Cadenza


In the eleven minutes I sat waiting for Bella, four paper napkins fell victim to my nerves. I brushed the shredded pieces into my hand and stashed them behind the napkin holder, wanting to conceal the evidence of the extent to which the mere thought of seeing her still affected me. When I looked up and saw her standing just inside the door, I realized what an exercise in futility my fidgeting had been. It might have given me a means through which to channel my nervousness, but it would do nothing to assuage my raging erection. I wasn’t sure who I hated more—Bella for making me feel this way or myself for being too weak to resist.

Bella’s eyes scanned the room; when they met mine, she smiled and began to walk toward me. I’d often wondered how it would feel to see her again and always came to the same conclusion—that I would want to ravish her and rage at her in equal parts. Then again, my feelings for her were never a variable. As she approached, I tried to predict what her first words would be and formulated potential responses so I wouldn’t feel caught off-guard.

The possibility that she’d greet me with a simple “you look different” never once crossed my mind.

If she was content to drive an hour for small talk, far be it from me to deny her.

“So do you. Your hair is short.”

“A few months ago, I had it bobbed and donated it to charity,” she explained. “It’s actually grown back a bit.”

“Oh.”

The waitress came and took our drink orders. For several moments, we sat in silence.

“This is awkward,” she said.

“What did you expect?” I forced a laugh.

“Actually, I had no expectations whatsoever.”

“I find that hard to believe; I’m sure you expected that you’d receive a response to your email.”

“Not exactly. To say I expected a response seems to imply that I felt entitled to one, which I didn’t. Somehow, despite that, I knew I would eventually get one. Edward…”

She reached across the table and brushed her fingers against mine, and my body reacted instantly. At least I couldn’t embarrass myself by blushing. It wouldn’t be physically possible; my cock was so hard I doubted I had any blood left to color my cheeks. As amazing as her skin felt against mine, I knew no good would come from it. If I let her continue to touch me, I’d be lost.

“Bella, don’t. Please, just don’t.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I know.”

The waitress appeared and placed two mugs of coffee on the table. At some point, we must have ordered, but I couldn’t remember doing so. Therein lay the problem; six minutes in Bella’s presence and I was a fool once again. I couldn’t allow this—if I lost myself in her and then lost her—at best, it would break me and at worst, it would kill me. If I didn’t look out for my own best interests, no one else would.

“You’ve now had a chance to tell me you’re sorry in person. Apology accepted. Is there anything else you want?”

“I’d like to see you.” She offered me her trademark half-smile and a slight shoulder shrug.

I wasn’t sure if her apparent coyness was intentional; I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt.

“You’re looking at me right now.”

“You’d never know I taught English, from my communication skills,” she muttered to herself. “I mean, I’d like to see you again romantically. I’m asking for a second chance with you.”

She wanted to pick up where we left off. Six months ago, I wanted nothing more. Now I knew better. I would never be content with what little of herself Bella offered freely. I wanted her—god, how I wanted her—but I wanted all of her. Self-preservation be damned. I’d gladly allow myself to be consumed by her again, but only if she were equally willing to be consumed by me.

“I’m no longer available to you that way.”

She looked shocked. “Do you have a girlfriend?”

“Is it so hard to believe that someone would want me? I mean, just because you didn’t…”

“That wasn’t true; I thought I told you that. I just didn’t think…” She stopped speaking and shook her head. “I hope you aren’t compromised by coming to see me today. I got your email and I just thought…I don’t know what I thought. I must have misinterpreted it. I thought you’d meant that you weren’t lying when you said you’d always want me. I now know you meant you weren’t lying when you said I was delusional, which clearly I am. I’m sorry; I won’t bother you again.”

She stood to leave. Of its own accord, my arm blocked her way out of the booth. She sank back into her seat.

“Bella, you left me,” I reminded her in a harsh whisper. “You don’t know what that did to me. You don’t get to play the victim here.”

“Oh, I know. Edward, I know. I don’t deserve to have a second chance with you. I know that, and I didn’t expect you to wait for me. I know it was selfish of me to attempt to resume contact with you. I never doubted your love for me, even though at the time I was incapable of returning it. I know I hurt you and I know I no longer have any claim to you. I know I’m irrational, but I also know I love you and despite distance, time, and the fact that you appear to be currently involved with someone else, it still feels like you belong to me.”

“Don’t you see? That’s the problem. I’ve always belonged to you. You’ve always belonged to you. No one has ever belonged to me.”

“I know. I’m sorry, Edward. God, how I’m sorry.” She wiped her eyes. “I won’t keep you any longer. Thank you for listening to me, for letting me apologize. I should let you go before your girlfriend realizes you’re out with your ex.”

“I didn’t say I had a girlfriend. I said I was no longer available to you.”

“You aren’t seeing anyone?”

I wasn’t sure what to make of the unmistakable optimism in her voice, except that it was probably how I sounded to her in the early stages of our relationship. Though I was technically single, I was by no means ready to jump into anything, regardless of how much the thought appealed to me. At the same time, hope equaled pain—I knew this all too well. It would be cruel of me to allow Bella’s hope to go unchecked.

“It’s complicated. You?”

She shrugged. “Does this person with whom you have a complicated relationship know you are out with your ex-girlfriend right now?”

“Yes. She knows all about you. She also knows that I’d like to reopen communication with you, that I can’t stand the thought of letting another year pass without hearing your voice or knowing how you’re doing. She understands that I need you in my life–”

“And she didn’t cut her losses and cross her legs?”

“I told you; it’s not like that.”

“So you’ve said. Tell me, Edward, does she know you’re still in love with me?”

“Yes.”

“And she tolerates this? Is she thinking she’s going to fuck her way into your heart? For someone who seems to be so sexually liberated, she is certainly naïve. Either that, or she’s not that bright. What, did her father donate a building to get her into Princeton?”

“Enough.” I was enraged, and only with great effort did I manage to maintain a conversational volume. “I won’t let you bad-mouth someone you’ve never met, nor will I permit you to speak disparagingly of a relationship you are unable to understand.”

“Fine.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “But if we’re going to be friends, I should know your fuck buddy. What’s her name?”

“Kate. She’s not a fuck buddy.”

I didn’t answer because it was any of Bella’s business, but because I wanted her to realize that despite her cruel treatment of me, I was not like her. Sex meant something to me.

“Semantics.” She waved her hand as if she were a monarch and I was nothing more than a subject she could dismiss. “And how do you know Kate?”

“Through Mike’s girlfriend.”

“You don’t love her.”

I wasn’t going to give Bella the satisfaction of knowing that although I did love Kate, I couldn’t fall in love with Kate because Bella had ruined me for anyone else. Furthermore, I was not going to cheapen my relationship with Kate by belittling its significance to Bella. Kate may not have won my heart, but she’d certainly earned my respect.

“Kate has nothing to do with us.”

“Fine, we’ll leave her out of this. You don’t find that at all morally compromising? Being involved in a complicated relationship with one woman while being in love with another? The Edward I knew would never be capable of using someone for sex.”

That was it.

“You god-damned hypocrite! How do you do it? After everything you put me through, you have the audacity to sit there and judge me? You—the woman to whom I willingly gave every bit of myself, only for you to callously inform me I’d been nothing more to you than a good lay.”

“And I’m sorry for that. I don’t know how many times I can tell you I’m sorry!”

“Were you even faithful to me?”

“I’m not even going to dignify that with a response.” She rolled her eyes, then softened her demeanor. “I hurt you; I know that. I’m willing to own it, and I’m prepared to apologize until the end of time. Hell, I’ll even grovel. I’ll withstand almost anything, if it’s what it will take for you to forgive me, except that. You do not get to call me a slut.”

“You might not have physically cheated, but you were certainly deceptive enough. Our entire relationship, you knew I felt objectified. There were many ways you could have broken things off with me, but you chose the one you knew would cause the most damage. Meanwhile, you now have the audacity to give me a guilt trip for pursuing other interests after you callously discarded me, though while we were dating you expressed genuine regret that if we stayed together, I would only ever experience intimacy with you.” I knew the hypothetical would be lost on her; that she’d think I was a manwhore, but if it prevented her from fixating on Kate, it was worth it. “If I did date other people—which you always felt was a necessary part of growing up—how dare you make me feel as if I somehow misled the girls who graciously offered me solace in your absence. I haven’t changed that much, Bella. I never lied to any of them, nor have I ever lied to you.”

“You still want me.”

“Yes,” I admitted.

“And you still love me.” Her statement came out sounding more like a question.

“Yes.”

“You want me in your life–”

“No, I need you in my life.”

“But you have no interest in a reconciliation with me.”

I nodded. “That’s correct.”

“Edward, that makes no sense.”

It made perfect sense to me, but I was done arguing with her. I gestured for the waitress to bring me the check, and took out my wallet.

“Have you decided this conversation is over?” Bella sounded panicked.

As angry as she made me, I wasn’t ready for my time with her to over.

“Not unless you want it to be. I’d just like to get some air.” I gestured to the exit. “Shall we?”

She followed me to cashier and waited patiently as I paid the bill. As she walked through the door, I studied her. Something was different, and it wasn’t just her hair. It came to me when I finally saw her from behind. Her purple dress wasn’t tight or short; it showcased the curve of her ass without hugging it, then fell to her knees. It was a far cry from how I remembered her dressing for work, yet covered much more skin than her typical recreational attire did.

“Did you dress up to come see me?” I asked.

“No. I wore this to work today. Why?”

If she was no longer attempting to appear asexual at work, was she still going around barely clothed off-hours? Asking would only offend her, so I decided to drop it.

“Nothing. It’s just different from what I’m used to seeing you wear to school.” I stopped when I saw we were in front of her car. “I can’t believe that thing is still running.”

“Why wouldn’t it be? I take excellent care of it.”

“That you do. If only…”

If only she’d taken such good care of our relationship. She could be happy, and I would be whole.

“Never mind.”

She looked at me as if she knew which words had been on the tip of my tongue. I expected her be angry at me again, but the expression on her face was one of regret.

“I’m sorry, Edward.”

“I don’t doubt that you are.”

“Then why do you seem insistent on hurting me back?”

“Is that what you think I’m doing?”

She nodded.

I was at a complete loss. I wanted her to understand that I wasn’t trying to punish her; at the same time, if she broke me again, I’d have only myself to blame. Not knowing what else I to do, I touched her.

I brushed her hair off her shoulder. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, as if she were bracing herself for inevitable pain. Despite her obvious nervousness, she did not shift away from me. Taking this as encouragement, I tucked her hair behind her ear. When my thumb grazed her cheek, she angled her face into my hand.

It would be so easy for me to kiss her, but it wouldn’t solve anything. I dropped my hand to my side, and when she opened her eyes, they were filled with confusion.

“What now?” she asked. “I feel like we’re at an impasse.”

“We may be. Are you saying that unless I take you back romantically, you want nothing to do with me?”

“I wouldn’t go that far; I just refuse to be one of your fuck buddies.”

I stepped away from her, shaking my head. She was nothing if not predictable —she used sex as an avoidance tactic, therefore she was convinced I did the same.

“I would never think of you, or any woman, that way.”

She appeared unconvinced.

“You’re just as exasperating as ever.” I flailed my arms in frustration. “I knew you’d think I was a manwhore.”

“Actually, I just think of you as a man.”

“As opposed to a child?”

She winced. “I know I didn’t always treat you with the respect you deserved while we were dating, and I’m sorry for that. I don’t expect you to believe me, but it had more to do with my opinion of myself than my opinion of you.” Sighing, she opened her car door. “It’s getting late, and it’s a school night.”

“I don’t have any classes tomorrow.” As exasperating as she was, I wasn’t ready to leave her.

“Yes, but I do.” She sat in her car, but lowered the window before pulling the door shut.

“So what now?” I asked.

“May I call you?”

“Maybe.”

“Maybe isn’t no.”

The significance of her word choice was not lost on me.

“It isn’t yes, either.” I was intentionally non-committal, but couldn’t shake the feeling that eventually, I would commit—that presented with the option of holding her, I would never be able to hold her at arms’ length.

Though it was only a ten-minute drive to campus, I had a long walk from the parking lot back to Blair. The night air was heavy, and did nothing to clear my head. When I got back to my dorm room, Kate had returned from squash practice.

And my clothes were piled on top of the couch.

“What is this?” I asked.

“I thought it would simplify things if you moved your stuff out all at once, rather than a little at a time.”

My face must have betrayed my shock.

“You didn’t think you could stay here, did you?” Though there was no anger in her voice, it was clear my eviction was not open for negotiation.

“I haven’t had a chance to figure out an alternative.”

“But you had plenty of time to have coffee with Bella.”

If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was being intentionally spiteful.

“You told me to talk to her!”

“And I’m glad you did. I hope it works out for you—truly, I do. But I thought I made it clear that I would not be your fallback girl.”

“I wouldn’t…” I shook my head. “You can’t honestly think I’d play it that way.”

“You saw Bella, then came home to me. What am I supposed to think?”

“You said you’d always be my friend.”

“I am being your friend. Friends don’t share a bed, Edward.” She sighed. “Look, you don’t have to get your stuff out, but you can’t sleep here.”

I was too tired to argue with her, and too emotionally spent to deal with Mike and Tyler. I grabbed my laptop and the books I needed, and made the long trek back to my car.

An hour and sixteen minutes later, I walked through the back door of my parents’ house. To my father’s credit, he refrained from telling me he’d told me so.


next





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  1. on 16 Mar 2010 at 8:35 pmAzucena

    Awesome Kate, good cojones, I love that woman, Love Love Carlisle, Edward is falling out favor as is Bella. I am thinking what happens to Kate next, she is hot, she is sexual, she has an amazing heart.

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  2. on 16 Mar 2010 at 8:51 pmGabi

    I think each and every one of your readers silently completed the If only… sentence. :-) For me, it was …you took such good care of yourself. But your version is so much better, Edward can't possibly understand the extent to which Bella's self-esteem problems influence her decisions/actions/feelings…life. Sorry if it sounds harsh but his life was just too easy to be able to see this. It will come later. Thank you for the great chapter.

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  3. on 16 Mar 2010 at 4:59 pmJen

    loved it. So much in fact I read the whole thing on my iPhone, during my lunch break at work.

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  4. on 16 Mar 2010 at 9:04 pmallismiles

    Flawless and beautiful as always

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  5. on 16 Mar 2010 at 9:34 pmMojito Maven

    BEST. CHAPTER. YET.

    Kate makes me smile BIG. I cannot wait to find out what you have in store for these two!! xoxo

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  6. on 16 Mar 2010 at 9:42 pmceline

    Perfect chapter! You are too good at this. : )

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  7. on 16 Mar 2010 at 10:07 pmmsaleksa

    It was a very intense chapter. Loved it.
    When reading AA5 I was sooo team-bella, I really disliked Kate and I remember how there were discussions regarding how everyone was dreading chapters of Counterpoint where Edward's relationship with Kate would be described.
    But the way you beautifully write and the depth with which characters are developed, just makes it impossible… We understand Edward better, see him growing up, becoming somewhat cynic (as someone mentioned here)… It's truly captivating… Because in real life, you rarely get too see and experience both POV…

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  8. on 16 Mar 2010 at 10:46 pmTippyL

    I feel like I need a drink after reading this and the last chapter. I'm glad they're over, truth be told. I like Kate, but I'm so glad that chapter is closed. For all of Edward's sheltered past, he is actually quite smart even if naive. Holding himself back from rushing into Bella's arms is intelligent and thoughtful. Especially because in doing so, he'll develop a real friendship as equals with her and that is a relationship that certainly will help him with Carlisle's passing.

    Your writing is so fab – I'm about to start My Life to Be. I think you're very talented. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  9. on 16 Mar 2010 at 11:52 pmkatydid13

    Excellent! I'm glad Kate stood up for herself. Figuring out living plans should be interesting.

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  10. on 16 Mar 2010 at 10:21 pmitlnbrt

    I wish we had AA5 to refer to. It wasnt that long ago that I read it… but I dont remember all of B's details. Anyways, its nice to get E's POV. Thanks for the update!!

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  11. on 17 Mar 2010 at 3:15 amlonestarkendall

    When I read this account in AA5, I had the hardest time reading Edward and trying to decipher his behaviour and words. Here it is so evident, it's self preservation. We all know how difficult it is to hold back and not allow yourself what you desire most just to avoid anymore hurt. Your heart and body are screaming one thing and your mind another. You depicted his conflict perfectly.

    Lastly, hooray for Kate's tough love. She has always been truthful and honest with him and it's good to see she hasn't stopped.

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  12. on 17 Mar 2010 at 3:15 amlonestarkendall

    When I read this account in AA5, I had the hardest time reading Edward and trying to decipher his behaviour and words. Here it is so evident, it's self preservation. We all know how difficult it is to hold back and not allow yourself what you desire most just to avoid anymore hurt. Your heart and body are screaming one thing and your mind another. You depicted his conflict perfectly.

    Lastly, hooray for Kate's tough love. She has always been truthful and honest with him and it's good to see she hasn't stopped.

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  13. on 17 Mar 2010 at 10:07 amJanice

    Ooh, thanks for the speedy update, I've have been checking daily for it. Like many other readers, I disliked Kate at first in AA5, but after reading this chapter, I absolutely adore her. Witty, beautiful and generous at heart, she can really compete with Bella. I can't wait read to read more from Edward's perspective on the 'new' Bella. Thanks for the update as well!!

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  14. on 17 Mar 2010 at 2:16 pmJenn

    High five to Kate! I would have kicked him out too. Her waiting till after he seen Bella makes me wonder if she was waiting to see if he changed his mind thoug. I know it it has only been a couple days since they broke up by why was she ok he stayed there since? did they share a bed? As much as I love that she kicks him out I do think they should have had an adult conversation about it and gone from there. He could have slept on the couch or even the other bed in their room until things where sorted out with Mike & Tyler. Oh well at least it happened and we can go on from here knowing he isnt going home to Kate after talking to Bella. Makes me feel better. I actually wished Carlisle would have said told you so. Edward deserved in in my opinion. Maybe Esme will do the honors of saying it to him, sounds like something she would say anyways.

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  15. on 18 Mar 2010 at 2:47 amElizabeth440

    First off, I'm so impressed with how balls-to-the-wall you are going with Counterpoint. In many ways, Edward's journey is much simpler than Bella's, yet his story is turning out to be richer and more compelling. It's amazing that you are writing most of this as you go, because it dovetails so sublimely with AA5 yet is truly such a different story.

    There was so much that happened in this chapter that even after rereading it several times, I know I'm still missing some things. What stood out the most was that Edward ended up almost right back where he started when he was 16, at home and essentially alone (at least romantically). It's like he's going back to the proverbial drawing board and getting a do-over so this time he can begin a relationship the "right" way. Kate may have literally pushed him a little too hard out the door but he needed that nudge so he can regroup and figure out what he wants and what he's willing to do – and more importantly with Bella, not do – to get it.

    I was utterly fascinated by how Bella's and Edward's respective POVs differed in some aspects and aligned so perfectly in others. Bella had to work so hard to develop insight into her own behavior in AA5. While she made so much progress by the end of it, in this CP chapter, we get these glimpses of how far she had yet to go. She is so unaware of how her demeanor betrays her nervousness, how she projects her insecurities and defense mechanisms onto Edward, how she so easily slips into condescending teacher mode, and how her vulnerability peeks through her armor. It adds so much more meaning and weight to The Lovers chapter in AA5 in which she admits that marriage scares her and knows that her immediate reaction would be one to retreat.

    I also loved the subtle change in language when Edward was semi-raging at her. We already knew she assumed the worst about his sex life, but she even imagined he admitted to it with his "now that I have dated other people" statement instead of what he actually said ("If I dated other people").

    Just so brilliant – one of the most complex and compelling chapters you've written. The most incredible aspect is that you make it look so easy.

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  16. on 19 Mar 2010 at 9:48 pmTippyL

    I've just reread this chapter and had a question: what is the significance of her wardrobe change? Edward notices her dress and comments that it's different than what he remembers her wearing to work. I can't rememeber from AA5 what it means. Thanks.

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    sleepyvalentina reply:

    She dressed extremely conservative for work typically. She showed no skin and never wore her hair down.
    In Art After 5, I made a big deal out of the two Beths. There was how she saw herself—overly sexual, this is how she dressed at home—and the idealized version of who she wanted to be—valued for who she was on the inside and her intellect. So she dressed for work in what Mollie called "middle aged and frumpy chic." Plain, loose clothes that were the opposite of sexy. Her altering that by wearing clothing that was attractive but still inappropriate was a subtle way of showing how far she came, as how she sees herself and who she wants to be merge closer into the same person.

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  17. on 29 May 2010 at 1:49 pmAitza Danielle

    Kudos to Kate! I’m glad she made it crystal clear on where she stands with Edward. Carlisle is amazing as usual. I don’t think Edward understands all that Bella has gone through in life and that it is hard for him to connect with her there. While I know the two stories aren’t suppose to coincide with one another, doing so has made things comprehension a tad bit easier. Beautiful work!

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  18. on 07 Jul 2010 at 1:27 pmluckyduck0076

    Good for Kate! :) Bella, I think she believes she is better, but she isn’t getting help for her real problem.

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  19. on 27 Nov 2010 at 12:59 pmJulie

    I love love love Carlisle. He’s been my favorite person in this story :D

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  20. on 02 Jan 2011 at 3:35 pmFancastride

    Edward was nice considering all Bella has put him through.

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