“I loved you, I still do. But I don’t think I’m in love with you…”
That’s how the conversation ended. It hurt both of them to hear the words come out of her mouth. Words they never thought would happen, not in an eternity. But she said them and it’s the final crack in a window. It feels like things have shattered. She felt like she had failed not only their marriage, but everything they had ever worked towards.
They were fighting now, something they use to never do. It started with Edward forgetting to unpack their shared book collection after moving once again. They had decided to move back to Forks for a short time. The others were taking their own time off to travel and visit old friends. They would join together in a few months. But it had been a month since being back and things still weren't done. Every time Bella wanted to try decorating, Edward shut it down saying it wouldn't look good or there was a better place for something. Whenever Edward would play on the baby grand piano they had managed to squeeze into the living room, Bella would leave. The once soft notes were like ice picks in her ears.
It wasn't getting any better. They found themselves yelling and purposely avoiding each other just for a moment of peace. One would go hunting without the other just to give them both a break. It was never like this before. But the words came out of Bella's mouth and felt like the metaphorical final nail in the coffin.
“Edward, please say something.” Bella pleads. She’s stood in their living room, in their cottage, that their family made for them, feeling so alone. If she could cry, Bella would probably do so. Instead, she’s wringing her hands and trying to be patient. But Edward is just standing there. There’s a look in his golden eyes that she had only seen once so, so many years ago in another life in Volterra. It’s the look he had when he thought he lost everything, lost her. “We could try therapy, most couples try it at least once.” Bella doesn’t know what else to do or say except to drop her shield. He has to know she still cares for him and does love him and to please, please see she doesn’t want it to be this way.
Edward sucked in a sharp breath when he could finally see into Bella’s mind. He can see himself standing in front of her. He can see his own pain spread clearly over his face. It takes him a moment to reel back from that and see what Bella is trying to say. She’s thinking about the first time she ever saw him those decades ago. She thinks about the first time he touched her when she was almost crushed by Tyler’s van. She thinks about their first date, first kiss, first dance at their wedding, their first night together, the first time she saw him after turning. She’s thinking so many things at once just to show him she’s always loved him. She doesn’t want to hurt him. One memory surfaces and he can feel the anguish she felt the same day.
It was about 20 years ago. Give or take a month, it didn’t really matter. Bella was sitting in the snow with Jacob, watching Renesmee as always. Renesmee was turning 20 in a month and still Bella was in awe of her existence. Bella loved her daughter fiercely, though maybe not in the same way all mothers love. She loved Renesmee for what she represented, what she was a reminder of. A reminder of her human life and finally being able to be with Edward for eternity. A reminder that the things you want can always change. You can come to love the things you get. But what if you no longer loved what you had? The thought had slipped into her mind unexpectedly.
Bella had almost been shaken by the thought. Jacob had even noticed and asked if everything was alright. Bella had shaken her head. “Yeah, just remembered something.” Jacob hadn’t pressed. Bella had forgotten a lot of things over the years like they all would. Sometimes fragments would pop up and she would remember the name of a classmate or the smell of her dad’s cologne. It was normal for vampires, especially those as old as she was now.
But this thought had left a sour taste in her mouth and made her uneasy. Of course she would always love Edward and love the life she had now. She would always love getting to be with the person who was her soulmate forever. How could she think anything else?
Edward could see and feel how unnerved Bella was by that simple thought. He could see the numerous others that seemed to join.
Was watching my dad and mom and classmates die worth living forever?
Was one day possibly losing my daughter and best friend worth it?
Did I even want this life, really? Or was it something new, something different than my mundane human life?
Would I have wanted to be with Edward if my blood hadn’t called to him?
If it weren’t for Renesmee, would we have even made it past the first few years?
Would I have really wanted to be turned?
Did I love him or love the idea of being with him? Being wanted?
Does he even remember my favorite color?
It was nearly suffocating. “Is that what you’ve been dealing with all this time?” Edward finally spoke. Bella could only nod. He knew the answer. Her shield came back up in a rush, like a rubber band breaking. Edward flinched from the mental shove.
“Sorry.” Bella says. Her voice is barely a whisper. Her hands are still moving, her fingers playing with her wedding ring.
Even without her thoughts, Edward can see she’s mentally and physically torn about this. It’s hurting her just as much as it hurts him. “Couples therapy, that’s what you want to do?” He can’t believe he’s really entertaining the idea. But with the way Bella perks up just a tiny bit and nods, he’s at least willing to try. "Your favorite color is brown, by the way."
The first session is pretty standard. So is the next one, and the next, and the next. Soon, they’ve been in therapy together and separately for six months. The others want to know where they disappear to every Wednesday around the same time. They don’t ever say and with the look Esme gives anyone who tries to push it, they don’t ask more.
It’s hard to navigate through the therapy without exposing themselves. They can talk about how they met (high school lab partners), when they met (junior year), when they got married (right out of high school), did they have children (one, a daughter) and how long they were together before that (a year, sort of). The last answer surprises the therapist. “What do you mean, sort of?” She asked in session three.
They had shared a small look before Edward spoke. “I broke up with Bella right after her eighteenth birthday. I moved away for a few months, family issues and all that. We got back together that next spring.” The look on the therapist’s face is one of surprise yet understanding.
“And you were married that fall, correct?” They had nodded their agreement. Bella could easily see where this was going. But the therapist did not press for more until later on. She had asked if she could start doing sessions with them one on one. They could keep their normal time and day of the week, but part of the session would be only Bella, then Edward, then they would come together at the end. They had agreed with the condition they would share what they both talked about at the end no matter what it was. No matter how much it would hurt the other.
Bella’s first solo session was full of questions she hadn’t ever asked herself.
How did it feel when Edward broke up with her right after her birthday? “It felt like a piece of me had been taken. He took everything with him. I wasn’t really a person while he was gone.”
What made it so hard for you to move on? “He became my world. We had plans, things we were going to do and see.”
How did that affect your other relationships? “I…,” Bella had to think hard on that one. She couldn’t remember any other relationships she had during that time. She knew she had friends, though she didn’t spend time with them. She had Jacob, but that was a whole other thing. “I don’t know. I didn’t really talk to anyone then.”
Why were you so willing to get back in a relationship with him if this is what happened the first time? Bella didn’t know the answer. How could she explain it to this woman who probably would never experience what she did? How could she explain Edward and the world he lived in became her day and night, her life and breath? How could she explain she was so ready to give up her own life if it meant being with him?
How did she forgive him so easily, so quickly? That one was her own question.
Edward’s session went much the same. Questions he knew were coming because he could see them spring up into the therapist’s mind before she even registered them. It should have given him more time to answer, to come up with answers. But it didn’t. Instead, he was asked things he had already asked of himself before Bella had turned.
Did you ever tell Bella why you left? “I did. She understood.”
Did you two ever speak about it after you came back? “No.”
How did leaving make you feel? Did you want to go? “No.” Had been his immediate response. He hadn’t wanted to go. He had wanted to be with Bella for every second of her human life, watching her live and grow and change.
What made you come back? Did you always plan to come back? “No.” Immediate response. It was the truth. He hadn’t planned to. Maybe he would have gone back a decade later just to see how Bella was doing, see if she was happy. But his original plan had been to never bother her again, to never bring danger into her life again.
Then why did you? Edward had faltered. The answer wasn’t a simple one. Could he tell this woman about Bella cliff diving? Could he tell her about Alice’s vision seeing Bella disappear and assuming she was dead? Could he tell her about his attempted suicide? Could he even begin to explain it to himself?
Would they be where they were if he hadn’t called Charlie’s phone? Would they be here if Jacob hadn’t answered, if he had just been a little patient and seen Alice’s vision of Bella alive?
When they came together at the end of the session, it felt like maybe things weren't as simple as they thought they were.
Codependency is what they were told was one of the issues. They relied on each other more than what was considered healthy. It was evident from their sort of one year relationship prior to marriage. They were married so young and had a child quickly after, no one could blame them for relying so heavily on each other. But it wasn’t doing many favors for them now.
Bella and Edward had lied and said they were married for ten years, though the truth was more than quadruple that. They had decided beforehand that ten years was probably long enough for humans to have the problem they were having. Ten years seemed to be okay enough for how old Renesmee would be if human too. The therapist had assured them ten years of codependency was more harmful than helpful, especially with a child who relied on them as examples.
Bella hadn’t even thought of what Renesmee thought of her parents. A twinge in her chest bloomed at the thought. Renesmee would be in a similar situation to what she was with her parents. Definitely not to same as her daughter was technically in her forties even though she looked half that. But having your parents have issues would affect you in one way or another. Especially after so long.
They were advised to try being more independent. Go shopping on their own, spend a few days without the other, hang out with friends they haven’t in a while. All three were hard to do given their circumstances. But they tried. Bella hung out with Jacob and Alice more. She even helped Esme and Carlisle go scouting for a new home in another state. She even visited the Amazon vampires for a month. The change in scenery had done wonders for the stress she felt. Edward had busied himself with his cars and helping Rosalie build another one. He went on week long trips to visit the Denali clan, even helped Jasper track down others who had fled Maria’s army in the passing years. Helping others of his kind renewed something in him he didn’t know was gone.
They were both able to breathe without needing the other to take the next breath.
It was their shared thought the next time they had a session six months later. They were able to be their own people with their own interests and wants. Sure, they would still check in with the other occasionally but there was no necessity to. There wasn’t a dire need to see or hear the other without losing their minds. The therapist had smiled at that.
“I think making this a semi-permanent thing would be best for you two.” Had been her only suggestion. “You do not have to, of course. But you both seem to be flourishing with your independence. Maybe this could work out.” It had given them some hope.
They had been working around it for a year. Two years of therapy in total.
They had decided together to let everyone know about the therapy. They started with Esme and Carlisle of course. They were the most understanding. Then Alice and Jasper. Rosalie and Emmett. The two couples had reacted exactly like expected. Though telling Alice wasn’t too difficult. She of course had known something was going on. However, the way she avoided their eyes meant she knew something they didn’t yet.
Renesmee was the last to know. Bella had told Jacob first. She wanted his opinion on what to say. After giving Bella a comforting hug and assurance things would be fine, he spoke. “Just tell her,” he had said, “she’s too much like you to beat around the bush.”
So they had. They met with her in the tiny cottage she grew up in. They had started it with assurances they loved Renesmee and nothing would change that. Things would be a little different and she was welcome to travel with either of them if she wanted. “I know,” Renesmee had said. “You guys have been having issues for years, I know you’re breaking up.” They were taken aback.
“We aren’t breaking up.” Bella said. She shook her head and took Renesmee’s hand. “We’re just spending less time together and figuring out what we want. Why would you think that?” With the skin to skin contact, Bella could clearly see what her daughter thought. No doubt, so could Edward.
She was able to see years and years of their relationship from someone else’s perspective. She could see the way she and Edward always gravitated towards each other. Like magnets, the words whispered in her mind from a forgotten voice. She could see the way they slowly pulled apart through the first twenty years of Renesmee’s life. They way one would leave the room if the other entered. How the words ‘I love you’ were said less and less as time passed. How the happiest they had been in decades was apart from each other. Even before they sought out help. There were forgotten birthdays and anniversaries that even the others remembered. There were arguments about small things like not tracking blood into the house after a hunt and big things like when Renesmee had her one and only fever at age 4. Arguments about when and where to move that Bella would relent to even though she didn't want to. Arguments about going to funerals or visiting vampiric friends Edward would rather not see.
“You guys can only fool yourselves. We’ve all known this was coming.” Renesmee said as she took her hand back. She looked at her parents. “I know you guys love me and will always love each other in some way. But you aren’t happy together. You guys were always on board with whatever made me happy, even when I made it clear I loved Jake but wasn’t in love with him and wouldn’t ever be. Why not do that for yourselves?”
Renesmee hugged each of them before excusing herself. She was out of the cottage with a small rush of wind. Bella looked to Edward and saw he was already looking at her. She might not be a mind reader, but his face gave away everything. “She’s right.” Edward said.
Bella nodded once before a heavy feeling built in her chest. A choked sound came out of her as she tried to accept what was going to happen. Why did it take their daughter telling them to realize they weren’t happy with each other anymore? Everyone could see it coming, she had said, except them.
“I don’t want to be how my parents were.” Bella dry sobbed. Edward held her close and rubbed comforting circled into her back. For once, she wished she could cry.
“We aren’t.” He assured her. “We don’t hate each other. We want to best for each other. We still love each other. It’s just different now.” He was comforting her but admitting it to himself. He could never bring himself to hate Bella just as he was sure she would never hate him. Things had just changed. Old wounds were open again and new ones were forming. “We will be better.”
Bella nodded as she calmed herself. “Are we always going to be like this? Are we done for, forever?” Edward didn’t know how to answer.
“We have forever to figure it out. Not long at all but we have time.”
And that was the truth. Maybe they weren’t what each other needed right then. Maybe they would never be what the other needed again for the rest of their eternal lives. But maybe, just maybe, they could find their ways back to each other somehow somewhere.