My heart skips a beat. Or two. And then it resumes its work at a frantic pace.
Oh my God, seriously?
He keeps on rocking me gently as if he'd just asked me what time it is or something likewise insignificant, while I am trying to remember how to breathe.
"I think that's a very complex question," I finally manage. Uh, that didn't sound right.
He remains silent, obviously waiting for me to elaborate. But I really don't know how. I feel like I am dismantling a complicated bomb right now. One false move, and...
Oh yes, and it was me who armed it in the first place, right?
"Bella... it's a yes or no question," he says quietly. His breath is hot in my hair.
"I know, but that doesn't make it a simple question. It depends on the definition, doesn't it? I mean, love can have so many different meanings. I care for you, very much. I always did, Edward, you know that. And now there is this strong... sexual attraction between us, which is confusing. I mean... it is wonderful! But it is also very confusing. And I just don't know..."
God, I'm rambling!
"It's really not that simple, Edward."
The silence that follows seems to drag on forever. He rubs my shoulder as if to comfort me, as if to tell me that this is ok and sighs.
"That is a 'no' then," he states matter-of-factly.
My heartbeat hitches. I didn't exactly say no, did I? I wish I could see his face now, just to make sure he's not going to break down or something. But I don't dare to move. He's still holding me so tight, cradling me.
"That's not what I mean. I didn't say no." I'm such a coward...
"Yes, you did."
"Why would you think that I -"
"Because you would know," he cuts in. "If your heart and mind work anything like mine – and I guess the differences aren't that big – then you would just know."
"But it's ok," he adds calmly. "It doesn't matter."
It doesn't matter? How can it not matter? I am surprised at how much it stings to hear him say that. I should be relieved that he takes it so well, but I'm not. I realize, I selfishly want it to matter.
"Why is that?" I whisper.
"Because it doesn't change anything. I was wondering if I'd love you less if you'd say no, but I don't. I still love you."
The rocking stops and finally his hold on me gives way. I turn around in his lap and look at him. He is leaning back with closed eyes under furrowed brows, and his breathing is a little labored. He doesn't look good.
"Edward, you're quite white around your mouth. Are you not well?"
"I feel a little sick suddenly..." he moans.
I jump off of his lap and almost stumble over my own feet, still wrapped up in that big towel. "Do you think you need to... are you going to vomit?" I ask, alarmed. Kneeling in front of him, I take both his hands. He shakes his head no, but he's deathly pale now.
"Put your head between your knees," I suggest, and he does. I stroke his hair for a while, until his shallow breathing becomes even again.
"Yes." He lifts his head and resting his elbows on his knees, roughly rubs his face in his palms. When he looks at me again, something has changed. I can't quite put my finger on it at first. But something seems off...
"I was wrong, I think," he whispers. "I didn't know until just now, but it does matter. I want you to love me, and it... scares me that you don't."
"It's still ok. If you don't send me away, I think... if I still can be with you, it'll be ok."
"Of course, I won't send you away! I care for you, so very much, and I'll be always there for you."
And it's true; I will be there for him, no matter what. I want to be with him. I realize he has always been in my in my heart and soul somehow, and I can't believe he's been back in my life for just one day now. I feel him in my blood like a strong drug, coursing through my system. How could I ever send him away?
"Ok," he says again. And suddenly I see the difference. I see what it is that has changed, and it almost breaks my heart. He doesn't look me in the eye anymore!
From the moment he has lifted his head from between his knees, his eyes have been somewhat fixed on a place next to my face, above my left shoulder. I can see him struggle... his irises flicker to my eyes, but it doesn't last. In a split-second they're back, staring at that invisible point again. He's good at that; a less attentive person would have thought he'd be facing them. But I feel the loss of something precious tearing at my heart. He's never 'not' looked at me like that. This is so wrong!
I move to take him in my arms, but he pushes me away, turns around and drops onto his knees. The toilet lid flips open, he bends over, and I can only sit there and rub his back as he retches and dry-heaves. There's nothing really coming up; he doesn't puke, just keeps on choking for a while, until he finally stops and his forehead sinks onto his crossed arms on the toilet seat.
I stroke his hair and the nape of his neck. He is breathing heavily, with his shoulders heaving, and it almost sounds like sobs. I did this to him. I want to cry... I want to tell him I'm sorry, but I have no words.
"It hurts," he mumbles into his arms. I can hardly understand him. "I didn't know it would be like that, but it hurts like hell. And I'm still scared. And I still love you."
My throat tightens; I can't hold it in anymore. This is killing me.
He straightens himself and a strangled sound escapes him. He still doesn't look at me, not really, so he doesn't see the tears that are running down my cheeks. With his gaze unsteadily circling that damn spot two inches away from my eyes, his lips move but I can barely hear the words as he says, "Please don't leave me."
I can't bear it anymore and throw myself at him and sling my arms around his shoulders.
"I won't. Ever."
And I mean it.
Edward takes a deep breath, and I feel him shudder in my arms.
"Ok. I have more questions," he says.