Head of a Woman
The throbbing in my head when I woke the next morning was completely eclipsed by my extreme mortification when I remembered the events of the previous evening. The moment I began to stir, Edward presented me with a bottle of water and two Excedrin.
“These should help.” He propping me up and supported my head as if I were a newborn.
I settled myself back into the pillows and pulled the sheet over my head.
“I think I’m going to die,” I wailed.
Edward pulled the covers off me and settled into bed, bringing me against his chest.
“As awful as you feel, you’re still much better off than I thought you would be.”
“What do you know about hangovers?”
“Ha. More than you think.”
I didn’t have the energy to grill him. There were more pressing matters at hand.
“Last night I had a talk with your father…”
It was kind of foggy. I remembered talking to Carlisle while watching Edward and Esme dance. I truly hoped the actual conversation I recalled was a drunken hallucination.
I knew this wasn’t a good time, but I doubted the right moment existed to attempt to figure out exactly how much my boyfriend’s father knew about my sex life.
“I wish the two of you weren’t so…close.”
He looked at me confusedly. “I can’t think of a single context where having a good relationship with one’s father is a bad thing.”
I could think of one.
There was no easy way to transition into this discussion, so I just put it all out there.
“So does Emmett also know how many people with whom I’ve been intimate or is this something we’re keeping in the family?”
“I’m not following you.”
“You father said something last night that implied he thought I’d slept around. Other statements he made suggested that he knows about our sex life in explicit detail.”
Edward laughed. “He doesn’t.”
“Well, he says you tell him everything.”
“I told you the same thing the night we met. You’re over-reacting.”
“No, I don’t think I am. He found my panties in the Volvo.”
“And who left them there?”
“What was he doing going through your glove compartment? Please tell me you got them back from him.”
Edward sighed. “He was looking for a pen, and of course I got them back. Think about this for a minute, Bella. Which car do you think my mother drives when I bring the lawn mower over to your house in her SUV? Do you think she walks to work? Consider yourself lucky it was sunny that day, and my father wanted to drive around with the top down. Otherwise, my mother might have found them. As far as specifics about our sex life are concerned, he knows almost nothing. I needed to discuss my intense performance anxiety with someone, and the fact that you were experienced was relevant to that conversation. He doesn’t know how many partners you’ve had or that you dabbled with bisexuality. None of that is mine to share. He does know that you were more experienced than I, but this is hardly a revelation. You’re in your mid-twenties and you’re beautiful. No one expected you to be a virgin.”
“He said that I ‘of all people’ should know that sex just happens. How was I supposed to interpret that?”
“Try face value—sex happens and that’s why your underwear was in the Volvo. Don’t you dare try to blame Panty-gate on me. I am at most only half responsible for them being recovered by my father as I was not the person who put them there in the first place. I’m finding your cross-examination of me somewhat offensive. Do you actually believe I have such little class that I would fuck and tell?”
“You said you told him everything and he confirmed it.”
“No one tells anyone everything.” He kissed the top of my head. “I don’t want to argue with you, but you should be grateful I’m so close with my father. If not for him, we would never have met.”
“Huh. Your wingman,” I muttered dryly.
Edward sighed. “You know, I was going to let this go, but since we’re airing our grievances I may as well address it. Last night you said that you couldn’t see yourself ever getting married.”
“I actually admitted that? Wow, that’s surprising. I must have been very drunk at that point.”
I did not want to have this conversation, and hoped he wouldn’t see through my avoidance tactic.
“Is it true?”
He exhaled slowly.
“What?” I asked.
“You do realize this is a potential deal-breaker for me.”
Huh? Was he giving me an ultimatum?
“You’re kidding, right?”
My head was pounding, and I was rapidly losing my patience.
“You’re too young to open a checking account, and yet you’re telling me our differing views regarding the institution of marriage could potentially cause you to end our relationship? Getting a little ahead of ourselves, aren’t we?”
He gently pushed me off him and sat up so he could look down at me.
“What am I to you?”
After a moment, I answered, tracing circles on his chest with my finger as I spoke.
He pushed my hand away. “That’s what I was afraid you’d say.” He got out of bed. “I’m going to get in the shower. If you decide your stomach is settled enough to eat, call room service and have them bill it to me.”
He walked into the bathroom and closed the door with a little more force than was warranted.
I rolled out of bed to follow him, though I wasn’t sure what I was planning to do. I didn’t want to lie to him, but I didn’t think my honesty would garner this sort of reaction. I placed my hand on the door knob, but it wouldn’t turn. I paused before knocking, deterred by the lack of any sound that would indicate he was bathing. I wondered why he’d locked me out until his barely audible sobs provided me with an answer.
I stepped away from the door.
Edward was crying, not because of something I said or did but because of who I am.
I hated myself.
What seemed like an eternity later, I heard the water start to run. I knew what I needed to say to him, I just wasn’t sure I could follow through with it. Twenty minutes later the bathroom door opened. I selfishly kept my eyes averted as I spoke. This was going to be difficult enough for me. I didn’t think I could say this if I knew he was watching.
“When I was a little girl, I never asked for what I wanted. Somewhere with my own twisted logic, I became convinced that if I articulated my desires I was giving up control, and that if a person knew what I needed they then had the power to intentionally withhold it as a means of manipulating me. Before I learned to read, I learned to keep my emotions to myself.
“I know that’s not how you operate. You grew up with loving parents in a stable environment, whereas I was collateral damage. I don’t mean to patronize you when I say I have so many fears which you cannot possibly comprehend. This is not because of your chronological age or emotional maturity. You just haven’t experienced…”
I paused and he sat down next to me. I continued to speak without looking at him.
“You just haven’t experienced enough to truly understand, and I wish you never do. I hope you never know abandonment, or how it feels to be completely alone. More than anything else, I hope you never become like me. I wish you could stay your version of seventeen forever, that you never lose your idealism or question yourself, though I know it’s inevitable that you eventually will. I can’t protect you from the disillusionment of young adulthood any more than you can erase the ways in which the past twenty-five years have shaped me.
“Regardless of your heightened level of self-awareness, you can’t know if you will still feel the same way you do today several years from now. Your career aspirations, your passions, your expectations of life could all change.”
He paused as if he were choosing his words carefully.
“I have no immediate plans to propose to you. I do have some grasp of reality. Do you remember what I actually said to you last night?”
“No. I don’t remember much after the cab ride,” I admitted.
“I asked if it bothered you that marriage was such a long way off for us.”
“Oh.” I sighed.
“Do you have a fear of commitment in general or a fear of committing to me? Or is this actually about fear of letting me know that you do want a commitment from me, because you think I will use this information to manipulate you?”
I squirmed in place and hoped his questions were rhetorical.
He fell to his knees in front of me and grasped my hands.
“Bella, look at me. I’m not asking you to marry me. I’m asking you to trust me.”
He picked his phone up from the night stand and pushed a few buttons before he handed it to me. Its screen displayed the text message I’d sent him two weeks ago in which I told him I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.
“Did you mean this?” he asked.
“You can type it on a phone, but you can’t say it out loud?”
“I thought I just explained this to you–”
“I heard you, but I also need you to hear me. I love you and I can’t envision my life without you in it. I know it’s going to take a long time for you feel the same way…”
“I feel that way now,” I insisted.
“Then I need to hear it. Please, Bella. It’s not easy for me to be away from you.”
I put my hands in his hair and leaned into him.
“I want to spend the rest of my life with you,” I whispered.
He rested his head on my lap and closed his eyes, smiling as I stroked his cheek.