Interpretation


“Do you want to talk about it?”

I should have known my father would never just let me go to sleep.

“Not at the moment.” I dropped my bag next to the island and got a lager out of the fridge. “I can’t even process everything, let alone discuss it.”

“What I don’t understand is why your living situation just became an issue now. I mean, where have you slept the past couple of nights?”

“I haven’t slept—that’s part of the problem.” I screwed the cap off my beer and took a swig. “Meanwhile, would it have killed Kate to let me crash on the floor in the common room? And she has the audacity to give me crap for going to see Bella. What was that all about? She told me to do it!”

“How would you feel if right after Bella broke up with you, you had to sleep in the room right next to hers?”

“Are you kidding? Half the agony of those days was not knowing how she was doing. I love Bella; I would have been grateful for her proximity.”

“Even if it meant you overheard her on the phone with her new boyfriend? It would have killed you, and you know it. Besides, it’s not like Kate put you out on the street. You could have slept in your actual room, you know. You have keys; you’re on the housing roster. Mike wouldn’t have been able to stop you.”

“Dad, Mike’s room is set up like a porno set.”

He snorted. “As if you know what a porno set looks like.”

“And you would?”

He raised an eyebrow.

“Never mind, don’t answer that.” I drank what was left of my beer in a single gulp and placed the empty bottle on the counter. “I just can’t believe Kate threw me out. I mean—she promised. She fucking promised me we’d still be friends.”

“And when all this blows over, you probably will be. I seriously doubt there was any malice on Kate’s part.”

I sighed. As angry as I was, he was probably right. However, the knowledge that my friendship with Kate would survive this did little to diminish my feelings of betrayal.

“I know you’re tired, but since I’m worried about you, please indulge me. What was it like to see Bella again?”

I leaned forward onto the island and tried to find the right words. “Completely unfulfilling. She was infuriating and insulting, and I still couldn’t stand to see her leave. I wanted her, even as she questioned Kate’s intelligence and called me a manwhore. I was enraged, but at the same time, I didn’t care. I just wanted to hold her.”

“You know I’m on your side, right?”

I nodded.

“Do you get what that means? Look, I’m glad you feel comfortable enough to talk to me, but I’m still your father. You’re the single most important thing in the world to me—well, you and your mother—and I hate to see you hurting.”

None of this was news to me.

“Dad, I know.”

“Then you understand why I’m not ready to forgive Bella for how she treated you. You can play revisionist historian if you want, but I know better. What I didn’t witness with my own eyes, you confirmed for me. That’s the downside of confiding in one’s parents.”

“Actually, I don’t understand. You always told me I could tell you anything.”

“You can; you just can’t expect me to be unbiased. I’m far more forgiving of people who wrong me than I am of those who wrong you. Bella didn’t just hurt you, she broke you. The moment she felt a tinge of remorse, she had the audacity to send you an email claiming she was working on her issues, yet her behavior tonight would seem to indicate that nothing could be further from the truth. Now you tell me, Edward. How am I supposed to stand here and not react when you tell me that despite everything she’s put you through, you still want her. Have you no sense of emotional self-preservation?”

“You always told me I should do whatever will make me happy.”

“And you should.”

“Then what’s the problem?” I wailed, waving my arms in frustration.

“There isn’t one, provided Bella doesn’t hurt you again. Look, I’m not trying to piss on your Picasso, I’m just reminding you that from day one, my support of your relationship with Bella went against my better judgment. It’s not a mistake I intend to make again. If I sense we’re headed for a repeat performance, I will do everything in my power to make sure she never hurts you again, and I don’t care whose reputation—or livelihood—is destroyed.”

I understood completely—I had no illusions about my father’s background. Just as my father shaped me, Jack had shaped him. My mother’s influence notwithstanding, blackmail was a Cullen family tradition.

“She’s not going to hurt me again; I won’t let that happen.”

When he spoke, he sounded anguished and battle-weary. “I know you still love her, and I understand better than anyone how that kind of love can compel a person to risk it all. But as your father—do you hear that, Edward? As your father, I’m begging you not to rush into anything.”

“I won’t.”

He nodded and went to bed; I wasn’t sure if he finally decided he’d made his point, or if he was just tired of arguing with me. Now both physically and emotionally exhausted, I trekked upstairs to my room. The fatigue of my body overwhelmed my tireless mind, and sleep came easily.

It took two days of arguments and fierce negotiations, but eventually Tyler, Peter, Mike and I worked out new living arrangements for our quad. Sodom and Gomorrah would remain in Mike’s room—Peter would live there with Mike and I would live with Tyler. Peter claimed he didn’t mind the Irina/Mike situation, a fact that Tyler convinced me was true. According to him, Peter smoked so much pot he didn’t mind much of anything. On top of that, Tyler said Peter was a bit of a voyeur, so the fact Mike and Irina went at it constantly only increased the appeal of moving. I didn’t judge; I was just glad to once again have a bed on campus in which I could crash.

As I drove back to school Wednesday morning, I wondered if The Great Roommate Debacle of Sophomore Year was actually a blessing in disguise. Finding a solution amenable to all parties involved required so much effort that I didn’t have time to obsess about Bella or worry about Kate. When my classes were over for the day, I went directly to my new room, figuring I’d take care of getting my stuff from my old room later. Much to my surprise, everything I’d had on campus was already neatly arranged in my new space.

Kate had to have done this—that much was obvious. Granted, I went home so frequently I kept nothing in my dorm room besides some clothes and a few books, but still. Kate had clearly made an effort—I just didn’t know was if it was done out of consideration for me or out of an intense desire to be done with me permanently. As much as I wanted to, I didn’t have time to analyze Kate’s intentions. I had an assignment due at five, and I needed to get to work if I had any prayer of meeting the deadline. I sat down at the desk I assumed was mine and took out my laptop, happy to lose myself in numbers and formulas and things that made sense.

An hour into working, I opened the top desk drawer and reached inside, forgetting that my junk food stash wouldn’t be in there. Except it was—my hand closed around a bag which my eyes confirmed contained Reese’s Pieces. I no longer questioned why Kate moved my stuff for me. She was trying to make this transition as easy as possible for me while using the greatest pun ever to smooth things over between us. I picked up my phone and called her, knowing it would never be easier to reopen communication with her than it was right now.

“I’m guessing someone just opened his desk drawer.” There was a hint of laughter in her voice.

“I did. Thank you for the peace offering.”

“You mean the Reese’s Piece offering,” she corrected.

“Very clever.”

“I know you prefer Peanut Butter M&Ms, but they wouldn’t have been as funny.”

“The Reese’s Pieces were perfect. Kate, you didn’t have to do all this. Setting up my room for me? That had to take forever.”

“Angela and Irina helped; it wasn’t a big deal.”

And there it was—awkward silence.

“I…uh…” Presumably giving up any attempt to find the right words, Kate sighed.

“Will you have lunch with me tomorrow?” I asked.

“Are you sure you want me to?”

“Yes, but only if you don’t mind. I don’t want you to think I’m trying to use you. I know I’ve done that in the past–”

“That’s not fair; if anything, we used each other.”

She was right, but I still didn’t know how to respond to that. “Will I see you tomorrow?”

“Yes.”

“I’m looking forward to it.”

“I should get going.”

“Me, too. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. And thank you for…everything.”

“It’s what friends do. Bye.”

It wasn’t; Kate knew that as well I did. She’d been my friend, she’d been my lover, but even more than that, she’d been my crutch. In that moment, I knew that as much as I wanted to—as tempting as it would be—I couldn’t just go back to Bella, a realization which had nothing whatsoever to do with my dad’s threat and everything to do with a complete lack of trust. Not only did I not trust that she wouldn’t panic and leave me again, I didn’t trust myself not to make relationship concessions that would keep us together temporarily, but cause permanent detriment to my self-esteem.

Once I was certain I’d completed my assignment correctly, I used the same logic to identify what I’d been doing wrong in other aspects of my life. I’d now had two failed relationships, and both times I dove in without thinking. Since only one of them involved Bella, I couldn’t absolve myself of any responsibility for their respective demises. I decided my romanticism was my downfall; it compelled me to behave too impulsively.

My phone’s ringtone brought me out of my introspection, and I answered Bella’s call immediately. Though I’d decided to take things slowly, I still saw no need to make her wait.

“Hi, Bella.”

“Hey.” There was a six second pause. “It’s okay that I called you, isn’t it? I mean, you didn’t say that I could, but you didn’t tell me not to–”

“Call me whenever you want.”

“Really?” She sounded surprised.

“Really. Is there a reason you called or did you just want to talk?”

“I want to apologize.”

She paused again, and I wondered if she was as on edge as she seemed.

During the course of our relationship, I’d become fairly good at reading her body language, and I tried to imagine what she was doing. If she was moderately nervous, she’d be compulsively tucking her hair behind her ear or twirling her wine glass by its stem. If she was really freaked out, she’d be standing in her kitchen, rubbing her ankle with the ball of her foot—a habit she claimed she developed because balance didn’t come easily to her, and if she was standing on one foot, she had to put so much effort into not falling down, she’d usually forget she was nervous.

Talking to her on the phone was a good start in the sense that I didn’t have to worry that I’d be unable to resist the overwhelming temptation to touch her, but it also made it impossible for me to ascertain her comfort level. Unable to use her physical behavior as a guide. I found myself asking her a lot of questions, many of which made me feel like a bit of a douche.

“Generically or specifically?” This question was no exception.

“Both. I feel generic remorse, but I’d like to apologize for of the some things I said at the diner, specifically the comments I made about your girlfriend.”

“Kate isn’t my girlfriend.”

“You said that the other night. In fact, I believe that was the point where my insecurity won the battle against reason, resulting in the verbalization of some truly ugly sentiments. I don’t actually believe any of the things I said about either of you. If you consider her worthy of being in your life, then she is. The nature of the relationship you have with her is none of my business, and I’m sorry implied you were using her—or anyone else, for that matter—for sex. I was nervous and I had a visceral reaction to seeing you again that somehow manifested itself in word vomit, not that any of that is an excuse. I know you thought I was being possessive and hypocritical; that wasn’t my intention.”

“Oh?”

“I just don’t want you to end up like me.”

“I don’t understand.”

“That’s actually somewhat reassuring. Anyway, I am sorry.”

I didn’t doubt the sincerity of Bella’s contrition. I also suspected she’d apologize forever if I let her, but what I wanted more than anything was to move on. I wanted Bella and though I wasn’t sure how, I did know I didn’t want to go back. I wasn’t the same person now, and neither was she.

“I appreciate your apology, but going forward, I’d prefer it if we didn’t discuss sex or our failed attempt at a relationship with each other. I have no desire to revisit those days emotionally or otherwise.”

“I just feel like I have a lot to explain to you.”

“For whose benefit?”

“You’re right. I’m sorry.” She took a deep breath, and when she spoke again, her demeanor had changed completely. “Tell me about school. Are your classes what you’d thought they’d be? Have you declared a major? I’d like to hear everything.”

For the next two hours and four minutes, we talked. Though the topics were different, the mood was much like the night we met. Bella was playful and engaging, and I lost all awareness of everything I had to do, instead focusing on a single need that eclipsed all others—my need for her. The conversation finally began to slow, not because we’d exhausted our supply of topics, but because we exhausted ourselves.

“I’d completely forgotten,” I muttered, more to myself than to her.

“Forgotten what?”

“How much I enjoy talking to you.”

Bella assured me the feeling was mutual, and her subsequent actions supported this assertion. By the time the Stamp Act Trees dropped their leaves, we were talking almost daily. We spoke of everything and nothing, but never acknowledged our past. Soon it was the fourth Thursday in November, and I couldn’t pretend I didn’t know what day it was.

My Thanksgiving began the way it always had. Jack and Kitty arrived in the early afternoon and left at six, at which point my parents and I flopped in front of the TV to watch movies. I excused myself twenty minutes into the first film, citing physical exhaustion. In reality, I just wanted to check on Bella. I doubted I’d ever understand exactly what compelled her to behave the way she did, but I no longer labored under the erroneous assumption that I was the Thanksgiving Massacre’s only victim. Motivated by nothing more than a genuine desire to make sure she was all right, I called her. When she answered the phone, her voice broke under the weight of her sobs.

“I’m so sorry. I can’t tell you enough.”

On the anniversary of the day her mother left her, Bella was thinking about what she’d done to me. She wasn’t wallowing in self-pity, nor was she was perpetuating the cycle of abandonment by shutting me out. I no longer doubted that she had changed.

“It wasn’t your fault, Bella.” I didn’t say it to bring her comfort; I said it because it was the truth.


next





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  1. on 26 Mar 2010 at 6:50 pmTippyL

    Wow – Carlisle’s reaction to Edward’s admission was a little startling. Papa bear came out to play! I can see me behaving that way, actually. When I first starting reading AA5, I had that reaction. Thinking if edward was my son, I’d have a conniption if he was involved with a teacher. In that regard, I always thought Carlisle & Esme was so lax.

    Glad to see the beginning of Bella & Edward’s friendship.

    I don’t know if you ever want feedback, but there is a place where it says know but I think you meant no.

    Love the writing, as always.

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  2. on 26 Mar 2010 at 9:46 pmLynn

    I fully understand Carlilse’s reticence; no one wants to see their child go through something like that, then to watch them struggle to climb back, only to put themselves in the exact situation. If you touch the stove, and it burns you, you don’t touch it again. If you try to pick up your friend’s turtle, and it snaps at you, taking a bit of skin with it, you’re going to leave it alone. Edward doesn’t seem to have learned that.

    Although I said before, I think the rest of this story will be a good life lesson for us all. Too many people would rather harbor their anger or disappointment or general animosity than let it go and forgive the offender. I think he’s being incredibly wise in taking it slow; in AA5, for some reason, the timing seemed too quick to me, I couldn’t understand how he forgave her so readily and so quickly. I understand it was own sense of timing being skewed (I don’t have a metronome. I don’t have even an internal sun dial), but it’s making much better sense to me now.

    The Reese’s Piece offering was fantastic.

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  3. on 26 Mar 2010 at 9:48 pmLynn

    I fully understand Carlilse’s reticence; no one wants to see their child go through something like that, then to watch them struggle to climb back, only to put themselves in the exact situation. If you touch the stove, and it burns you, you don’t touch it again. If you try to pick up your friend’s turtle, and it snaps at you, taking a bit of skin with it, you’re going to leave it alone. Edward doesn’t seem to have learned that.

    Although I said before, I think the rest of this story will be a good life lesson for us all. Too many people would rather harbor their anger or disappointment or general animosity than let it go and forgive the offender. I think he’s being incredibly wise in taking it slow; in AA5, for some reason, the timing seemed too quick to me, I couldn’t understand how he forgave her so readily and so quickly. I understand it was own sense of timing being skewed (I don’t have a metronome. I don’t have even an internal sun dial, not that the sun’s been shining much in South Jersey anyhow lately), but it’s making much better sense to me now.

    The Reese’s Piece offering was fantastic.

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  4. on 27 Mar 2010 at 3:27 amkatydid13

    The Reese's Piece offering was great. It was kind of nice to see Carlilse get all parental. Everything he said is one reason I try not to confind the smaller relationship woes in my friends or parents because I get over them sooner and easier.

    I'm glad Edward has done some thinking too.

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  5. on 27 Mar 2010 at 12:47 pmJamie

    I am, as ever, in awe of your writing and understanding of these characters.

    Carlisle was perfect – "I'm not trying to piss on your Picasso" – made me snort with laughter. And Kate's peace offering was fantastic – you always get it perfect with the details. I'm so pleased to be reading Edward's part of the story.

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  6. on 27 Mar 2010 at 1:41 pmVivian DeLongpaw

    I am loving this…missing the ability to go back and forth between this and Art after 5, but I understand. I don't understand "Stamp Act Trees." It is just a reference I am not familiar with.
    Again. Thanks for sharing your writing with us, your grateful audience….
    -Viv-

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    sleepyvalentina reply:

    The Stamp Act Trees are explained here-
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  7. on 27 Mar 2010 at 10:59 amTippyL

    Ugh, I typed my review above on my iPhone, as I’m doing now. My grammatical error of “was” instead of “were” is comical in light of me correcting your typo. My sincere apologies.

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  8. on 27 Mar 2010 at 4:30 pmmichswan

    I am just dreading the impending demise of Carlisle. The part about Counterpoint I've loved the most is the interactions between father and son. I feel bad because I'm now not so sure that Edward didn't lie to Bella in AA5 — Carlisle hadn't forgiven her?!? So sad to even think about it…
    thanks for the update.

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  9. on 27 Mar 2010 at 5:24 pmlonestarkendall

    I think what I love most about your writing are the little nuances you give your characters. The reader learns so much more about them then just what's happening on the surface-in that moment.

    My favorite part of Counterpoint has been the interaction between Edward and his parents, specifically Carlisle. Through their relationship the reader can understand how Edward became the man he was. I also can't help but be envious of this parent/child relationship, if we all had parents like that to shape us when we were young–the possibilities. I mourn the moment that is coming, Carlisle's death.

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  10. on 27 Mar 2010 at 11:52 pmElizabeth440

    I so love the man Edward is becoming. He's still as every bit endearing and adorable as ever, but seeing him finally take responsibility for some of his misguided actions, regardless of how well-intentioned they were when he did them, is so satisfying after all he's been through. Your reference to the Stamp Act trees was such a gentle, symbolic nod to how he needs to protect himself.

    It was also a bit exciting to see Carlisle pull out the big guns. Yes, he's a good man and Esme has been a profound influence on him, but as Edward alluded to, he is his father's son just as Edward is Carlisle's. It is quite fitting that this story that so deftly uses personal histories as plot devices is set in a city so historically important. I love the irony of it.

    The two other things I was so pleased to read about were Edward and Kate's simple reconnection and Bella's tears of remorse on the date of the Thanksgiving Massacre. Edward and Kate deserve to have each other in their lives. Now more than ever, the Bella/Kate bathroom meeting was so necessary – Bella needed to see exactly who Kate was and why she was so important to Kate. I feel badly for ever viewing Kate in AA5 as an irritant.

    And then the phone call at the end. You so simply and elegantly (and with so few words) perfectly conveyed Edward's forgiveness and understanding and Bella's ownership of her mistake.

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  11. on 29 Mar 2010 at 2:09 amMojito Maven

    I am just now catching up on the most recent chapter! Brilliant as always!!! The ending phone call with Bella on Thanksgiving was heart wrenching, but I am so glad to see healing on all sides!!

    xoxo

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  12. on 29 Mar 2010 at 12:52 pmLiviaCullen

    I really really liked this chapter! As per usual, Carlisle and Edward completely own me!

    I'm really looking forward to your Carlisle/Esme (with the spiral perm) outtake!

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  13. on 02 Jan 2011 at 3:48 pmFancastride

    Taking it slow is a good thing.

    [Reply]