Stephenie Meyer owns all Twilight entitlements.

I don't own squat, but my words are mine.


Skater Boy and Boarder Girl 9


Relieved—in more ways than one—I think I'm finished, having done what I came here to do. Tomorrow's challenge will probably be worse after dealing with all of the "constipators" in my system.

"Bella, are you all right?" Leah asks with true concern from the other side of the door.

"I'm managing. Thanks." I give no snappy remarks on my end this time. I know she means well even if she does have her eyes on Edward.

I blot the salty drops now present from my efforts away from my forehead with my hoodie sleeve before attempting to balance to wipe other parts of me. The reality of my entire fucked-up ordeal is setting in, and I'm now just finally recognizing what a stupid shit I am for choosing to come here in the first place. Instead of just staying at home in my bed where I wouldn't have to walk as far to use a john or pull myself up from the ground or the toilet seat just to stand, I have to make do because of my actions. I'd say that I'm sorry about pegging Edward in the ass and scrambling away from him, but then he wouldn't be caring for me right now. In all honesty, it's not that bad having a nice-looking, polite guy wait on me, so for now, I'll buck up and deal with it.

I finish getting myself together—very appreciative that someone left baby wipes in here—and somehow figure out how to inch my skinny jeans up and over my perspiring legs. I solve the problem of how to fasten the button on my fly when I temporarily remove my wrist brace and deal with that discomfort to address the task.

I unfasten and refasten the neck brace, giving my throat some air and do a similar action with the baseball cap, lifting it off my head and resetting it. I don't think feeling cool air over my hot head even in this stuffy, smelly tube of fiberglass has ever felt so good.

I grab Edward's jacket off the coat hook on the door and drape it over my shoulders the best I can, trying to balance on my crutches. His irresistible cologne, body spray, or what-the-fuck-ever-it-is still lingers on the inside of the leather's lining, so I take a huge whiff, which surprisingly knocks down some of my irritation. As I unlatch the door, I hear Leah, who has moved further back from the john, talking to Emily, another one of the tribal girls. Upon exiting and stepping off the platform out of ear shot, I see Emily with her waist-length, blue-black hair, cut-off bleached-out shorts, and red Converse sneakers, standing next to a pee-pee dancing, jean-skirt wearing, flip-flop footed Rose. As my spotlight-blinded eyes adjust to the now pitch black beach, I see that Rose is standing next to a make-up applying, boy-shorted, and now barefooted Alice, and here she wouldn't even come over because she didn't want sand touching her feet. Bitch. Alice in turn is using a lighted compact held up by a bubble gum-popping, pink sundress-wearing Jessica who has ballet flats in the same nauseating color. Huh? I guess she needs to match her gum.

Shaking the cobwebs from my brain and having no concept of time, it hits me, "God, how long have I been in there?"

A concerned Leah answers, "Almost a half hour, Bella".

"Yeah, slut, what took you so long?" Rose adds teasingly, rolling her eyes but still slightly annoyed. I can tell by her amped up movements. She's doing everything she can to hold in her problem. It serves her right for not taking the time to chill with me. I hope she leaks on her leg.

Scowling, I give, "Try doing this shit yourself, Starlet Harlot!" I use the nickname I'd dubbed her with after she shot a single commercial for acne meds. Alice and I have never heard the end of the Hollywood bullshit that's gone to her fat blonde head. "You're just lucky I rushed and am not still in there."

"Girls, girls, can't we all just get along?" Alice chimes in, clearly frustrated by our bickering, not because she cares but because her lost concentration and fucked up eye-hand coordination has just given her a Jack Nicholson/Joker make-up job.

I definitely wouldn't want to meet her in a dark alley. She's one scary looking bitch!

"See?" I manage my best fake smile. "Happy." Rose gives the same insincere grin to Alice. As I pass both of them, in my best bitchy tone, I whine, "By the way, thanks for coming over to hang with me, skanks. The least you could have done was to rescue me from Pretty Boy for some of the time . . ." I have to play this up; I have an image to maintain. "It's been hell. I'd take a month of detention with the suspected-pedophiliac-creepy-old-crone-ish Mr. Berty over being with Cullen any day." I say it as though I'm complaining, but truthfully, my day with Edward was nice, and I know I'd welcome the isolation with him again any time.

"Isabella, I didn't realize it was such a chore for you to be around me." No one sees him arrive, but I certainly hear his clipped words before he appears out of nowhere, perspiring and red-faced from running, and no doubt perturbed and most likely hurt by my words.

Shit!

I close my eyes, hoping when I reopen them everything will rewind, and I won't have to worry about the damage my mouth just caused. I regain courage enough to look at him, and I see it, see the anguish and betrayal of my rant ingrained into his sullen face. We were breaking down years of barriers, and I just had to erect another fucking wall. I see the confusion gathered in his eyes—warring with the façade he's now maintaining—come to realization of the I-thought-things-were-different-between-us-now-but-guess-I-was-wrong appearance on his face.

"That didn't take long at all, Edward," Leah offers not very coyly while patting his dampened arm. Although I'm not crazy about her touching him, I'm thankful she's choosing that action to interrupt this awkward moment.

"Yeah, it's rough trekking in the dark, carrying bunches of stuff, especially where you chose to park," commented Emily. "You must do some serious workouts to have that kind of stamina." She says it all starry-eyed while gently tossing about her killer hair.

"Hi, Edward." Rose and Alice say in unison, practically singing him their greeting, acting as if they've been model friends all night. Sneering, I'm thinking, oh, those traitorous, back-stabbing—Edward Cullen—no make that Edward Snowden, hos!

"Here, Edward. I just grabbed a fresh water bottle. I can get myself another. You look like you can use it more than I," Jessica adds. Of course, Jessica has to join the Edward Cullen Fan Club, too.

"Ladies." Edward acknowledges each of them with a nod but not me as he bows his head, bending his body, catching his breath, placing both large hands with beautiful fingers splayed across his muscled quads for support. "Thank you." He directs his comment at Jessica while standing erect again.

I bet you wish something else were erect again.

He then takes the water bottle from her, popping the seal and twisting the cap before downing its entire contents. His image is lit in dull light, and a sheen is evident about his skin. It's resplendent . . . illustrious . . . sexy . . . and I'm not the only one noticing it. The ball of his throat moves rhythmically, forcing down the water, like the foot pedal of a bass drum banging out beats. We all silently watch, entranced, while gravity works its wonders, pulling away any stray liquid, following the contours around his perfect distinctive chin. The water inches, continuing its journey downward across the cords of his straining neck only to be sucked up by the lucky wife-beater under his button down but only after traveling through the maze of sparse downy chest hair first.

Edward turns to me after wiping his mouth as if nothing happened.

Catharsis.

"Let's just get you seated. You must be exhausted." How does he do that? Deflect. How can he just let things go? I'm a miserable bitch who fears the tarnishing of her mean reputation, one who's also afraid of letting anyone get too close, especially him. I put up barriers so no one else can hurt me, yet look at the damage I do to others in the process.

Catharsis.

Maybe I need to start working on casting out my own demons.

That's all well, good, and considerate for others, but what will it do for him, specifically? He's so different, kind, and undeserving of your bullshit. It's still possible he may like you—even after what you just said—but you know you'll never be good enough for him, never love yourself enough to try . . . unless you're ready to change.

I swallow back the bitter pill. Acid lurches through my queasiness as Edward follows Leah toward where we're sitting. He doesn't say a word as he walks alongside me. I want to hang onto his arm, relishing the feel of him, not caring if I'm able to balance. His snubbing hurts me, but I understand. I can only imagine what pain I've caused, what hurt I've done to him all these years when he's tried being nice, and all I could offer him were crusty comments or childish acts in return.

Almost there and without turning to look at me, he finally decides to share some words. "I set up the tent and moved our things into it. I also brought your cushion over to the fire pit. His voice is cool, flat, and solemn, completely devoid of any teasing or playfulness. I guess I really let the wind out of his sail.

I guess it's no different from the time you let the air out of his tires.

I hate his being cold like this to me; it needs rectifying.

I stop and pull him aside, grabbing his arm. "Edward, please, I didn't mean . . ." And right now I'm being honest.

"It's okay. Don't worry about it . . ." He cuts me off abruptly, tersely, still unwilling to look at me. "I know a thing or two about puttingon appearances."

"I do, too, but that doesn't make what I did right. I'm sor . . ." He doesn't let me get out the words.

"Never mind, Isabella. I understand." He says it quietly as if not to attract attention. "I wouldn't want you to spoil your track record on public apologies for the likes of me." Ouch! His voice snaps sharply like a fresh pod of peas, grabbing my attention, spitting in my face. He tries to say it kiddingly, but in the few hours we've spent together today, I know his tone. He does not mean for it to be funny.

I didn't even think it was possible for his words to hurt worse than my injuries, but they do.

Not one to ever back down, I persist. "Edward, please, I . . ."

Edward turns sharply and eyes me, "Isabella, forgive me for being curt, but I can do without your insincerity. Just drop it." From the light of the fire, I see his nostrils are flaring. The calm he usually possesses isn't there. Instead, it's been replaced by an anger and intensity I've never seen. I think he may have even growled at me. For once, my impulsive self actually senses the need for self-preservation and decides to back down, and here Edward called me fierce.

"Okay." I give in, feeling quietly defeated.

"Good!" he remarks with teeth grinding, sharply.

I find the half circle walk on my crutches around the full circle of people dizzying, like a game of duck-duck-goose.

"Here, Edward, this is our spot," Leah tells him, looking only into his face this time, excluding me in her action, even though I see the space for us three.

"Thank you, Leah. Isabella, stand here a bit longer. I'll get your cushion."

"All right."

Edward jogs partially around the circle and into the darkness of the rock ledge where I can't see him, but he returns quickly, carrying a beach chair and my inflatable butt ring. He opens up the chair, positioning it next to Rachel Black, Jake's sister.

"Hey, Bella." Rachel greets me kindly, shaking her head, already knowing what happened without asking what I did. News of fuck-ups travels fast.

"Hey, Rach." I respond not to engage her any further but just to be polite as I turn my attention back to Edward.

"Before I get an argument out of you telling me to sit in it instead, the chair was my grandmother's. She used it when she was at the shore. Having had back problems herself, she was able to navigate in and out of it fluidly, so I surmised it may work for you as well."

Again, he makes me feel like a mushy, stinky, steaming cow flop with the lengths he is going to just for my comfort, so I curtail my digs at him.

Edward picks up my cushion and places it onto the chair before lowering me carefully, wrapping his hand around my waist again, helping me sit, setting my crutches next to me but out of the way enough not to trip someone. He then stands up, regaining his own spot, looking for Leah, who's no longer there.

Turning to me, he offers, "Is there anything else I can get you, Isabella? Would you like another soda and perhaps a snack? It's time for you to take your pain medications again."

"Sure, thank you. That would be great." Talk about flipping a switch, he's being nice again. It's as if I said nothing mean.

He runs over to where the food and drinks are. My eyes never leave his steps. I haven't noticed it before, but Edward has such a smooth stride and glides over the sand effortlessly. He runs like Keanu Reeves did in the Matrix;I could watch Edward's textbook form for hours. He's like an incredibly fast, graceful gazelle on the African plain. Snapping out of it, I realize he has already returned with two cans of Coke®, Doritos®, and pretzels.

"I wasn't sure what to get you; I know I should have asked. I hope this is okay. If you get migraines from MSG, you should probably just stick with the pretzels and forgo the Doritos®." The sincerity and caring has returned to his eyes and voice, and it hurts thinking about how awful I've been to him, not just for the last three years, but even before then when I began pulling away after Mom left that night and never came home.

"This is fine, thank you." I don't think I've ever extended this much gratitude in one day, ever. It's weird and so unlike me to acknowledge anyone's kindness. I've become quite the entitled, spoiled brat. My typical Wednesday Addams-Victorian-Goth-hopelessly-negative persona doesn't quite know what to make of my transforming Snow White one. I can't say it's a bad thing; it's just different, and I wouldn't mind returning the favor to Edward and maybe even others, sometime. However, I'm positively drawing the line if seven random dwarfs ask me to cook dinner and do their smelly laundry. Just thinking of dwarf crotches gives me the shivers.

Me, too.

Edward pops the tab of my soda and hands it to me. He's ready to pop the top of his can, too, when Leah returns, carrying two cups of what I assume is dripping beer.

"Edward, Bella, here. I got one for each of you." My mouth waters at the happy sight and hoppy smell of the cup intended for me even though I know there's no way Edward will let me have it, so instead, I decide to do the grown-up thing. "That was very thoughtful of you, Leah, but I'm on pain meds and shouldn't drink with them." I swallow back my saliva, along with my pride, thinking about not only how good that bitter buzz-inducing liquid would have tasted but also what a real light-weight I must appear to be.

"I'd hate to see you waste it, Leah. I can at least take one from you." Edward says it kindly although I sense he's not crazy about the idea of having another alcoholic beverage.

"Oh! Sorry, Bella."

"It's fine. Thanks for the offer."

"Okay. Well, I guess I'll have one with you, then, Edward." She says it innocently enough, although I wonder if it has been part of Leah's plan all along, but I'm not going to dwell on it. Edward's here, after all, overseeing me, and I should be woman enough to accept his female friends as long as that's all they are.

Leah hands off the beer and gets herself settled while Edward takes a sip. I see his face scrunch up as he's most likely drinking the contents from the bottom of the keg. That stuff is probably all warm, nearly flat, and pretty nasty by now, and I smile, thinking that for once, despite the painkillers, I'm sober enough to watch almost everyone else make fools out of themselves—slurring words and staggering around—and am actually glad this time I'm not one of them.

Edward hands me my pain meds and laxative and then shares the food he brought back with him. He also drinks his beer a little more quickly than he should, probably just to get rid of it. I can't blame him. Drinking warm beer with a minimal buzz is just stomach turning. As I look down at him sitting in the sand with the warm hue of dancing flames, casting light on his sun-kissed face, I can tell he's a little more buzzed than before, which I guess is good in a way, considering he's always so serious and should sometimes let loose. I watch as the Pacific breeze lifts Edward's hair, teasing and toying with it as he sits focused, devoting all his concentration, drawing caricatures of people here in the sand with his fingertips. His detail is very good, and he especially makes me smile when exaggerating people's attributes. I guess he can be a quiet, fun, reflective drunk, too.

Looking over to Jared's truck, I see that Jake and the rest of the boys have finally pulled their act together and are ready to start lighting the fireworks. Edward continues, busying himself by drawing more things in the sand with a piece of driftwood he has now found, while Leah talks about hospital stuff. I keep still, trying to ascertain more about how they know each other outside of school, but with my ears still ringing from my crash it's hard hearing over the raucous noise of everyone's conversations even though the sand deadens most of the racket. I knew that Leah donates her time as a Candy Striper—not stripper—at the hospital, but didn't know she sees Edward, and waves to him, each time she leaves when passing by as he's reading to the kids in pediatrics whose parents aren't able to visit because of having to work night shifts.

My heart melts at the thought of him doing something as sweet as that, volunteering his time, when he already has so much on his plate. It also melts my heart because I wish I had someone like him to read to me after my appendix burst about a year after Mom left when Charlie couldn't be there with me because his deputies were both out on vacation. I'd go over to the Webers on nights Charlie had to work, but Mrs. Weber had to stay with her own children the afternoon I was sick when she had to call the ambulance, so I went to the hospital by myself. Charlie stopped by to do paperwork and to check on me while I was still sedated, but he had to leave before I woke up. When I came to, I wished I had had someone there just to hold my hand or even talk to me. At least Dr. Cullen was on that night, reassuring me, telling me everything would be all right.

When I had awakened in my hospital room at midnight, no one was there. I remember the pain, not only of my surgery but also of how frightened and lonely I felt, thinking that no one cared enough to stay there with me. As I rang the nurse's station, panicking over where I was, I pulled the cord for the light over my bed. I then looked over to my nightstand and saw a green ginger ale soda-bottle vase with the label removed, containing four stems of purple echinacea—wellness flowers. Underneath it was a sketchbook page with a drawing of a flightless bird—a baby ostrich—helpless and motherless—with big, beautiful blue eyes and long lashes, staring back. I felt most of my panic subside, reasoning someone had been there looking out for me, looking after me, but I never knew who to thank, who left the drawing and the flowers. When I asked the nurses, they just shook their heads, telling me they didn't know who left them nor did they see me have any visitors outside of my dad. I knew Charlie would never give me anything like that, so I quietly held on to the hope that it was my mom who had brought them. When Doctor Cullen came in to do his rounds the next day, he smiled gleefully at the vase and drawing, saying that I must have an especially special secret admirer who must really like me. To this day, that thought has always made me peacefully happy.

The first boom of the fireworks tears me from my reflections as sparks crackle, arc, and fall while lighting up the sky. I look over at Edward—with his boyish impish grin in place—who seems mesmerized by the sights and sounds. My eyes then lower their gaze to the ground, absorbing his latest masterpiece, drawn in the sand and scratched out in fine detail. When I first take it in, I reason my mind's playing tricks, but soon it dawns on me that I have the long awaited answer to that constantly nagging question.

The same flightless, helpless, motherless, adorable, baby ostrich from years ago—minus the blue eyes and unaccompanied by the purple flowers—is now staring back at me.

Him.

He was the one.

Minus the locusts, I feel that same, fluttery, warm rush envelop my chest yet again, and this time I intend to acknowledge its cause. I lower my brace-wrapped left hand from the arm of Edward's-grandmother's chair and smile when it finds the top of Edward's right hand perched on his thigh. He looks down at my hand atop his then lifts his head upward, tilting it toward me with an unsure grin. Cleansing streams of water descend from my eyes over my cheeks, purging . . . freeing . . . clarifying . . . purifying.

"Thank you."

Catharsis.


A/N:

What do you think about Bella's discovery?

Why do you think Edward chose to draw an ostrich for Bella?

What obstacles do you think these two still face?

What problems will Bella still have when trying to cope with her insecurities?

Please tell me when you want an EPOV again.

Please share your thoughts.


Thank you, Chayasara, for fixing me nearly three times.

Thank you, Driving Edward/Pamela Stephenson, for your wonderfully informative and supportive prereading.

Catharsis.


Here's what I'm reading:

"Scintilla" by Gothic Temptress. It's amazing! I so wish I had read this earlier for Earth Month. (Gothic Temptress has also graciously preread my own "Boys Will Be" which will repost with new improvements.

"The Client" by ThisIsReallyHappening. This lady is seriously, ridiculously, too funny and rec'd by FicSisters, too.


Please also read these wonderful stories by these lovely ladies I preread for:

Bornonhalloween "Remastering Marcus" - (Follow the link on her FF profile. It's winding down.)

Gabby 1017 "Under My Nose" This is the epilogue! Congratulations, Gabby!

Ohgeefantasy "Careless Hearts" - We have a wedding to attend. "Pudding Cup" - Award winning.


If you get bored waiting for updates, please feel free to check out my other stories.

Come find me on Facebook, too. I'm Apocalyptic Depository there.


Thank you for reading.

PAD