Edward was anxious to go home. There was a serious discussion that needed to take place between he and Rose, and though he wasn’t looking forward to it, he was anxious to be done with it. He wasn’t planning on ending his engagement to Rose because Bella gave him an ultimatum; the conversation he’d had with Bella earlier that evening had been the impetus for his decision. As Bella stood before him—flushed and earnest, clutching his jacket around her shoulders—Edward realized he got more pleasure from simply being in Bella’s company than he did from actually being in Rose. He knew the timing was bad, but also acknowledged that as far as the demise of a long-term relationship was concerned, there was no such thing as a good time to do it. He might as well just get it over with.
His decision made, Edward turned his attention to his soon-to-be-ex fiancèe. For the first time in recent memory, he found himself carefully studying the statuesque blond to whom he had pledged his troth. Her blonde hair was pulled into a tight chignon at the nape of her neck, showcasing the bones in her long neck and slim shoulders. In a black velvet evening gown with deep red lips, she evoked the classic beauty of a Hitchcock heroine. Her posture was perfect and her manners flawless, and even after all these years, Edward couldn’t help but be impressed by her. After all, there was a great deal Rose had accomplished.
Though the glass ceiling was beginning to become a thing of the past, Edward wouldn’t deny that women in business had a distinct disadvantage to their male counterparts. He’d observed this himself, on multiple occasions, and it only intensified when the female in question was attractive. Regardless of education or professional achievements, women like Rose were often taken about as seriously as Barbie dolls, and Rose was not an exception.
If Rose had been manufactured by Mattel, she would be marketed as MBA Barbie (Wharton degree and MENSA membership card included, pants suit and sensible heels optional). Take her out of the box and remove her accessories, she was no different from Malibu Barbie. She would still be objectified as nothing more than a body designed to be dressed, undressed and posed according to the capricious whims of the infantile. Though the individuals who wanted to play with Rose were far more likely to shop at Brooks Brothers than Gymboree, the end result was the same. Despite her impressive resume and numerous professional accomplishments, Rose constantly had to prove herself capable.
In spite of this, Rose was incredibly successful. Her looks closed some doors for her and opened others, but her mind made most of this irrelevant. She could out man the men with whom she worked, and as a result, she was significantly harder (and colder) than the naturally pretty and somewhat shy scholarship student who had intrigued Edward so greatly during their senior year at Cornell. Edward knew underneath Rose’s intense drive to succeed, that girl—the quiet one with the mousy brown hair who was determined to rise above her humble beginnings—was in there somewhere.
This is why despite more recent events, Edward had nothing but respect, admiration and genuine affection for Rose. He was proud of everything she had accomplished, even if he felt he no longer knew her. With his eyes remained fixed on her, he tried to picture his future. Ever since he lost his parents, Edward had wanted a family of his own with a desperation he could not articulate. Try as he may, he no longer saw this as something he could have with Rose.
For this, he blamed Bella. Edward did not cling to the romantic idea that because he was committed to one woman, he would never feel sexually or emotionally attracted to another. To him, monogamy meant wanting one’s partner more than anyone else, not exclusively. Still, he felt romantic relationships should have a component of intense passion and bona fide sexual need. He no longer felt either of these things for Rose. In the car ride home from the party, Edward decided to end his engagement not because of the longing he felt for Bella, but because of the absence of such longing for Rose.
Edward could tell from Rose’s body language she wanted to fight with him, but he was determined not to give her the satisfaction. Regardless of how they felt now, he did not wish for their five-year relationship to be reduced to a screaming match. He was better than that; Rose was better than that. Edward could do this civilly, provided Rose kept her temper in check. She was known to hit below the belt, and Edward knew that if she did so that evening—if she attacked his character or even worse, Bella’s—all bets were off.
They made their way home in relative silence. Rose pushed her way ahead of Edward when they arrived in front of their building, rushing inside with the speed of a track star as he trailed behind her. Consequently, Edward was not yet completely inside their apartment when Hurricane Rose made landfall.
“What the fuck was that about?” she seethed.
Without meeting her gaze, he brushed past her and went to the kitchen, where he poured himself three fingers of whiskey. Liquid courage, he thought to himself as he took a sip. When he looked up from his glass, Rose was standing in front of him in nothing but a strapless bra and Spanx, fuming.
“Is something wrong?” he asked, trying to gauge the extent of her anger.
“I don’t know darling, perhaps you could tell me.”
Rose sneered her endearment as if it were an obscenity, and ostensibly it was. Traditionally, this was how she and Edward fought—with superficial politeness and restraint, using the same words more functional couples uttered to express affection as alliterated euphemisms for what they were really thinking.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Edward said, shrugging.
“Then allow me to enlighten you.” Rose dropped her voice an octave, mimicking Edward’s tone from earlier that evening. “‘You are hardly an innocent party.’ Care to fill me in on what you meant and why you felt making a statement such as that was appropriate at my company Christmas party?”
Rose knew exactly what Edward meant; he was accusing her of having an affair with Emmett. Though she wouldn’t deny her attraction to Emmett, she found it incredibly insulting that Edward would think she would ever act on it. Her relationship status notwithstanding, she had enough stacked against her at work without being the whore who slept her way to the top. If Edward thought so little of her, the least he could do was tell her directly and to her face.
Edward didn’t want to take the bait, but ultimately couldn’t resist. He placed the back of his hand against Rose’s forehead. “Are you certain you’re not ill, love?”
“I feel fine, and you know it,” she snapped, smacking him away. “Stop trying to change the subject.”
“I’m not changing the subject. You’re clearly not yourself this evening. Usually, when you dish it out, you can take it. You started this when you implied I’d behaved inappropriately with Bella. Don’t insult my intelligence by pretending otherwise.”
“Oh, I can take it.”
“Bella thinks you and Emmett are having an affair.”
Rose rolled her eyes, not at Edward’s accusation, but at how he’d come to his erroneous conclusion. “Bella would.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“You’re right, it isn’t. I’m not going to dignify your accusation—because let’s be real here, it was not a question—with a response.”
“It doesn’t matter, anyway. I’m done.”
Edward was referring to his relationship with Rose. Of course, Rose didn’t realize this.
“Good. You won’t win anyway.” Rose stormed off to the bathroom, leaving Edward to contemplate her statement.
For the first time that evening, Edward thought Rose was completely right. He made his way to his bedroom and pulled a suitcase out of his closet. There no sense in prolonging the inevitable. Even though he owned the apartment, he was willing to go to a hotel for a few days while he worked out the logistics of a split with Rose. He changed out of his tuxedo and packed enough clothing to get him through the week. When he was certain he had everything he needed, he sat on the edge of the bed and waited for Rose to emerge from the bathroom. Fifteen minutes later, he was out of patience. He walked to the bathroom and tapped on the door.
There was no answer.
“Rose, are you all right?”
Hearing nothing, he opened the door slowly. Rose was sitting on the toilet in just her strapless bra, clutching her abdomen. He knew something was wrong, but the shock he felt at the sight before him paralyzed him. Not knowing what else to do, he stupidly repeated himself.
“Are you all right?”
“I think I need to go to the hospital,” Rose whispered. “I’m bleeding.”