Chapter 9 – Love Me or Leave Me

Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer & Little Brown Publishing own all rights

EPOV

The next morning, Rose and I shared a quiet breakfast together. Before I left we shared a slow, lingering goodbye against the frame of the front door. I didn’t want to leave. It seemed as if it was getting harder to say goodbye to her, harder to be apart from her. With a sigh and a promise to call her later, I got in the Fleetwood and Emmett drove me to my place. After a shower and a change of clothes, I made myself some coffee and turned on the radio. As “Love Me or Leave Me” filled the apartment, I sat down at my desk to start studying the only real clue I had, the diary. It was a small book, very dainty and ladylike, and it had to have been a relatively pricey little journal when purchased. The red leather bound edges were worn at the corners from what must have been the result of many entries, written in haste or anger, and maybe, hopefully, a little love. I snorted at myself.

You’re turning into a sap, Cullen.

I nodded my head at the truth of my own internal chastising and took out a notebook from the top drawer. With my pen in hand, I was ready to jot down anything noteworthy I found. Reaching for my smokes, I lit one and leaned back in my chair. I opened the cover, and wondered what secrets this delicate little red book would reveal.

I met the most amazing man in the park the other day. I’d been sitting by the lake, daydreaming about everything and nothing when I was rudely interrupted by a dog bounding up to me and licking my face. Laughing, I threw my arms around her neck, she was so sweet. I looked around in search for the owner when the most handsome man I had ever laid eyes on came running toward me. Apologizing left and right, he grabbed the dog and slipped the leash around her neck. I was expecting him to lead the dog away and for our encounter to end but instead he sat next to me and asked my name. Shyly, I told him it was Maria. After he introduced himself, we sat and talked for what seemed like minutes but was really hours. I thought he might not want to sit on the ground, considering that his suit looked expensive but he didn’t seem to mind at all. The sun began to set low in the sky and he said that he had to get home for supper.

We stood and I started walking toward the statue, on my way home. He headed with Leah (the dog) in the other direction.

I was sad that I wouldn’t see him again.

I was quite a distance away when I turned to look back. I figured that he’d be long gone. Instead he was standing there, Leah at his side, looking at me. When he saw me turn, they ran toward me and when he reached me he asked if I would meet him again by the lake in a week’s time.

I’m meeting him again tomorrow.

I wonder if he’s been thinking about me as much as I’ve been thinking about him.

The first thing that struck me as peculiar, was there was no date on the entry, not even a day of the week. I groaned in annoyed frustration, that would make my job much fucking harder. Secondly, I thought Dad said her name was Marie, not Maria. I certainly didn’t like knowing that she had lied to my parents about her name. I grimaced as I jotted down both names and put a question mark beside them, quickly deciding to call Dad later and clarify. Maybe I’d heard him wrong, though that seemed unlikely. And where was the mysterious stranger’s name? It didn’t make sense that she would include the dog’s name, but not his? I jotted down the name of the dog, Leah and turned the page to begin the next entry. I hoped it would supply me with a name for her “friend.”

***

I was looking through the Chicago Tribune yesterday while it was slow at work and nearly fainted when I came across a picture of him.

In the society pages.

With his wife.

He’s married.

And it’s not to me.

I don’t even know what to say. I’ve cried more tears than I ever thought possible and I’m completely numb. Every time my mind even starts thinking about him, the tears start falling again. HOW COULD HE DO THIS? How…

I’m supposed to meet him this evening by the lake. And I will. To tell him that I never want to see him again.

Maria was an unwitting mistress, eh? I grew even more suspicious of the story she told Mom and Dad. Years on the job had taught me sex and love were not mutually exclusive. Crimes of passion were more common than burglary. The society pages might be helpful, I’d be able to go to the library and check the Tribune archives. I grumbled again when I remembered I didn’t have a date to work with. I decided to keep going, I had to dig deeper.

I haven’t seen him in four months. Haven’t written about him in four months. Haven’t stopped thinking about him in four months, despite the fact that he is married.

Last night, I went to the spot by the lake where we used to meet. I sat on the browning grass and thought about the conversations we had. The times we’d spent together. I sat there and twirled a piece of dead grass in my hand, my head lowered and staring at my lap. Thinking about what a fool I’d been.

A wet nose pushed into my hands and I looked up to see Leah and him standing in front of me.

He told me he was sorry. Told me that he was born into a world and a life that didn’t understand him the way that I did. He told me that he had been betrothed to the woman he was married to for what seemed like forever and how she was horrible and controlling and how he never felt free when he was with her. Not like he felt when he was with me.

I didn’t know what to say, because I didn’t want him to leave, but I wasn’t really supposed to want him to stay. He sat down on the grass next to me and he leaned back on his elbows. In silence, we watched as the park cleared of children and their moms, heading home for supper. He told me he wanted to have children one day, a son to pass along his railroad business and fortune to but he didn’t think that it would happen. I asked him why and he told me it was because his wife was having trouble. I asked him what kind of trouble but he didn’t really want to talk about that. So instead, I told him about my family and how little money we had and how we struggled with my father off at war. I told him how I felt like a burden to my mother. I told him that even though he was married, I couldn’t stop thinking about him and I looked in the paper every day for a glimpse of him.

He told me he’d come here every day on his walk with Leah looking for me.

Then he looked around to see if anyone was watching us. I started to ask what he was doing when he took me by surprise and leaned over and kissed me; I felt like I was falling. My head hit the earth below me and he was there, holding me and whispering things and it was perfect.

And for awhile, I was able to forget that he had a wife. And that it wasn’t me.

On the note pad, I made a column titled “coward” and wrote down what I now knew of him. He was important enough to be mentioned in the Tribune’s society pages. He was involved in the rail industry, and he was married to a controlling wife who, it sounds like, wasn’t able to conceive. He was miserable with his life, so he decided playing with the emotions of a young naive girl might make him feel better. Class act. I could feel my blood pressure going up little by little. I was beginning to doubt Maria‘s story about being raped, and I had a bad feeling about where this was going.

We made love!

He came to the dry cleaner’s on Tuesday, which was something I wasn’t expecting because we very rarely saw each other besides at the lake. Sometimes we’d randomly meet at places and I’d have to pretend that I didn’t know him. But on Tuesday, he just walked right into the cleaner’s and it was pretty empty because I was just getting ready to close the shop. He looked upset and I asked what was wrong and he said that he didn’t want to talk about what was wrong, only about what was right. He asked if I could close the shop and I did, locking the front door before leading him into the back room. I turned to put some of the chemicals away and when I turned back he was right there and I could feel him and his breath and his hands. I wanted him closer and closer.

There’s a small cot in the back room and I laid down on it, trying to look like one of those pin-up girls I’d seen in the magazines. He looked at me and asked me if I knew what I was doing and I laughed because I didn’t. And he said that I looked prettier than the flowers that bloom in spring. I’m pretty sure I blushed at his compliments but then we were kissing and his hands were between my knees so I forgot about being embarrassed and just concentrated on being with him.

I’m so lucky.

My blood pressure? It went through the fucking roof then and there. She’d been so thoroughly duped by that manipulative bastard. No man would treat someone he claimed to love that way, on a cot in the back room of a dry cleaners. That wasn’t making love. He’d fucked her, plain and simple. It was so cheap and tawdry, so disrespectful. Yet through her words, it was clear to see that she was glowing with blind love and innocent youth. It made me want to retch. Thank God there was a knock at my door to distract me. I snuffed out the cigarette that had almost burned out on it’s own and went to the door. A quick glance through the peephole told me it was Rose. My mood did a complete turn around as I opened the door. I smiled, pleasantly surprised to see her and what looked like lunch from Hwang’s in her arms.

“I thought you might be…hungry,” she said with pouty, red lips and a quirked brow. My arm snaked out into the hallway and pulled her into the apartment, and up against me. I pushed the door shut over her head with one hand.

“You thought right,” I whispered into her ear. The scent of her perfume was just as mouthwatering as the smell of the sesame chicken she’d brought with her, and I found myself suddenly wondering if she’d be dessert.

She wiggled her way out of my grasp and went toward the kitchen. I went back to my desk and sat down so I’d have a good view of her as she moved about the tiny kitchenette and fixed my plate. She was wearing a lavender colored dress today, and her hair was pulled up on the sides, but hung down her back in tumble of flaxen sunshine. Her hips swayed as she moved and the drape of her dress accentuated the sloping curve from her waist over her rear. I enjoyed the view like a cat watches a saucer of milk, and when she turned around with my plate and a bottle of Coke in her hands it was obvious where I’d been staring. She smiled and I thought for a moment she might have been stifling a giggle. She sat the plate and Coke down on the desk and caressed my cheek before she started to turn and walk away. I caught her wrist and pulled her onto my lap.

“How did I survive before you, baby? You bring me lunch and make sure there’s coffee in the joint. I’ve never had it so good.” It was true and I wanted her to know how much I appreciated her taking care of me.

“I’m sure you survived just fine,” she retorted. “The only difference is, now you have clean shirts,” she teased with a playful shrug.

I pursed my lips and pushed her up and off of my lap. “Go fix your plate before it gets cold, doll,” I said and slapped her square on the ass. Smart alec.

She got her plate and pulled up a chair next to me. We chatted about how things were going at La Bella, but she didn’t mention Jasper. I wondered if she’d come any closer to a decision, but decided against asking her about it. Sometimes Rose needed space and time to sort things out. She knew I’d be here when she needed to talk. She asked me about the diary and I gave her a rundown of everything I’d learned so far.

“I still have to finish reading it,” I explained. “I’m hoping I’ll find a name or a date further in.”

“Don’t worry, Edward. You’ll figure it out. You always do,” she said with complete confidence. I grinned down at my shoes. There really was nothing like the love of a good woman to boost you up. Nothing like a woman who believes in you, no matter what. She picked up our plates and I stood up quickly, trying to stop her.

“Let me take them, Rose. You’ve done enough for me for one day,” I urged. She only laughed at me.

“Sit down, you. It’s fine. You get back to work, I’ll just clean this up and read my book on the bed while you work.”

“Sounds boring,” I countered.

“It won’t be,” she replied. I started to speak again, but she silenced me with a finger on my lips.

“Finish the diary, because later, I’d like to have your undivided attention.”

My eyes went wide.

That’s my demanding little vixen.

I sat back down and picked up the diary, dead serious and much more motivated to finish it and take my notes. I skimmed over the last entry and jotted down the only clue it had afforded, she worked at a dry cleaners. The next entry held nothing notable, so I started flipping through the pages. The next several pages chronicled secret rendezvous after secret rendezvous. They always went somewhere they wouldn’t be seen, secluded parks and dive bars and restaurants. Nothing really of particular consequence, but the next entry tugged on my un-tuggable heartstrings.

I know I haven’t written in here in a few months.

I turned 19 and my life fell apart. My father is dead. My mom got notice a month ago, right after my birthday. She hasn’t stopped crying. I wish I knew what to do and what to tell her. But I’m dealing with something of my own. I wasn’t sure who to tell…

I think I’m pregnant.

I threw my head back in exasperation. My suspicions were correct. She hadn’t been raped. I was relieved she hadn’t suffered the trauma of a sexual assault, but sometimes I fucking hated being right. I scribbled down her age, nineteen, and the death of her father, and, of course, the pregnancy.

Knew that was coming, Cullen. Just didn’t come the way she’d said it did.

The coward had knocked her up. I reached for my smokes and lit one. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Rose pull down the Murphy bed, a thick copy of Gone With The Wind in her hand. She plopped herself down, laying on her stomach and kicked off her heels. I noted the sloping curve of her ass again, I couldn’t help it. I shook my head and forced my eyes back to the diary and on to the next entry.

There’s a clinic that I’m going to check out. He keeps telling me that he’ll send me to doctors but I think it’s best if I cut off all ties from him. He’s told me about his wife and she sounds like she would bring harm to me and possibly the baby if she ever found out. I can’t have him taking money to give to me and I can’t risk her finding out about us. It’s too dangerous. For nearly two years I’ve heard about her and the things she’s done and I know that she doesn’t sound right in the head.

I’ll have to see what I can find out about this clinic. I’ll probably have to make up a story but it’s better than the alternative. I really don’t have any other choices.

Well, it was obvious that she was afraid of the wife. At least that explained why she’d come up the elaborate lie she’d told my parents. I guess I couldn’t blame the poor girl for doing what she thought she had to to protect herself and her child. I scribbled out wife, reputation for being cruel, possible mental disorder? My list of clues had grown over the course of the day. And when I looked over at Rosie, the list wasn’t the only thing that grew.

She’d flipped over onto her back and had scooted high up on the bed with her legs in the air, her feet resting on the wall. The skirt of her dress was gathered up around the top of her thighs, putting her garter belt and stockings on full teasing display for me. My jaw clenched.

What is she doing? She knows I need to focus, dammit.

“Not very lady-like, doll,” I scolded with a smirk. She looked away from her book and stuck her tongue out at me.

“Get back to work, you,” she shot back and I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Yes ma’am,” I said earnestly, taking one last lingering look at her luscious gams sheathed in silk and forced my eyes back to the diary.

What a change of events!

I’m living with Dr. Cullen and his wife. I met him at the clinic and told him a story about how a man took advantage of me after work one night. I’m not proud of this lie but I felt that it was necessary so that I could remain in hiding from him.

I decided to tell them my name was Marie. It’s not far from Maria and that way I wouldn’t get confused as I probably would have had I chosen something completely different. I feel awful lying to them, they are such kind and generous people. But I feel like I need to do this for the sake and safety of this baby.

I’ve spoken about this with Dr. Cullen and he’s found the baby a happy and safe home. We went to the couple’s home the other day and everything is waiting for this baby’s arrival. I know that they will be the perfect parents for him (in my mind, it’s a boy) and be able to give him everything I’m not able to provide. I wish that I had the means to take care of him but I don’t.

Once he is born, I think I’ll be going to live with some family in Indiana. They don’t know about the pregnancy and I have hidden it from my mother, who was still a shell of herself. 

I still think about him. Still dream about him holding me in his arms and caressing my belly, our baby kicking at his hands. If only things were different. If only we’d been two different people, in a different time. We were meant to be together but fate and circumstance had other plans for the both of us. I’ll remain forever his in my heart, even if we can no longer be together.

I wonder if he’s thinking about me. About us.

Not bloody likely, I thought to myself as I turned the page. It was blank. I flipped through the rest of the book. The remaining pages were all blank, that was that last entry and I already knew that part of the story from Dad. I shut the diary and looked at Rose. She was still laying there with her feet resting up on the wall like a Varga pin-up painting. I decided I was done working for the day and I wanted those legs wrapped around me. I stood and crawled onto the bed beside her. I took the book from her hands and tossed on the bed next to us. Her surprised eyes tried to read me but I didn’t give her a chance to ask questions.

“You have my undivided attention now, baby doll,” I murmured huskily before I kissed her senseless. I was ready for my dessert.