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 4527 Review this Chapter
He was waiting outside the bookstore when I left the following evening, leaning against the front of the building and looking more handsome than should be legal. “Are you ready?” he asked as he walked toward me.
I nodded, not sure I could trust my voice. It really wasn’t fair that, even human – when we ought to be on more equal footing – he could still make me breathless without even trying. I worked to control my heartbeat as we walked to his car, and by the time he asked me how my day went, I was able to answer. “It was good. Slow in the morning, but it picked up after lunch.”
“I haven’t had the chance to check out the store yet; I’ll have to do that,” he replied as he helped me into the car. As we pulled away from the curb, he asked me where I wanted to have dinner.
I’d thought about that during the day, and I had a plan. Edward had always enjoyed watching me make food and eat, and I found myself wondering if he would like my cooking. “Do you mind if I make dinner for us at my place?” I asked.
Interest flared briefly in his eyes but was quickly replaced with concern. “I would love that, but are you sure you aren’t too tired? You’ve been working all day.”
“I don’t mind. I’d rather stay home than have to go out and face a crowd. We’ll need to stop by the store, though.” I gave him directions and relaxed into the comfortable leather seat as he drove. It was interesting, watching Edward handle the car. He was as competent and smooth at the wheel as he had always been, but he didn’t speed. He kept up with the flow of traffic but showed no inclination to go faster. Maybe his human instincts prevented him from taking the risk, although that certainly didn’t stop a lot of drivers. As he drove, I asked him about school.
“I only had two classes today: Music Theory and Humanities.” He grinned. “Nothing too exciting.”
“Are you concentrating on a particular instrument?” I was pretty sure I knew the answer to this one.
He nodded. “Piano. I’m also taking voice lessons and fulfilling other program requirements, but piano is my favorite. I’ve played for years.”
It was what I had expected. I thought of a lullaby, and a lost soul, and the beginning of a love that was so pure it burned the heart that held it. So many days I had sat beside him, watching his elegant hands grace the piano. I had been young, in love for the first and last time in my life, and so very grateful to have found him. Sometimes sunlight would stream through the windows and reflect on his face or capture the length of his hands as they touched the keys, and I would forget to breathe. He would look at me then, a beautiful man and yet still a boy in so many ways. His lips would relax into a tender smile, and the depth of emotion in his eyes spoke of hope and gratitude, letting me believe that someday he might find his soul again.
I studied his profile as he drove. I wanted to be the one who gave him that hope. He had believed himself damned, and I would prove him wrong if it was the last thing I did…no matter what it cost.
“So what are we having?” he asked as he pulled into the store parking lot.
I took a deep breath and locked my thoughts away. “Do you like Mexican food?” I asked shakily. “I was thinking chicken enchiladas.”
“Sounds great.” He smiled at me. “I like most types of food, although I have to admit that doesn’t extend to liver.”
I wrinkled my nose. “Ugh. I’m with you on that one.”
We purchased the groceries I would need to make dinner, and I also found a backpack to replace the one I had ripped. Back at the apartment, Edward was unhappy when I wouldn’t let him help.
“I can do something…chop vegetables, maybe? You shouldn’t have to do all the work,” he protested.
This was something I wanted to do for him myself. “There isn’t room in this kitchen for two people,” I replied. “You can sit at the bar and keep me company.”
He agreed somewhat grouchily, but his mood improved after he’d had awhile to pout. When I finished preparing the meal and set the plates on the counter, it occurred to me that maybe I should have gotten a kitchen table after all. I hadn’t exactly planned on having company. Actually it wasn’t that bad, sitting next to each other at the bar as we ate. His arm brushed mine a few times, and once our hands touched as he reached across the counter to get another napkin. It was all I could do not to rest my head on his shoulder as we talked about everything and nothing.
When dinner was finished, he insisted on washing the dishes. I tried to help, but he wouldn’t hear of it. “You’re the one who said this is a one person kitchen, remember?” he teased. So it was my turn to watch from the bar as he worked. He waited until he was turned away from me to ask his next question. “So did you leave anyone special in Forks?” His voice was carefully devoid of emotion, but the muscles in his back tensed as he waited for my answer.
I didn’t want to hurt him, but I couldn’t lie, not about this. Maybe it was for the best; it would at least provide him with an explanation for why my emotions were all over the place. “Yes,” I said. “There was someone. He was…important.”
He turned to face me then, his eyes peering into mine as he tried to read my secrets. “What happened?” he asked gently.
I had to look away. “I lost him,” I whispered.
Walking over to me, he took my hand in his. His fingers were warm against my skin. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly.
I blinked away tears and turned to face him. “What about you?” I waited anxiously for his reply. He was still as gorgeous as ever, and now he was a teenage, human boy with modern morals and expectations. There had to have been someone.
To my surprise, he shook his head. “I’ve never had a girlfriend. High school was…a difficult time for me.”
His eyes spoke of the sorrow I had noticed last night, and I desperately wanted to know its cause. He didn’t say any more, however, and it was no longer my right to ask. He would tell me when he was ready. So I squeezed his hand in reply and repeated his words back to him. “I’m sorry.”
His hand tightened around mine, and after a moment he shifted his palm until our fingers could intertwine. Smiling crookedly, he asked, “Aren’t you going to show me the rest of your apartment?”
I laughed. “It’s an efficiency, Edward. How much more do you think there is?” I led him into the living area and waved my hand. “This is it.”
“I like it.” He glanced around at my furniture. “No TV?”
I shrugged, embarrassed. “I don’t watch enough to make it worth it.”
“Hmm.” Still holding my hand, he wandered to the built-in bookshelf. His eyes swept over my collection. “Austen, Brontë, Shakespeare…all appropriate choices for a bookstore employee.”
I held my breath, hoping this wouldn’t lead to a discussion on the merits of various works. I couldn’t handle those particular memories right now. “I like the classics,” I replied.
“So I see,” he teased. His finger traced over the spines of several books, finally coming to rest on a particular title. “Ah! Dickens.” He pulled my copy of A Tale of Two Cities from the shelf and tugged me over to the oversized chair. Sitting down, he gestured for me to join him. “May I read to you?”
Gingerly I sat down beside him. There was just enough room for both of us, if I curled my legs over his. He placed his arm around the back of the chair, almost embracing me. “You’ll have to help me turn the pages.” Slender fingers opened the book to the first page. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
I pressed my head against his chest, and his voice rumbled in my ear. It wasn’t the melodic tone that had first captivated me, but it was still the sound of the only man I would ever love. His human voice was beautiful, too; it had the same pleasant depth as before but carried a unique gravelly edge to it that did something severely clinical to my nerve endings. I could fall in love with this voice.
I closed my eyes as he read the words, “Recalled to life.” Edward had been recalled to life, by my hand. In a manner of speaking, I was his creator now just as Carlisle had been. What did that mean? Was my responsibility to stay by his side or walk away?
He read for the better part of an hour, only stopping once so that I could get him some water. Finally he closed the book with a sigh. “It’s late; I should go home.”
I opened my mouth to argue, but instead I yawned. “I guess I am pretty tired,” I said sheepishly.
He laughed. “It’s nice to know you find my company so thrilling,” he teased.
“I do!” I protested. “It’s just been a long day.” Rising from the chair, I took his hand and walked with him to the door.
He frowned slightly. “Made even longer by the fact that you cooked for me. You shouldn’t have worn yourself out like that, but I have to admit that I enjoyed it very much.” His gaze held mine, eyes glowing as he stepped closer to me. He let go of my hand to hold onto my waist. His other hand came around my shoulders, and he tentatively pulled me into a hug. I slipped my arms around him. For a moment, neither of us breathed. “Is this okay?” he asked softly.
I nodded and pressed my cheek against his chest. In answer, he tightened his arms around me and rested his chin atop my head. I leaned into him, listening to something I had never heard before: his beating, living heart. This was Edward’s heart, and it had loved me once before. I hoped – fervently, desperately – that someday it might love me again.
He sighed, the gentle rush of it washing over me. “I don’t want to go home,” he murmured. His arms tightened still further, and I could swear I felt the brush of his lips against my hair. I closed my eyes and held on for all I was worth.
We stood that way for a very long time.
“I know what it is to lose someone you love,” he said quietly.
Edward had shown up at the bookstore just before noon, carrying a picnic basket and a blanket. Declaring the shop charming, he had thoroughly dazzled Carolyn before sweeping me out of the store for lunch. We’d made our way to the park, where he had immediately claimed a spot under the best shade tree available. After enjoying a feast of cold meats, cheeses, and fruit, we were resting next to each other on the blanket, looking up at the sunlight that filtered through the trees. In the midst of such peaceful splendor, he spoke of loss.
Turning to look at him, I urged, “Tell me.”
He sighed, continuing to look up at the sky. Maybe it was easier for him that way. “Like you, my mother has a thing for classic literature. She always said she named us after family members, but I honestly think she chose the names because they came from Austen novels.”
I wasn’t sure where he was going with this, but I could play along. “Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice and Edward from Sense and Sensibility?”
He smiled just a little. “My smart Bella.” The smile fell away as he whispered, “Also my brother, Edmund.”
This was the story of his pain; I was sure of it. “Mansfield Park.”
He nodded. “Apparently my mother also has an unhealthy fascination with the letter ‘E’.” He chuckled, but there was no humor in it.
My heart clenched. I had wanted so very desperately for him to be happy. What if something had happened to him as a human, something that couldn’t be fixed? Slipping my hand into his, I said again, “Tell me. Tell me about Edmund.”
Finally he turned to look at me, green eyes holding onto brown like a lifeline. “He was the middle child: five years younger than Liz and two years older than me. I adored him, looked up to him in the way that only a younger brother can. He was smart, and strong, and funny. He taught me how to play baseball and football, and it didn’t bother him that I followed him everywhere. We were best friends, and he didn’t mind telling people that. He was very popular, but he always said that family came first. He had the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever known.”
He was squeezing my hand now, so tightly that I was starting to lose circulation. I didn’t care. “He sounds like a great older brother,” I said.
“He was the best.” Edward smiled wistfully. “When I started high school…three years ago…he always invited me to sit at his table at lunch. He’d save a seat right next to him every day. Can you imagine what that did for me, having a place with the upperclassmen? I was quiet, shy, locked away in my music. Edmund was the one who gave me courage and taught me how to be around people.”
“He loved Ford Mustangs. It was a bit obvious,” scoffed the owner of the Maserati Bora, “but he always said, ‘Why argue with a classic?’ So he had a brand new Mustang. Fire engine red because his girlfriend said it went well with his hair. On the weekends he would let me work on it with him; he taught me everything there was to know about cars. He’d always take over if a job was too rough, though, because he didn’t want me to ruin my hands. He’d tease me about musicians being soft, but he was proud of me. I rode to school with him every day because he said the bus wasn’t good enough for his kid brother. So…I was with him when it happened.”
By this point I was feeling slightly sick to my stomach. I didn’t want to hear what he had to say next.
Edward turned to look back at the sky. “It was an ordinary Friday morning. I was thinking about my math homework and wondering if I had the nerve to talk to the cute sophomore who sat next to me in French. Edmund was excited because the first district football game of the season was that night, and he was the starting halfback. The accident was exactly that…an accident. Nobody was drunk, or high, or even inattentive. The guy heading toward us swerved to avoid a dog that ran across the street, and then he overcorrected and shot straight into our lane. Edmund tried to pull out of the way, but there wasn’t time.” He paused for a moment, and when he resumed speaking his voice carried a terrible stillness. “I was the only one who survived. Edmund and the other driver were killed instantly.”
I stared at his profile, horrified, hardly able to breathe. What had I brought him back to? Oh, my poor Edward.
He closed his eyes against the sun. “I was still in the hospital when they held the funeral. For a long time I struggled with that. I felt like I didn’t get to say goodbye. I was numb for awhile; it was easier not to feel anything. Then one day I saw a copy of the newspaper article about the crash, and they had a picture of Edmund’s car. It was a twisted wreck…nothing but scrap metal, and all of the sudden I was so angry. All I could think of was how much Edmund had loved that car, how we had spent hours working on it, and how upset he would have been to see what had happened to it. Then I got mad at him for dying, and the other driver for swerving, and the dog for running out in the road, and before I knew it I was crying. I cried harder than I had since I was a kid, and I didn’t stop for hours.”
He ran his hand through his hair and sighed. “I didn’t go back to school. I needed physical therapy, and emotionally I wasn’t ready to face everyone…to face the memories. So my dad took some time off work to stay home with me. He took care of me and made sure that I didn’t get behind on my studies. In the long run, it was good for us. He’d always been closer to Edmund. Not because of any subconscious favoritism, but just because they had more in common. Besides, Edmund was just so much fun that it made people happy to be with him. I wasn’t as outgoing, and my dad didn’t share my interest in music. Over the months of my recovery, we started building a stronger relationship. It sounds terrible to say it like that: like my brother had to die for me to get close to my father. It’s what Edmund would have wanted, though.”
His voice relaxed a little as he said, “So I survived, mostly because my family is amazing. We could have fallen apart, but instead we loved each other enough to pull through it. It was like Edmund had always said: family came first. Nobody minded that I had nightmares, and when I had to take anti-depressants, my mom said it was okay because so did she. We all went to counseling; we learned how to grieve and how to let go. The next summer, Liz came home and taught me to drive because she knew I was afraid to get behind the wheel. It wasn’t easy, and it didn’t happen overnight. It was a slow, grueling process, but we survived.”
I was utterly devastated. “Edward, I’m so sorry.”
Finally he looked at me again, and his face twisted in pain. “Oh, no. Bella, please don’t cry. I only wanted you to know that I understand what it’s like to lose someone.” Tender hands gently wiped the tears from my cheeks. “It’s okay; really it is. I was blessed to have fourteen years with the best brother in the world. I miss him, but it gets easier every day. Three years out, I can at least talk about it. Maybe in a couple more years, I can pass a red Mustang on the street without flinching.” He gave me that precious crooked smile, and there really was happiness in it.
I took a deep breath and smiled tremulously in return. “Thank you for telling me about him,” I whispered.
He wrapped his arm around me and pulled me close, resting his head on mine. “Thank you for listening.”
I put my arm around his waist. “So then you moved here?”
He nodded. “I finished my classes early, mostly because I wanted to get everything out of the way so I could concentrate on music. It was one of the things that gave me comfort during that time. I decided to move here because I felt like my parents needed some time for themselves. My parents – they’re wonderful. They have this incredible love, the kind that lasts a lifetime. Even during the darkest moments after Edmund’s death, they never doubted their love for each other.” He pressed his lips into my hair. “That’s the kind of love I want.”
I closed my eyes. You have it, Edward. You always did.
We stayed there under the sun for several long minutes before he sighed. “We should head back. I don’t want you to be late for work.” Reluctantly we stood and packed the picnic basket. “I won’t be able to see you tonight,” he said. “There’s this dinner for the music department at school. I agreed to attend weeks ago, and I told them I wouldn’t have a date.” He looked at me hopefully. “I could try and sneak you in, or I could always skip.”
“Of course not!” I protested. “You need to go, and it would be rude to bring someone without an invitation. Anyway, I have chores to do tonight.” That wasn’t strictly true, but I needed some time to think.
“Okay, but I’ll be miserable all night without you,” he said soulfully. His lower lip pouted, and it was all I could do not to cave.
“You’ll live,” I replied briskly.
He grinned. “It’s not living without you; it’s only existing.”
His words hurt so much that it felt like a knife had pierced my heart. Oh, God. Taking a deep breath, I said, “Behave, Masen.” I steadfastly refused to let my voice shake.
When we reached the bookstore, he reached out to cup my cheek with his palm. “Will you come to church with me in the morning?”
“Church?” I asked, startled. My Edward, the one who felt he had lost his soul, the one who thought God had forgotten him…he went to church?
He shrugged. “My mom was raised that way, and we always went out of respect for her. Then when Edmund died, it was either find God or give up on Him altogether. So…church.” He smiled at me softly, almost sheepishly.
I felt a tiny burst of hope. No matter what I had done, no matter how much I might doubt my actions, surely it couldn’t be all bad if Edward had regained his faith. I brought my hand up to cover his, pressing it gently against me. “Yes,” I agreed softly. Then I smiled.
In the morning I ate breakfast and washed up before dressing for church. I had spent the previous evening trying to make sense of my emotions, but I still wasn’t sure what to think. Edward had suffered such a terrible loss, but he also appeared to have come to terms with it. He had told me yesterday that he felt blessed, and I could see the truth of what he was saying in his eyes. He had found peace – peace fought and bled for, but real. When he smiled, it was with a happiness that I had never seen in my Edward, not even during our best moments. It made my wish, and the cost that came with it, seem worth it.
However, even if I accepted that Edward was happier as a human, I still had to decide if I should have a role in his life. My original reasons for thinking that I should leave remained valid, and yet the traitorous voice that had first led me to search for Edward was now whispering that I could make a new start with him. I certainly wanted to be with him – it was all I had ever wanted – and Edward’s actions and words over the past few days had given me cause to think that maybe it would be better if I stayed. I’d always thought that Edward and I were destined to be together, but I had believed that I gave up that right when I took Fontaine’s offer. Now, however, I thought of Edward’s words as he told me that he felt a connection with me…that he’d waited his whole life for me…that he wanted the love of a lifetime. What if Edward and I were meant to be together, no matter what? Did I have the right to walk away from him, if it meant he might never have that destined love that he wanted so much?
I had a sinking suspicion that it didn’t matter. I had always been selfish where Edward was concerned and had used my one noble act to grant him humanity. I was almost certain that I didn’t have the strength to leave him again.
Looking through the clothes in my closet, I regretted the grief that had caused me to leave most of my nicer clothes in Forks. Alice had chosen so many of them, and I couldn’t bear to bring them with me. Now I wished that I had brought a few dresses. Putting on my khaki skirt, I briefly considered the blue blouse that Edward loved so much, but eventually I pushed it aside. That shirt had belonged to my vampire love; it seemed wrong to share it with the human who was now causing so much confusion in my heart. Instead I chose a red blouse that I had bought to replace the one that Riley had stolen. I brushed my hair until it shone and had just finished putting on some lip gloss when Edward knocked on the door.
He was cheerful as we drove to church, his good nature having returned since yesterday. His smile and the depth of affection in his eyes made my heart race; he was and would always be the man I loved. I wasn’t paying attention to the route we were travelling, and so when he pulled up in front of St. Mary’s Basilica, I gasped. He looked at me, concerned. “Bella, what’s wrong?”
I stared at the building that had helped me maintain my sanity while I had searched for Edward. “Too many coincidences,” I murmured.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
I looked at the church for several moments before taking a deep breath. “Nothing. I’ve been to this church a few times to pray; that’s all.”
That pleased him; his eyes lit up as he reached out to squeeze my hand. “I’m glad. I’m so happy that you came with me this morning.”
Watching Edward during the service reinforced the idea that humanity had been the right choice for him. He looked so at peace, so confident in himself and in the goodness of a benevolent creator. Light streamed from the stained glass windows and cast brilliant colors over his face. His skin no longer sparkled, but he was still beautiful. He held my hand throughout the service, and I couldn’t deny how very good it felt to be by his side once again. This was where I belonged; how could I ever have doubted it? How could I doubt it still?
After the service we enjoyed lunch with Elizabeth and her fiancé, Mark. Elizabeth talked about wedding details and cast delighted glances in my direction every few minutes. Later Edward drove me home and stayed with me, sitting at my kitchen counter as he worked on his homework. We spent the evening reading, although this time I was the one who gave voice to Mr. Dickens’ words. Finally Edward left, promising to see me the next day. He pressed a gentle kiss to my forehead and hugged me before walking out the door. Whether from emotional exhaustion or the beginnings of my acceptance of this new reality, I fell into a deep sleep and enjoyed pleasant dreams for the first time in weeks.