Disclaimer – Stephanie Meyer owns all things Twilight –
I just like to get weird with her characters.
Much love and thanks to my beta love, Carrie ZM,
for all the edits, the hours, the encouragement, and the laughs we had with this fic.
Writing with you is always a blast – you make this shit fun, Boo.
Many thanks to my wonderful pre-readers, Planetblue and Robsmyyummy
Cabanaboy, for all the time, insight, and commentary you provided on this story.
I greatly admire you both and am so grateful for all of your help on this, pals.
Special thanks to Ceci – Lolypop82 for the awesome banner. Tilt, baby, tilt.
Girl Code – The less you give a damn, the happier you'll be
"Someone wants to say goodnight."
"Ouch!" I grit through my teeth and give my mother a dirty look when she stabs me in the head with a bobby pin for the fifth time.
"You're fine," she says, scraping a few more skin layers from my scalp. Her eyes widen, warning me that I'm one mean mug away from a pinch.
"Sorry," I mutter almost inaudibly, but I don't mean it. I'm beyond miserable and have been ever since my mini-confrontation with Alice a week ago.
Mom doesn't acknowledge my apology and goes back to listening to Tanya's latest story about her nightmare friend, Carmen.
"I love her to death," Tanya says, always beginning her Carmen stories on a positive note, "but I might have to hide her on Facebook." Much like my mother, Tanya is a master at baiting the hook with just the right lure to keep the Nosy Nellies biting. "It's overkill. Too much. She's an overposter."
"I know that's right," Zafrina chirps from her station.
Tanya waves her hand in Zee's direction, as if to say 'see what I mean'. "Like, I love little Demetri, he's a cute kid, no question." I watch as she rubs the cuticle oil into Rose's nail beds and wait for the huge 'but' that's coming. "But…do we really need to see ten pictures of him every single day?" Zafrina shakes her head and mouths the word 'nope'. "And the captions. Do we really need to know what his poop face looks like? Does that really need to be documented?"
"She's just a proud mommy, T." Of course my mother's the one who jumps in to defend this Stage 5 Social Media Etiquette Offender. I swear my mom is the worst. She's one recipe pin away from a full-on, formal PINtervention, and don't get me started on the constant game requests, because I can't with that either. "And speaking of, you should be posting more pictures of little Sasha."
Indignant, Tanya shakes her finger back and forth. "I refuse. She's ruining it for everyone, saturating the baby picture market like that."
"Pfff." Mom looks at her like she's on crack, but she knows there's no reasoning with her.
"It's a fact, and let me tell you, Sasha will be like Bigfoot from now on. You'll get a Facebook sighting every now and again, but that's it." Tanya gives a firm nod of her head, putting her foot down on the matter.
I tune out their mindless chatter, perfectly content to stare at my scowling face in the mirror. Not even Adele eyeliner, fake lashes, and bouffant hair can disguise the fact that I'm a hot mess. My mom nudges me to hand her another pin, and I watch as she pries it open with her teeth. I'm slightly disgusted at the fact that her saliva is coating the bobby pin that will hold my hair in place tonight.
Our eyes meet in the mirror, and I see her lips pucker to the side in disappointment just before she secures another section. She leans down until her head is nearly resting on my shoulder and lowers her voice. "Are you sure you're okay?" I remain stoic, giving her a short nod. "You've been quiet all week. Mad one minute, mopey the next."
"You don't seem fine." My mom has this knack for making her words sound both worried and like an accusation.
I roll my eyes and paste on a smile. She's right though – I'm not fine.
"Humph." She grabs the hairspray and gives it a few shakes. "Cover your eyes." My mother's carbon footprint is the size of Port Townsend based solely on hairspray usage. When the aerosol clears, I remove my hands from my face and find her tilting her head and beaming at my reflection. "You look stunning."
I whisper a 'thank you', though I can't agree with the compliment. Where she sees a beautiful girl, I see a coward who instead of standing up, stood down. My confrontation with Alice plays over and over again in my head. Hindsight being 20/20, there are so many things I wish I'd done differently and things I could've and should've said in that moment. I stare unseeing into the mirror as my mind flashes back to that night in Alice's kitchen.
"Someone wants to say goodnight." Her voice sounds both sinister and sickly sweet as she hands me the phone.
Somehow, I'm able to control my rising panic and keep my face expressionless and my voice unaffected. "Thanks."
After a long pause, she leans back against the counter. "Tell me something. Why would Edward be texting you at this late hour?"
I shrug as I pull the popcorn out of the microwave, and avoiding eye contact at all costs.
"Well obviously he wants to say goodnight to you." She hums, and I hear her fingers tapping on the counter, one at a time, faster and faster until she stops. "But why?"
"We're friends," I say simply. Technically, it's not a lie.
"Friends." She chews on the word for a moment. "How friendly?"
"Alice," I sigh her name in annoyance, "we're just friends who occasionally text. We were chatting, he said goodnight. No big deal."
"Well, what were you chatting about, hmm?" She dips her chin like she's asking an innocent question, to which I roll my eyes. "How often do you two text each other?" she asks, continuing her interrogation as she crosses the kitchen floor until she's right beside me, hunched over the counter and propping her chin on her hand. "Does Victoria know how friendly you two are?"
I huff. "Alice…"
She cuts me off, repeating her question slower, only this time her tone of voice matches her growing sneer. "Does Victoria know how friendly you are?"
"Of course she knows we're friends. His future step-sister is MY best friend." I smile as I add that last bit in, because I know it kills her that she'll never be closer to Rose than I am. "Not that it matters anyway."
Her lips form a tight line. "It should matter."
"Because she likes him, and unless you're talking to him about her, you shouldn't be chatting with him at all."
I hold a finger up to her. "One, I can and will talk to anyone I want to." She smirks as I raise a second finger. "Two, you and I both know she's only interested in him until James comes around, not that he ever left."
Her smile widens and she shakes her head slowly. "Doesn't matter. She's supposed to be your friend." She steps closer and takes my popcorn. Her words come out in a whisper. "And a real friend wouldn't be sneaking around behind her back."
Popping a kernel in her mouth, she leans against the counter, pleased with the obvious effect her passive-aggressive approach has on me. I will myself to stop the words, but I blurt them anyway. "He's not even interested in her."
"Maybe not," she tilts her head side-to-side, considering this, "but as her friend, you should be encouraging him to take an interest in her." We're quiet for a few moments, staring at each other in a silent stand-off until she covers her mouth with her hand, stifling a giggle. "Oh honey. You don't honestly think he's interested in you, right?"
Her words hit me like a sucker punch. A short, quick jab that you only feel momentarily. The ache and the ebb come later.
She clucks her tongue and approaches me again, gently pinching a tendril of hair between her thumb and forefinger. "I get it though. A guy who's kind of way out of your league pays you a bit of attention." A sick, satisfied grin creeps across her face as she softly tugs at the ends. "It probably felt like he was interested, but…" she trails off.
"But what?" I can barely restrain the irritation in my voice.
"Well, he was new. He had no friends. You rolled out the welcome wagon and he felt obligated… because you're Rose's friend," she says as though it's obvious. "I just don't want you to embarrass yourself… or Rose. I mean what would she think?"
I stiffen at her words, realizing that the possibility of losing Victoria's friendship isn't the only consequence here. Although the group dynamic is questionable at best, something like this could destroy us. Years of friendships could be severed in one selfish act.
She shrugs innocently and gives me a look of pity. "I think it's best just to stop this before someone gets hurt." Her eyes meet mine, and there's no question that her next words are a warning. "I'd hate for Victoria to find out what you've been up to."
I'm snapped back to the present when I hear cat calls and whistles from my mom and the girls as Alec strolls in, dressed in a sharp fitted suit. He gives me a wink before adjusting his cufflinks and straightening his tie. This makes me smile, and sadly, it's the first genuine one this week.
I take one last look in the mirror and draw a deep breath. Tonight will be hard. There's no way I can dodge Edward this evening like I have his calls and texts this past week. I can't skip out by convincing Charlie that menstrual rage is a legit excusable absence like I did to get out of school on Monday and Tuesday. I'm not able to write a pass to help decorate for the dance like I did Wednesday through Friday. And hiding out in the library is not an option like I did through lunch all this week.
Rose calls my name and points to her wrist, letting me know it's time to head to her house to get ready for the dance. Nodding, I exhale deeply. Let's get this over with.
"Rose, chin up," Esme says, zooming in, "Tilt your head to the left, and smile." I hear about eight clicks. "Perfect, now Bella go stand next to Rose."
Rose gives me an apologetic shrug which I wave off. This isn't my first rodeo with Esme going paparazzo on us. She wraps her arms around me, and we begin the pose-off. The bestie bear hug. The kissy face. The Charlie's Angels. The Gap pose where we look anywhere but at the camera.
I hear footsteps coming from the stairs, and my stomach flips when I see Edward and Carlisle round the corner. He is head-to-toe-perfection from his carefully crafted bed head to the flawless fit of his charcoal suit.
"You girls look stunning," Carlisle compliments before turning to his son. "Don't they look beautiful, Edward?"
He shoves his hands in his pants pockets and nods, meeting my eyes with a tight-lipped smile.
"Edward, get in with the girls." Esme practically pushes him in our direction. "In between them," she tells him, never looking away from the screen.
I wonder if they see the way he carefully maneuvers around me, so close, but never touching. I smile at the camera, secretly giddy at his nearness as the smell of his soap and spearmint swirl around me. Esme fires off five quick rounds before giving her next instruction. "Bella get closer, Edward put your arms around them."
There's only a second of hesitation before I scoot closer and lean into his chest while his arm winds around to gently rest on the top of my hip.
Carlisle starts telling Esme to get closer and go horizontal instead of vertical to which she schools him in the fine art of photographing the dress you just paid an arm and a leg for. My smile widens, grateful for the snapshot showdown because Edward's thumb is rubbing small circles against the beading on my dress.
"Hello, hello," Victoria saunters in wearing the black number with the questionable cutouts, followed by Alec and my parents.
Carlisle tells Alec and Victoria to get into the picture, and I feel Edward's grip tighten on me when she moves to slip in under his arm.
"Hey Edward," she says as she walks up, swaying her hips and staring seductively.
Vic? If her pink face could blush it would at the sound of him giving her a nickname. I can see it now, tonight she'll be doodling Mrs. Vic Cullen into her dumb diary.
"Bella move over so you can be on the end since you're the shortest," Victoria says with a flick of her wrist. Translation: Beat it, geek.
For a split-second, I think about saying 'no'. A huge part of me wants to see her flick of the wrist and raise it with a flick of the finger, but the shuffling of stilettos and a high pitched 'hello' stops me in my tracks.
"Hey everyone." Alice waves like she's the one with the tiara on her head. She may address everyone in the room, but her eyes let me know that she doesn't approve of my proximity to Edward.
"Hi guys," Peter says from behind her. I don't know what's more pathetic, that she couldn't just go stag with the group or that she brought someone she can barely tolerate.
We spend the next fifteen minutes standing there awkwardly posing and smiling like we're in a tampon commercial. When Carlisle gently pries the camera from Esme's hands, we're able to relax.
"Alice you look UH-mazing, tonight!" Victoria's bubbly voice and blatant butt kissing is already dancing on my last nerve, but Alice eats that shit up.
"Thanks. We got it in Seattle, it's a —"
Alec cuts her off. "Imma let you finish, but Rosalie's dress is the greatest of all time."
Alice's mouth pops open while I cover mine to suppress my laughter. Rose is the only one who gracefully recovers by grabbing Alec's arm and dragging him out the door. "Okay Kanye, let's go eat."
Dinner is a nightmare. Between listening to Alice go on and on about her dress and watching Victoria try to bait Edward into feeding her food off his plate, the only thing this meal has going for it is the flask of Fireball in Alec's jacket. By the time it's over, I realize that tonight is going to be so much harder than I thought. It's a good thing I drank my dinner.
This is evident as we walk to our cars. Victoria whines incessantly to Edward about being cold and asking him to hold her. Instead, he gives her his jacket to which I roll my eyes. Might as well be a marriage proposal to crazy pants.
"You're so sweet to me, Eddie," she says loud enough for the group to hear.
I like to think it's the Fireball that makes me do it, but I know for a fact it's my irrational jealousy that makes me utter my next words. "He is sweet." I glare at him. "Maybe he'll buy you a milkshake."
I turn and amble to the car, but not before hearing Edward bark out a short disbelieving laugh and Victoria using her baby voice to let him know that she just loves milkshakes.
Alec's taking a swig from his flask when I reach out and grab it, letting him know he won't be getting it back for the rest of the evening.
Somewhere between the restaurant and the dance, I rally, deciding not to let this shit-fest situation ruin my last homecoming dance. Sure I hate dancing because whenever I do it, I look like someone who probably deserves a Tosh.0 web redemption. I just can't seem to bring myself to care.
"I give NO FUCKS!" I say proudly from the backseat, toasting Alec and Rose with the flask o' fun.
Alec and Rose exchange a look before resuming their shitty-music-sing-a-long.
Once we get to the dance, my no fucks mantra is in full effect. Alec and I part the crowd, making our way to the middle of the floor so only a few people can see us make asses of ourselves. I laugh as Alec spins me around the floor. There's no gyrating or groin grinds like the goddamn Ke$ha video dancers around us.
I dance with Garrett and his new girlfriend, Kate, who Alice absolutely hates. I'm pretty sure I hug her hard and tell Garrett that I love her right in front of a scowling Alice before giving her a playful wink. I make a mental note to send Kate a tweet letting her know how happy she makes Garrett for good measure.
After a dozen songs, I take a break and head to the punch table. Fireball and fruit punch, probably not the best combination, but it'll do in a pinch, especially when a slow song comes on. I hear Victoria somewhere nearby reminding Eddie that he promised her a dance. I can't look. I don't want to.
But I do.
No amount of cinnamon flavored deliciousness can take the bitter taste out of my mouth as I watch her drag him by the arm to the dance floor. A part of me is hopeful since he looks miserable and there's a good four to six inches between them, but that crumbles when I see her wrap her arms around his neck and melt into his chest. Her eyes are searching, probably looking for James.
The urge to vomit is strong, and the longer I sit there watching them slowly sway, the more I realize it's no urge. I'm going to puke. I barely make it to the bathroom before I'm hurling the booze and two fried mozzarella sticks I ate tonight all over the toilet.
Three breath mints and a few rinses in the sink later, I'm at the drinking fountain. Water isn't nearly as tasty as Fireball, but it probably won't burn as bad coming up. When I stand, I notice Edward walking toward me quickly. He doesn't look happy.
I nod, gulping down the water, careful not to speak to him knowing that Alice could pop out of a locker at any moment.
He clears his throat. "Can we talk?"
I give him a small shrug and look around the deserted hallway all paranoid. I notice the chemistry door ajar and motion for him to follow me.
"So… what's up?" Indifference laces my tone as I lean against a table, folding my arms across my chest.
He shakes his head and chuckles humorlessly, shutting the door behind him a little harder than necessary. "Seriously? Why don't you tell me what's up?" I don't answer and given the sarcastic tone of his voice, I doubt he wanted me to anyway. "Hmm? What's goin' on with you?"
"What do you mean, nothin'?" His voice rises. "You've been dodgin' me for a week straight."
"Busy my ass," he says, stepping closer. "You don't have ten seconds to say two words to me?" He roughly pushes his jacket back from his hips and shoves his hands in his pockets as he stands over me, glaring. "You got nothin' to say, huh?"
"Nope." I narrow my eyes defiantly and hope he doesn't notice the tremble in my voice.
"Oh, I think you do with that fuckin' milkshake comment back there," he jerks his thumb behind him,"which was bullshit, by the way."
I scoff and wave my hand dismissively. "Like you cared when you've got Vic all over your dick. Lucky for you, she loves milkshakes."
His eyes widen and his jaw tenses and the next thing I know he and I are in each other's faces. He's tapping his temple telling me that I'm fucking crazy, and I'm jabbing an angry finger into his chest calling him an asshole.
"I'm the asshole? Fuck that, you're the asshole. What did I do?" he asks incredulously. "You stopped talkin' to me, remember?" He's towering over me now, backing me into the table. His hands go up and his voice comes down as he steps away. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry." I watch him back up until he leans against the door. "Just tell me what happened. What changed?"
"We can't… do that anymore," I say, gripping the edge of the table so tightly it hurts almost as much as speaking those words. "Victoria likes you, and I knew she did, so that was, like, really wrong of me." His brow furrows, trying to follow my babbling. "But Alice saw your text and pretty much warned me to stay away from you."
"And why the fuck does that matter?"
"She's my friend, Edward," I say quietly, realizing how true this statement is despite my negative thoughts towards her for the past month. "And she likes you." Another truth. "And I don't want to hurt her."
We stand in silence for awhile, the only sound coming from the gym where hundreds of kids scream the chorus to the Best Song Ever at the top of their lungs.
"Well that sucks, Sweets." His hands are back on his hips. "'Cause I like you."
I want to scream that I like him too, but the small seed of doubt Alice planted screams a little louder. "Well don't."
"You're fuckin' unbelievable."
He explodes again, and we're back in each other's faces with me accusing him of flirting and leading her on, and him asking me if I hear how fucking crazy I sound right now.
"I don't flirt or invite that shit!"
"You do! You sit there and fucking let her paw you and you just…" I'm so pissed I can't even figure out how to finish my sentence. "You just let her."
"Come on, what do you want me to do? Throat punch her?"
Yes. "No. Just stop encouraging it. Stop with the games. I hate games!"
"THEN STOP PLAYIN' THEM!" His voice booms and echoes through the room, silencing the crazy in my head and spilling from my mouth.
"You don't understand." I lower my voice considerably and plead with my eyes. "I stand to lose everything." I tick them off on my fingers. "Victoria. Alec. Rose." My voice breaks slightly when I say her name, worried about what she and Alec will think of me when they find out I messed around with someone I knew was off-limits. "Years and years of friendship, Edward."
"Well, we can't have that now, can we?"
He walks out of the room, without so much as a second glance. And for the first time ever, he doesn't knock twice.
When I finally pull myself together, I walk out and notice James and Mike Newton near the bathroom. The stoner and the goth kid chat and chuckle like a couple of chicks, but once I see the handshake and the awkward bro-hug, I know their friendliness has more to do with the money and weed they exchanged.
I remain in the doorway, hoping not to be seen coming out of a dark room minutes after an angry Edward Cullen stormed out. James acknowledges me with a bob of his head and a smirk, and I wonder if they heard us.
"You okay, Bells?" Mike asks, approaching me slowly like I'm a wild animal.
"Never better," I lie with a smile, wiping under my eyes and worrying that my eyeliner looks shitty and smudged like his.
"You look great," he says, slipping the dime bag into his front pocket since there probably isn't one in his pleather kilt. "Cool dress."
"Thanks," I gesture to his outfit, "you too."
"What does he see in her?" Alice seethes, watching Kate and Garrett dance, and ignoring the fact that Peter is in ear shot.
"She looks good from where I'm standing," Alec replies smugly, earning him a dirty look and an eye roll.
"Hmph." Alice quirks her eyebrow. "Good from afar, but far from good."
I hear Rose audibly sigh and pull Alec back onto the dance floor when the DJ starts up another slow song, while Alice heads in the direction of the bathroom.
"Dance with me," Edward whispers from behind me as his hand wraps around my elbow. I don't move. "Please."
He doesn't wait for an answer, lacing his fingers through mine and leading me to the floor right beside Rose and Alec who are too busy spinning and singing along obnoxiously with John Legend to notice the act of treason being committed before their eyes.
When he pulls me close, I don't fight it. There's not an inch of space between us. Our joined hands cover his heart, and his chin rests atop of my head thanks to my heels.
I close my eyes and let myself have this moment with him, taking in the way he hums into my hair and rubs the soft skin of my hand with his thumb. We move together, swaying back and forth in time with the music.
"HEY!" Rose and Alec yell in unison and bump into us. I can feel Edward's chest vibrate with laughter, and I open my eyes to see my two best friends smiling down at me. They serenade us briefly, and I pray they don't pull us into one of those awkward group dances.
"You're my end and my beginning. Even when I lose, I'm winning." Rose sings into my cheek before giving me a loud smooch and a slap on the butt.
As we watch Alec spin her away, he tightens his grip around my waist. Turning my head, I curl into his chest, needing to be closer. I gaze at our linked fingers and give his hand a small squeeze. His lips curve into a smile against my skin. I'm smiling too until I lock eyes with Victoria across the room.
I stare at her blankly. Expressionless and unapologetic for the way I'm wrapped around him. I'm sure a better friend would untangle herself, apologize profusely and plead for understanding. Maybe even express a hint of regret.
But I won't.
I may regret the way this all came to be, and I'll hate myself for hurting someone I care about, but deep down I know that I belong with Edward. She can't claim what was never hers.
Her eyes widen as confusion turns to understanding. I suppose I expected her reaction to be more obvious like hurt or anger, maybe even contempt. But what I see plain on her face is far more unnerving than any of those emotions combined – sheer determination.
She gives me a curt nod, letting me know the gloves are off. When she turns and walks away, I know that one thing is certain.
This isn't over.
Several moments later, the song ends and he places his lips to my temple and murmurs, "You gotta figure this out, Sweets."
"I know. I will. I'll tell her, I just…" I trail off, closing my eyes and nuzzle into his chest for a second more. "I just need some time."
"Good," he says, gently lifting my chin with his fingertip so my eyes meet his. "Because we're not doing anything wrong."
A/N: One more night of my Rocky Mountain High then it's back to life, back to reality...
Time to let it WIP.
Cadillac by ThisIsReallyHappening - *Carrie ZM fans herself* Girls... Get on this tale from the Dirty South - Bella's dirt poor and Edward has a dirty mouth. Hot, hot, hot! Don't miss it!
The Drop by lola-pops - Hopefully everyone is already reading this and if you're not then you need to be. High school romance and angst done right. No one and I mean NO ONE does high school love like lola-pops. This is a must read.
Thanks to everyone who read, reviewed, followed, fav'd, rec'd, tweeted or lurked this fic! I'll see you all next Thursday.