazed we didn’t burst into flames.

We saw Tosca. I had looked it up on the Internet, and the program for the evening provided a summary of the story. Screens above the stage provided the singers’ words in English, which I watched for awhile. Eventually the beauty of the music overtook me, and I stopped relying on the translation. Watching the story unfold, I smiled at the interaction between the sacristan and the chorus and wept as Cavaradossi poured his heart out in the brilliant “E lucevan le stelle”. Edward pressed a handkerchief into my hand.

When it was over and the lights came back up, he turned to face me. “Well?” he asked.

I looked at him, shaking my head ever so slightly. “It was…Edward, there are no words.”

He smiled at me. “It’s magic, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” I breathed.

He reached down to take both of my hands in his, and he pressed his forehead against mine. I closed my eyes. Oblivious to the crowd around us, we stood inside the mystical world that had only ever existed for us.

It was late by the time we arrived home, and I was tired from a full day of work and then our date. I was half-asleep when Edward pulled up outside my apartment. He wrapped his arm around me and supported me as we walked to the door. “Your key?” he asked, and I handed him my purse without thinking.

I knew the moment that he found the bag. His hand stopped moving, and he shot a quick glance at my face. After a second, he handed the purse to me. “Maybe you’d better get it.”

Reaching into the purse, I pulled out my house key and handed it to him. I could not meet his eyes.

He opened the door and escorted me in, leading me to the edge of my bed. Gesturing for me to sit, he took his place beside me. “Bella, may I ask you something?”

I nodded, even as I knew that I couldn’t answer.

He placed his hand on top of mine. “What’s in the velvet bag? You carry it with you everywhere.”

Tears gathered at the edge of my vision. “I can’t tell you.” His hand stiffened on mine, and I looked up at him, my eyes anguished. “I want to, and maybe I will be able to, someday. But for now…I can’t.”

His eyes never left mine. “Does it have to do with the man you left behind?”

God, he really was perceptive. He was better at reading me as a human than he had been as a vampire; maybe it was because he didn’t have his special ability to fall back on. “Yes,” I whispered.

“You really loved him,” he murmured.

I could never, ever lie about this. “More than my own life.”

He nodded slowly. “Okay.” He reached up to cup my cheek with his hand, and his face was filled with intense determination. “But, I think that I might be falling in love with you. And he’s not here. And…I am.”

I looked at him, not even daring to breathe. He was my past and present and future love. He had stolen my heart one sunlit day in a beautiful meadow, and he held and would always hold my soul in his elegant hands. I realized that I would love him – in any form, in any universe, no matter what the repercussions – for the rest of eternity. Taking a deep breath, I fell. “Okay,” I whispered.

He smiled, the brilliant smile of the conqueror, and he wrapped his arms around me. His heart was racing against mine, and I closed my eyes as his beloved scent welcomed me home.