I worked to put our meal in the oven before slipping out the back and dialing my sister. When she picked up, the first thing she did was chastise me. “Aren’t you supposed to be on a date with my best friend, Edward Anthony?”
“I was but we ran into unforeseen circumstances,” I grumbled. “I need your help.”
“Unforeseen circumstances?” she asked.
“So, I had this fun date planned and we were having a great time until Bella saw a picture of herself. We went on an architectural tour of Chicago and before we got on the boat, the crew took our picture. Bella berated herself for being too fat. Anyhow, we talked through that…”
“What did you say, Edward?” Alice asked.
“I told her she was beautiful and special and definitely not fat! She slipped on a ‘mask’ and we went to the Lincoln Conservatory for the spring flower show,” I explained. “I tried to show her that she was the most precious thing to me and I almost had her believing it. Until we ran into Paul.”
“OOooooh, I hate that asshole,” Alice spat. “He did nothing to Bella but cut her down and make her feel less than special. I knew you were never a fan, but you didn’t see him in action when we went on double dates. He’d belittle everything that Bella did, calling her fat, ugly and stupid, and openly flirt with other women right in front of her. I’m almost certain that he went into a bathroom with some random skank a number of times to get it on with whatever slut was available since, according to Paul, Bella was a frigid bitch in the sack.”
“Makes me want to find him and beat the shit out of him,” I snarled. “How could he not see that Bella was…is an amazing, sexy, funny and gorgeous woman?!”
“Bella hides it well. She had moments where she’d lose it, but she pretended that his actions didn’t faze her. Obviously, they did. How much convincing did you have to do in order to get Bella to agree to date you? I mean, how long did you try to woo her?”
“Did you just say woo?” I snorted.
“Yes, I did. Now, answer the question,” Alice said flatly.
“It started around the benefit and continued until her accident. After she fell, she pushed me away,” I frowned. “She pushed everyone away.”
“Bella is so hesitant to trust men. It all stems from her ex-boyfriends. They fucking used her and emotionally abused her. Jasper and I tried to explain to her that the relationships she was in were not healthy, but Bella was so desperate for some sort of love that she’d take anything that was given to her,” Alice sighed.
“Why? I know that Charlie and Renee love her and that our entire family wants to freaking adopt her,” I snorted.
“She wanted you, Edward. She always wanted you but she was terrified that you’d turn her away because in her mind, you were the ideal,” Alice explained. “Yes, we teased her about getting together with you since you two already acted like a couple, but that was Bella trying to maintain the friendship when all she wanted was you to want her. To love her.”
“And I do want her. I do love her, Alice,” I whispered.
“I know you do, but you can’t tell her. Not yet. If you do, Bella will…” she trailed off. “Bella will freak out. I just know it. She has to be ready to hear it. Right now, she’s afraid that everything that she’s experiencing is a dream. She’s waiting for you to change into one of those assholes. We both know that will not happen, but Bella is waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
“So, how do I show her that I’m not going anywhere? That I’m not going to use her?”
“Just keeping being you, Edward. Out of all of us, you are the most loving. I think that’s why Mom dotes on you the most,” Alice giggled. “Make her feel special. Spoil her with your attention.”