“Edward, I’m…don’t,” she whispered. “It’s hard for me to see past what I was after James ruined me. Yes, my hair has grown back. I’ve gained back the weight and I don’t look like a zombie. But, I’m still trying to see the beauty in myself. I’m better than I was. God, that first year after the attack, I wore huge clothes and didn’t really make an effort.”
“Bella, I know that we haven’t known each other long, but when I look at you, I see absolute beauty,” I said sincerely. She snorted and rolled her eyes. “I see your gorgeous brown eyes that tell of your sadness and of your happiness. I see a woman with clear porcelain skin that blushes like pink rose petals when she’s flustered or embarrassed. Your hair is the color of rich mahogany that falls in beautiful curls. But, that’s nothing Bella. Your true beauty comes from inside. Your selfless nature. Your snarky attitude. Your sense of humor. Your talent. Your intelligence and ingenuity. Your love for my baby girl. Shit, you’ve been more of a mother to Emma than my hateful ex-wife. Bella, you’re the whole package. I have said before and will continue saying it until you actually believe it, but you are beautiful. In my eyes, you’re perfect. Courageous. Strong. Amazing. And as cheesy as this sounds, you complete me.”
“Did you just quote Tom Cruise?” Bella asked, arching a brow.
“I did and I will do it again. I’ll start breaking out in ‘You Lost That Loving Feeling,’ from Top Gun,” I laughed. I love you. Please let me love you. “Bella, what can I do to get you to believe me?”
“Let me process it,” she answered honestly. “Give me time to let what you said to me sink in. But, I may always have these lingering insecurities. I’m scarred, Edward. I don’t like my body. Because of what he did to me. The physical scars are horrific but the emotional ones cut deeper.”
“I know about the scar behind your ear,” I said as I caressed behind her ear. “But what else?” I dreaded hearing the answer but I wanted to know. I needed to know what he did to her. How did he hurt the woman that I have now grown to love unconditionally.
“Well, that’s one. I had my head shaved in the hospital for the shunt. Growing that out was a complete pain in the ass. My head itched something awful,” she grumbled. “Though, for awhile I had a cute little pixie cut, like Alice’s. But it didn’t suit me. Anyhow, you’ve also seen the scar on my wrist from when he broke that. In regards to the incident, I have scars on my belly from surgeries that the doctors had to perform to address internal bleeding. I also have a scar along my bikini line from my emergency c-section to remove my dead baby from my body.”
“I’m so sorry, Bella,” I whispered as I got off the highway. I parked in a nearby fast food joint to look at her. “I can’t even imagine…”
“Neither can I,” she whispered. “I was in a coma. My dad had medical power of attorney while I was unconscious…” Her eyes closed and a few tears slipped out. I parked the car and got out. Opening the passenger side, I crouched in front of her. She sobbed quietly, her face buried in her hands. I wrapped my arms around her tiny frame. She turned and clutched at my coat, crying into my coat. “I wouldn’t wish what I went through on my worst enemy. No mother should lose their child. I never even got to mourn him.”
“A boy?” I whispered. She nodded. I pulled back and took her face in my hands. “Have you ever considered having a funeral for your son?”
“He’s long since been ‘disposed of,’” Bella spat.
“That’s true but having a funeral might give you some closure that you need, love,” I suggested. “A headstone to place flowers on. Something tangible for you to visit and think about. I don’t know. I may be wrong in my thinking but…”
“No, it’s brilliant,” she muttered. “Can you help me?”
“I’ll do whatever you want, Bella,” I said as I kissed her forehead. “What was his name?”
“Charles Matthew Swan,” Bella replied. “I named him in honor of my dad. Not that he knew or anything, but that’s my baby’s name.”
“We’ll get everything arranged, Bella. Charles will get his proper burial,” I said as smoothed her hair.
“Matty is what I called him in my mind,” Bella smiled. “Charlie is my dad. Matty is my son.”
“You’ll get to say goodbye to Matty, Bella. I promise you.”
“Thank you, Edward,” she said quietly, staring into my eyes. “You…you have given me the greatest thing anyone could. Closure. Thank you, so much.”
“Anything to help you, baby,” I whispered. “I want you to be happy. Obviously not saying goodbye to Matty weighs heavily on your soul and if giving him a funeral will lift some of that burden then I’ll help you do that. I’ll try to get the arrangements done while your dad is in town. Okay?”She nodded and wrapped her arms around my neck, peppering my face with kisses. “As much as I appreciate your kisses, love, I need to get up. I’m old and my knees are barking,” I chuckled.