Paved With Good Intentions
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.
Rating 5/5 Word Count 4000 Review this Chapter
As we pulled into the hotel parking lot, I couldn’t deny that it was nice to be back in Phoenix. Physiologically, I had always preferred the warmth and endless sky of the desert home of my childhood. My connection to Forks had been an emotional one, and that bond had been severed the moment that Edward Cullen forgot I existed. I had come here to find him, to ensure his well-being, so why did it feel as if I were leaving him behind as I stepped out into the bright Arizona sunlight?
I found an efficiency apartment in one of the college areas, a serious, quiet complex filled with grad students who were all too busy working on their dissertations to cause much trouble. Even Charlie was convinced of the security – at least, after he’d installed a second deadbolt on my door. I was touched and slightly embarrassed to discover that he’d brought tools from home solely for this purpose. I called the electric company and had things set up in my name; the complex was taking care of the other utilities. Then we went downtown to complete all the paperwork necessary to declare me a resident of the state of Arizona. Don’t want to change your driver’s license right away just because you’ve relocated? Try getting away with that when your father is a cop.
After that we went shopping. College towns reign supreme in the world of vintage, resale, and every other polite term for “used”. We found a good secondhand furniture store just a few blocks from the apartment. I didn’t particularly care what kind of furniture I bought, but Charlie insisted that he wanted me to pick out things I really liked. I knew I had to show at least some interest to keep him from getting suspicious, so when he asked what kind of bed I wanted, I replied, “I should get a daybed. That way it can serve as a couch during the day.”
“Good idea,” he said.
Unfortunately, the only daybed in the shop was black wrought iron. I looked at it, feeling cracks splinter in the fragile wrapping of my heart. Quickly I turned away. “Let’s look at some others, just to be sure,” I said softly.
My gaze settled on an elegant twin four poster in dark wood, steeped in timeless wisdom and ancient wealth. Like the daybed, it reminded me of Edward, but this time the feeling was muted enough that I could live with it. There was slight damage to one of the legs, which brought the price down to what we could afford. Even so, the extravagance made me wince.
“It’s okay, Bella,” Charlie said gruffly. “It’s a good bed, solid wood, and it will last you a long time. I want to buy something that you like and that you’ll use.” He was trying so hard to please me; all I could do was nod. I hated that he was spending money on things I might only use for a few months, but I tried to console myself with the idea that at least the bed would have good resale value. Not for the first time, I struggled with the reality of how my future decision would affect my parents. I locked the thought away. It was all I could do right now to take one day, one step, one breath at a time.
Selecting the bed made the rest of my choices easier. I picked out an oversized chair and ottoman in a light cream color, and I found a small writing desk with wood almost the same shade as the bed. We added a couple of stools to put at the kitchen bar, and I was finished.
“Are you sure you don’t need anything else?” Charlie asked.
I rolled my eyes. “Dad, have you seen my apartment? If we buy any more furniture, I won’t have room to walk from the bed to the front door.”
He laughed. “It is pretty small.” He paid the salesperson and made arrangements for everything to be delivered the following morning.
Finally we made our way to a store where I could purchase kitchen supplies and linens. I had left my bedding in Forks; I couldn’t handle the idea that every time I looked at my bed, I would see Edward’s perfect form reclining on my sheets. I found a comforter and matching sheets in burgundy and gold that would go well with the rich quality of the four poster. To keep things simple, I chose similar colors for the kitchen and bathroom. It occurred to me that, despite my complete lack of interest, my apartment was going to turn out quite nice. Alice and Esme would have been proud of me, I thought, and a somewhat hysterical laugh escaped my lips.
“You okay, Bella?” Charlie asked.
I took a deep breath and firmly shut the door on my heart once again. “I’m just tired, Dad.”
He nodded. “We’ve done a lot today. Why don’t we get some dinner and head back to the hotel?”
I grinned shakily. “You just want to take advantage of the extended cable to watch three games at once.”
The following morning I washed my new linens in the apartment complex laundry room as we waited for my furniture to arrive. The apartment really was pretty once everything was in place, and I could tell Charlie was pleased. The only thing th at bothered him was the lack of a TV. “Are you sure you won’t let me buy you a small set?” he asked for the fourth time.
I groaned. “I’m sure, Dad. You know I don’t watch a lot of TV. I’m going to take the money Mom sent and buy myself a new computer instead.”
He was having trouble imagining life without a flat screen, but finally he gave in. We went to an electronic store, where Macintosh trounced Windows in the battle of the laptops. Then I insisted on taking him to lunch. He tried to protest, but I wanted to thank him for everything he’d done for me.
Finally it was time to drive him to the airport. We checked his bags, and I walked with him as far as I could. He looked at me, his eyes sad. “Take care of yourself, Bells. Things won’t be the same at home without you.”
I nodded, feeling my throat begin to tighten as tears filled my eyes. “I made dinners for you; they’re in the freezer with instructions on how to warm them.”
“Thanks.” His smile was a bit misty.
In that moment it was natural to step forward and wrap my arms around him. He was my father, and I might never see him again. “I love you, Dad.”
“Love you too, kid.” He pressed his cheek into my hair. “If you need anything, call me. You know…” His voice faltered. “…you know you can always come home, right?”
“I know,” I whispered.
His arms squeezed around me tightly, and then he walked through the scanner and down the hall.
I didn’t go back to the apartment, driving instead to a local park where I sat on one of the benches and watched people walking on the trails. I went to a supermarket and bought enough food to get me through the next few weeks. The sun was already setting by the time I arrived home. I took a long time to put away the food, straightening and reorganizing the cabinets until not a single thing was out of place. I sat on a stool in the kitchen, listening to the quiet of the evening. This time there wasn’t even the ticking of a clock to keep me company.
I stayed up late unpacking, hoping I would be tired enough to fall asleep. As soon as I crawled into bed, however, I knew it wasn’t going to work. It was too quiet; the light coming in through the window was all wrong. Most of all, there was no Edward resting against my pillows, no strong arms waiting to hold me and keep the nightmares away. I stared up at the ceiling for a long time before getting out of bed and making my way to my new chair, where I’d placed the stuffed lion Edward had won for me on the night of the carnival. Eddie was one of the things from my former life that I hadn’t been able to leave behind. Another was Edward’s music. I put his CD in the player and carried Eddie back to bed with me. Under the covers we slipped, as the most beautiful music I had ever heard, the only music I ever wanted to hear, filled the silence of my lonely new home. I held the lion close and wept into his fur until sleep finally claimed me.
The next morning I woke late and stumbled into the kitchen to make breakfast as I thought through my plans for the day. The company I had called to install my Internet and phone service wouldn’t be out for a couple more days, so I needed some place where I could use my laptop until then. I couldn’t wait to get started looking for Edward, and I also needed a job. I had noticed a bookstore down the street, and I wondered if they might have wireless access. I finished eating, cleaned my few dishes, and got dressed within half an hour, eager to be out of my silent apartment.
Even in my shattered state of mind, I couldn’t help but notice that the bookstore was charming. A sign over the shop read “Bookworms” and featured a worm/caterpillar-like creature wearing wire-framed glasses and holding a brightly colored book. A small bakery and coffee shop operated in the front corner, and in the back room I could see people painting ceramics. The store carried both new and used books, and customers were nestled in comfortable furniture throughout the store. Sunlight streamed through the front windows, and the familiar smell of old books greeted me as I walked through the door. Immediately I felt at home. There was an announcement at the counter that advertised wireless service, but my eyes fell to the smaller “Help Wanted” notice beside it.
“Good morning,” the woman behind the counter greeted me with a soothing alto voice. “May I help you?”
I was getting too good at these split-second decisions. “Yes ma’am. Are you hiring?”
Her face was kind, but she studied me with the shrewd look of business. “I am. Are you looking for a job?”
Suddenly I wanted this job with a surprising intensity. “Yes,” I replied. “I just moved here from Washington. I have retail experience, and I can provide references.”
She looked at me, considering. “Do you know anything about books?”
In answer, I reached into my backpack and pulled out my ancient, battered copy of Wuthering Heights.
She took the book gently, a small smile gracing her lips. When she looked up at me again, warm brown eyes acknowledged me as a kindred soul. “Can you work a register?”
I looked at the setup she had behind the counter. “It looks a lot like the one I used back home.”
She took a deep breath, lifting her thick blond hair from her neck with one hand. “Well, you can tell that it gets pretty busy in here; I’ve got more work than I can handle.” She nodded toward the crowd that filled the store. “Tell you what – can you stick around today?”
“Yes,” I said eagerly.
“Okay. I’ll give you a quick rundown of things, and we’ll see how it goes. We can talk more after we close. I’m Carolyn, by the way.” She held out her hand.
I shook it, feeling the first real excitement I’d had in days flow through me. “Bella Swan,” I replied. She walked me through using the register and explained how the store was organized, and then I got to work. The day flew by after that; Carolyn wasn’t kidding when she said there was a lot to be done. The store officially closed at six, but the last customer didn’t leave until ten minutes past. I helped clean up while Carolyn finished the day’s report. Finally she led me back to her office, where we sat a desk that was overflowing with paperwork.
“Whew!” Carolyn said, pulling her hair into a low ponytail. “Am I ever glad you showed up! My last girl left three days ago, and I was beginning to think that I wouldn’t be able to find someone who knew literature and knew how to work. Here, fill out these forms for me while I copy your ID.” She handed me an employment application and took my driver’s license and social security card. As I started writing all of my information, she continued, “I can’t pay you much, but it’s better than minimum wage.” She mentioned an amount that would help me pay all of my bills and have a bit left over for extras, if I was careful. “You get a discount in the store, and I can give you a week’s vacation each year. Sick days and holidays, of course, but no health insurance. I’ll need you from ten to seven Tuesday through Saturday, with two breaks and a thirty minute lunch each day. If you’d rather combine your breaks and take an hour lunch, I’m flexible. We’re closed on Sunday, and you can take Monday off.”
I nodded. “Sounds good; thank you.”
She smiled. “No, thank you. I think this is going to work well, Bella.” She looked at my application form. “Forks, Washington? I’ve never heard of it.”
“Nobody has, unless they’re from there,” I said ruefully.
“I’ll bet Phoenix is a big change,” she replied, laughing.
“It’s different,” I agreed. “Forks is nice, though. Really…green.” My voice broke just a little as I whispered, “It rains a lot.”
She was watching me, obviously trying to hear what I didn’t say. Realizing that I wasn’t going to offer anything else, she rose to her feet. “Come on, I’ll walk you out.” As we made our way through the store, she said, “I opened this shop seven years ago when my youngest went off to college. Six months ago I started renting out the back room to Adria for art classes. It helps pay the bills, and her customers tend to become mine as well. John runs the bakery up front under the same arrangement.”
“It’s a nice setup,” I said admiringly. “I could feel the comfortable atmosphere when I walked in this morning; it felt like home.”
“Thank you!” She beamed at me. “That’s exactly what I’m aiming for.” She unlocked the front door and let me out, looking at the parking lot. “Where’s your car?”
“At my apartment,” I explained quickly, not wanting her to think that I didn’t have adequate transportation. “I live right down the street.”
She frowned. “I’m not sure I like the idea of you walking home by yourself.”
“I’ll be fine,” I replied firmly.
She wasn’t convinced, but she nodded. “Okay, but be careful. I’ll see you in the morning.”
I thanked her again and made my way home, glad to have put in a good day’s work. I hadn’t been able to use the Internet, but I could probably do that tomorrow during my lunch break. I had a job that I would enjoy, I was making enough money that I didn’t have to worry about paying my rent, and during my off time I could start looking for Edward. Things were as good as they were going to get, and for the first time since everything had fallen apart, I allowed myself to hope.
This became the pattern for my life in Phoenix. Every morning I would wake up and go to the bookstore, where I worked hard enough to wear myself out before bedtime. During lunch I used the store’s wireless to search for Edward, and once my service was set up at home, I also searched at night. My days off were pretty much spent in front of the computer until I got fed up and had to force myself to go outside. In spite of all this, I wasn’t making a lot of progress. There were an awful lot of Masens available through Google. I began my search in Chicago, even going so far as to call all of the Masens I found listed through a free people search website. I’d found a Helen, an Alex, two Michaels, and one unfortunately named Gertrude, but no Edward.
There were other resources available for trying to find someone, but they cost money. I needed to build up my savings first, so for the time being I had to search on my own. Everything was made more difficult because I wasn’t even sure if he was going by Masen, and I had no idea where to look for him. I was beginning to get a feel for the massive task I had set for myself.
The one good part of my life was my job. It was different, working at a store that sold things I actually cared about. I enjoyed helping people find books, and I took every opportunity to learn about new subject areas so that I could answer customers’ questions. Carolyn was a wonderful teacher; I was beginning to think that she had read every book ever written.
The first Saturday that I worked, she approached me to ask a favor. “I wouldn’t throw this at you right away like this, but I don’t have any other choice,” she explained, flustered.
I could tell she was really stressed. “Whatever it is, I’m glad to help,” I said.
“You might not be, after I tell you what it is,” she said ruefully. “Two Saturdays a month, Adria holds a preschool children’s art class. I read a story to the kids, and then they go back and work on an art project that corresponds to the story. Unfortunately, I have a meeting. That guy with the shipment of first editions I told you about just called; he wants to come over immediately.”
I gulped. “And you need me to read to the kids?” I didn’t know a lot about children; they kind of made me nervous.
“Can you?” she asked. “Adria already picked out the book; she’s doing something that goes along with the store’s theme.”
There wasn’t really anything I could do but agree, so half an hour later I sat on an impossibly small chair, reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar to a bunch of wiggly toddlers. Thankfully the story wasn’t very long, and there were plenty of parents to help me keep control. As soon as I opened the book, a pretty little girl with dark brown hair climbed up into my lap and leaned against me. I gently touched her soft curls and let myself imagine for just a moment what it would have been like to have Edward’s child. I had never allowed myself to even think about it before, and so I was surprised at the painful longing that shot through me.
Two weeks after I arrived in Phoenix I sat in my apartment, glaring at my computer. It was Monday morning, I had just spent another fruitless two hours researching Edward Masens, and all I wanted was for the day to be over so that I could go to work and get away from my thoughts. After swearing under my breath for the third time because the Internet took longer than I liked to load a page, I decided that it was time to get out of the apartment. Because I walked to work each day, I could splurge and drive the truck on my days off. I went for an aimless drive, eventually ending up outside St. Mary’s Basilica, a Catholic church near the center of town. Built in the late 19th century, the church was considered a historic landmark and had once been visited by Pope John Paul II. I looked up at the building, remembering all of the times that Renee and I had admired it as we passed by. Without thinking, I pulled into a parking space.
I wasn’t particularly religious, but the reverent atmosphere inside the church soothed me. I gazed up at the historic architecture, wondering what Edward would have thought of it or what it would have looked like through Esme’s eyes. Sunlight burst through the stained glass windows of the cathedral, making me gasp in wonder. It was easy in this sacred place to believe in God, but then, I had always believed. As far as I was concerned, there had to be a divine creator to give life and then immortality to someone as perfect as Edward. I sat down in a pew, closing my eyes and trying to formulate some sort of prayer in my mind. It seemed wrong to ask that I be allowed to find Edward, and so instead I just hoped that he was safe and happy. I prayed that I had made the right decision in letting him go. I was calmer when I left St. Mary’s, and the drive to the church became my new Monday ritual.
Days passed; before I knew it, it was my birthday. This was the only day I truly allowed myself to give in to the grief I was feeling. I called in sick to work and stayed in bed all day, weeping as I gained the extra year I had so desperately wanted to avoid. It was a long day, filled with doubt, anger, and hopelessness. For the first time, I began to accept that I might never find him. How would I know when it was time to stop looking? What sign would be given when it was time for me to let go?
I woke up the next morning with pale skin and dark circles under my eyes, determined that I wouldn’t spend another day alone with my thoughts. I stared at my reflection in the bathroom mirror, murmuring, “One day, one step, one breath,” until I finally found the courage to get dressed for work. Carolyn immediately tried to send me home, but I insisted that I was fine. I worked almost frantically until lunchtime, at which point Carolyn sent me outside to get something to eat and enjoy the sunshine. I walked down the street and bought a sandwich at the corner shop. There was a small park with a fountain, and I wandered over to look at it, eating my lunch as I let the midday warmth soak into my skin.
Even as I turned to find the source of the woman’s voice, I told myself that it was impossible. There were plenty of men named Edward in the world; there was no way that the only Edward I cared about could be standing just a few feet from me. Except he was.
On the other side of the fountain stood the only man I had ever loved, his beloved face so familiar that my heart almost stopped beating. His eyes were green instead of gold, and the gentle flush of humanity graced his cheeks. Nevertheless, he was just as handsome and perfect as he had ever been. I raised my hand to my lips, almost sobbing with joy. I started to run toward him, taking a deep breath to call to him.
Then I noticed the woman standing at his side, the one who had first caught my attention as she said his name. Tall and beautiful, she looked up into his face as he gazed lovingly at her. Her left hand was clasped in his; as I watched she turned to look at the glittering diamond on her ring finger. “It’s beautiful!” she cried. He smiled and brushed her hair with his free hand.
Grief rushed through me, so sudden and shocking that it tore my heart from my chest. I opened my mouth to protest, to deny, to scream, but I couldn’t make a sound. Blood rushed through me; I could hear the roar of a thousand angels crying. My vision started to fade, and I stumbled. Finally my world went infinitely, mercifully black.