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Romeo and Juliet. Tristan and Isolde. Ken and Barbie. Danny and Sandy. Beyonce and Jay-Z. And of course, Edward and Bella.
Everyone knows those couples, everyone remembers those stories of tragedy and romance, chaos and heartbreak, tender moments and grand gestures. What no one ever seems to remember are the friars and Benvolios and Frenchies and Kelly Rowlands who helped the two lovers along the way. Sometimes these romances work out and end with happily ever after and sometimes they don't. Whatever the ending, we shouldn't forget to give thanks to the unsung heroes of these tales. In the case of Edward and Bella, that'd be me: Bree Tanner, formerly faceless freshman and current Unsung Hero of Love who was picked by the Gods of Crossed Stars to play a small but pivotal role in an epic saga of high school romance.
It all started second semester, mid-January, Forks High in the girls bathroom on the second floor, right before second period. That Monday, things were moving along in the mundane way things did for me. After ignoring my mom's advice to clean out my three-ring binder over Christmas Break, I couldn't find my History homework. I started my period. Some jerk sophomore threw my friend Tory's gym shoes over the fence in the courtyard and Riley, my crush since seventh grade, was rumored to be interested in asking for my phone number but all he did was ask if I had any change for the soda machine. In other words, all was status-suck-quo in my life.
And then it happened.
I was alone in the Ladies with Isabella "Bella" Swan.
Bella Swan was a senior with long dark hair that usually hung over her left shoulder, but sometimes she'd wear it in a high pony tail. She had an awesome patchwork purse that was more like a bag and it slammed and swooshed coolly against her thigh when she walked. The mysterious contents of that bag slushed and crunched and rattled around like secret-to-being-cool artifacts. I'd spent many nights awake thinking about what she could have in that bag. When I realized I'd never know, I started making things up.
I bet she carried cigarettes and birth control pills and lip gloss and lighters and the keys to Edward Cullen's Firebird and his heart.
Bella Swan wore jeans with the hems coming loose at the cuffs and gauzy tops and sometimes she wore Edward's old jersey (I heard he played ball in junior high) that said CULLEN on the back.
She kind of knew everybody, which seemed impossible because she also intimidated everybody.
If she smiled at someone, they beamed back and walked a little taller for the rest of the day. It happened once to Tory; Bella Swan smiled at her in the library at the reference table right before she said to Tory, "Could you like, move?"
Once, Bella gave my other friend Kate a dollar in the cafeteria when she was a nickel short for chocolate milk and didn't even take the change back. I think she might be nice, but then another time, it went around the school like crazy that Bella Swan was going to kick Jessica Stanley's ass.
From where I stood, Jessica and Bella were friends. Both seniors, both top rung, but Bella had a kind of general respect from the student body that Jessica "the stank" Stanley did not.
Another time, I had to bring a note to Mr. Berty and Bella Swan was in that class and she was like, sprawled out on the air conditioning vents under the window. While class was going on.
And all of that isn't even counting her boyfriend.
Edward 'Oh My God' Cullen.
I swear he doesn't look like anyone else in school or on TV. Or in the movies. Or probably even amongst the angels.
He's just so hot that it hurts. Like literally, when he walks by, I actually feel a rumble pain in my stomach and I even heard that he turned down a job modeling for Abercrombie and Fitch because Bella didn't want him to do full-frontal.
If anyone in Forks is cooler than Bella Swan, it's Edward Cullen and I'm not even sure how he does it. He doesn't play any sports and he doesn't crack crude jokes much or anything. It's just like, in his blood. Cool just comes out of his non-visible pores.
For example, he was nominated for Homecoming King, but I heard he turned down the nomination. I mean, he's so cool he had something cooler to do than homecoming which might not seem like a huge deal but he turned down homecoming…in Forks.
He walks with this slow gait down the hallway and he sometimes taps the tops of doorway arches; and I know this next part is true because I heard it several times myself- when he walks by a classroom Bella is in, he makes this whistle-like tick sound with his teeth and tongue. It's like this little, secret, special signal they have just to let each other know the other is near-by.
He gives her piggy back rides in the hallways and she puts these little kisses behind his ear when she's riding that broad strong back.
He's the only one I've ever seen dig into that ginormous bag she carries and he puts her stuff into his locker.
She wears his clothes and he has her hair ties around the shifter in his car. I know because I glanced in his car all the time when the T-tops were off during the early fall when it was still warm enough.
Anyway, all of that is why they have to be together which is why that mundane Monday suddenly turned in to a matter of me versus fate when I found myself unprepared and excitedly, freaked-outedly involved.
I don't normally even go to the bathroom after first period but as fate would have it, I drank three glasses of orange juice at breakfast, foregoing the usual onion bagel I had because all that quarter we were going to have to swim in gym class so I couldn't have bagel thighs. I used to think swimming in gym was humiliating (it still is) torturous (check) and unnecessary. Now I see it was fate at work. I was meant to be in that bathroom that day at that time.
So, I took care of business, swung the stall door open and saw Bella Swan's reflection in the mirror.
Her long silky hair was knotted and her big bag sat in the stained and cracked porcelain sink...and she'd been crying.
I paused, panicking because I'd never actually been alone with Bella Swan, while she used brown, scratchy paper towel to swipe under her eyes at tears that were still flowing.
We made eye contact (accident on my part) and I looked away immediately.
I pumped pink goop soap onto my shaking palm and turned on the tap, silently cursing the crappy water pressure and too thick soap.
Bella Swan blew her nose in the same soggy paper towel and started digging through that bag of hers.
I had to concentrate not to peek inside of it, lest she announce plans to kick my ass a la Stanley for being a creepy snoop.
"Shit," she whispered. "Shit shit shit."
Each curse got louder and soon she was rummaging through that bag like crazy.
"Do you have any Chapstick?" she asked me.
Bella Swan just spoke to me.
Bella Swan was willing to share Chapstick with me.
Her lips have been on Edward's...lots of things (I've heard), so sharing would essentially be putting my lips all over Edward Cullen and despite all that talk of Bella and Edward belonging together, I'm only human. I would push Bella Swan off of a bridge to have my lips on Edward Cullen's things and I didn't have any Chapstick.
God, I was going to buy a whole case of Blistex as soon as the last bell of the day rang.
My mind raced and rummaged for the coolest possible option.
Do I offer to go skip school to buy her some?
Do I find Tory and get some from her?
How long do you feasibly keep Bella Swan waiting for Chapstick? And of all of the useless rules in the Forks High handbook, how had they not included any of this?
"No," I said slowly, hating having to tell her no.
I would've given anything to hand over a tube of Chapstick and I felt like I was disappointing her in the worst way.
I mean what if she needs something else that I do have and she doesn't ask because she'll think I don't have anything?
Or worse, what if she thinks I'm stingy and don't want to share with her? Or what if she thinks I think she's gross or something
To my relief, she didn't have any reaction at all, other than to sigh and shove at her bag with both hands.
"Um. Are you okay?" I asked.
"Do you have a boyfriend?" she asked me.
"No, I can't date until I'm sixteen because my dad thinks that going to the movies with a boy means you're having his baby. He's like, obsessed with sex. Or abstinence I mean," I rambled then shut myself up to a cold stop when I realized I was telling Bella Swan about my dad and sex.
"Most dads are," she said, and kind of maybe smiled.
I made Bella Swan smile through her angel tears.
My confidence grew ten-fold.
"I kind of...I think my boyfriend cheated on me," she said, then blew out a long breath and looked at her swollen eyes in the mirror.
"Edward would never!" I nearly shouted.
She startled then looked at me.
"You know Edward?" she asked, head cocked to the side, like she was absolutely bewildered by the idea that I would know who he is, which was bewildering to me. Didn't she know everyone knew who he was? Who they were?
And it's not like she defined 'know.' I mean, I knew him as well as anyone who stalked social media accounts knew anyone.
"Er...not like. Personally? I just...I think he collected attendance slips last semester," I stumbled.
"No, that wasn't him," she said.
Of course not. Edward Cullen would never be an office lackey.
"Why, uh, why would you think that he cheated on you?" I asked.
"He got this fucking job at this garage and there's this girl who's like, the receptionist?" Bella said and sniffed while rolling her eyes.
I'll kill this receptionist.
"Okay," I said.
"He fixed this girls radiator or whatever. He's been like, staying late at work with her and I hardly see him anymore…and just."
I paused to think if 'fix the radiator' was a sex metaphor I hadn't heard of while Bella took another breath and continued.
"So, I called him out on it and it turned into this huge fight and he...he...skidded his fucking tires right in my driveway, my dad already doesn't like him and freaked out and I told Edward I'm done. It's over...and this m-morning his stuff was out of my locker and he left a bunch of my stuff in mine..."
"So, you didn't mean it was really done then?" I asked.
It seemed to me that if she told him it was done, she ought to have her stuff back. It only made sense.
"I was pissed. I don't know but god. We've been together since we were freshman! It can't just be done like that, right? I don't know how he can just act like we were nothing."
I had no idea.
"Right," I agreed.
"He's such an asshole. I swear-what's your name?"
"I swear, Bree, he's such an asshole," she said, swiping her hair behind her ears and digging in her bag again.
She pulled out a compact and groaned, swiped her nose with the little sponge and tossed it back in.
"How the hell am I supposed to just...go through with this day?" she asked. "I feel like I lost a limb and everything is so surreal, like I'm under water. I want to see him but...I really don't want to see him. I love him...but he can't treat me like that. Why does he have to be this way?" she asked, and her big, wet round eyes focused earnestly on me for an answer.
"Uh. Because he's an asshole?" I tried.
She blinked at me then started to giggle.
"Yeah. That'd be why," she sighed. "But I love him anyway. He just won't…be there. Like, my whole life is about him and he just acts like it's whatever."
The bell rang and I really, really didn't want to be late to class.
I've never been late to class.
I didn't even know tardy procedure, but Bella went on as if she hadn't heard the bell and I couldn't just leave her.
What would she think if I ran when I heard the bell? She would think I was a nerd freshman, and I couldn't have her thinking that.
So I offered her a stick of Wrigley's spearmint instead of running, which she took and folded on to her tongue while she crumpled the wrapper in her palm.
"I have to know if she's pretty," Bella said decisively.
"Leah. The receptionist," she answered, pulling her bag up on to her shoulder.
"Look her up on Facebook," I suggested. That's how I got most of my information on people.
"It's locked up like Fort Knox. But I know she's nineteen, graduated last year, so she works full time at the garage," Bella said, then she fished out her keys from her bag.
"How do you know all that?" I asked.
"My dad's best friend owns the garage. I got Edward the job. I got him the job and he used it to...to...cheat on me."
"Asshole," I declared.
How could anyone hurt Bella Swan?
I didn't care how good he looked or how cool he was no one should hurt Bella Swan, who was like, my new best friend.
"Bree," Bella said, heading for the door, "we've got to go check this out."
"We do?" I asked, my pulse racing.
"Won't Edward be there after school?" I asked. "It's his after school job and all—"
"That's why we're going right now," Bella said and linked. My. Arm. With. Hers. Her patchwork bag slapped her thigh and then mine and I, Bree Tanner, had arrived.
I'd never been cooler, more in awe or more out of my league.
I couldn't just walk out of school!
Surely an alarm would sound or a teacher would catch us at the door and call my parents or dogs would sniff us out and drag us back in.
Or...I could just walk right out the auditorium doors at the back of the school and get into Bella Swan's ancient truck.
Because that's exactly what we did.
I was torn.
Half of me wanted the entire school, and maybe my parents, to rush out to witness me in Bella Swan's truck.
The other half of me concentrated on not pissing my pants and wished myself into second period Algebra.
I would be dead meat when my parents found out. I'm not even supposed to ride in cars with people they haven't met and I definitely wasn't allowed to do it during school hours.
But I'd have a helluva story for Tory and possibly a new lunch table in the Caf with my girl Bella, who had loud hip hop playing and smoked two cigarettes on our way to La Push, where this garage was. I sat next to her the entire time with a racing heart and eyes like saucers, determined to not let her see my nerves. The skipping damage was done I may as well not ruin my budding reputation.
I noticed Edward's huge tennis shoes on the floor-mat at my feet and saw his shirt flung over the back of her headrest. It smelled like boy carnal heaven and I sat on my hands so I wouldn't pick it up and rub it on my face.
"Are you a freshman?" Bella asked.
"Yeah. Is it obvious?" I asked.
She laughed and shook her head.
"Everyone is a freshman at some point," she shrugged. "Okay, so when you go in-"
"You're not coming in?" I asked.
"I can't! If I go in, oh my God. I'll either kill her or cry and I don't want him to know I was here. He'll think I don't trust him."
"You don't trust him. And doesn't he kind of know that?" I asked.
"He'll think I'm nuts for this," she said. "Just when you go in...see what she looks like and see if she's got hickey's or anything. See if her tits are big and if she's nice."
"Is he into that?" I asked.
"If she's got them...I guess," Bella said, glancing at her own modest chest.
"I don't think he'd just cheat for big boobs," I reasoned. "He can see those anywhere."
"See if she's nice. Or blonde," Bella said, absently touching her own dark hair.
In that instant, something I'd never even fathomed became clear to me: Bella Swan, cool as shit beautiful Bella Swan…was just as insecure as I could be. I felt a kindred spirit with Bella just then and I did the impossible: I understood exactly what she was feeling about Leah, because it's the same insecurity I'd felt when I saw Bella. And I knew how that could hurt and so I took a breath and squared my shoulders, determined to be strong and help a fellow-girl through this.
"Okay," I agreed.
I walked into the joint and there she was.
Nineteen with caramel colored skin and almond eyes and shiny, long black hair. My stomach sank when I realized I was going to have to come up with a gentle way of telling Bella that Leah the Receptionist was stunning.
"Can I help you?" Leah asked, sticking a Post-It to her computer screen.
"Um. Where is Baker Street from here?" I asked.
She rambled about miles, left, north and a stoplight and right while I checked her out for hickeys, Edward Cullen's fingerprints and boobs.
"Honey? Are you lost?" she asked when I didn't respond to her directions.
"No. I just was...wondering about good old Baker Street."
"Okay...do you need to make a phone call or something?"
"No, no...just...hey. Do you fix radiators here?"
"Sure, we're a full garage," she grinned. "Your mom or dad having trouble with a radiator?"
"No. I think the radiator in my...Ferrari is busted. Um. You ever have radiator trouble?"
"Your Ferrari?" she asked flatly.
"It goes all the time, I swear," I said, waving a hand. "Does yours?"
"The radiator in your Ferrari breaks all the time?" she asked again in the same tone.
"It's temperamental," I snapped. "What about yours?"
"Just had mine fixed by the best mechanic in the place," she said.
"Oh, really?" I prompted.
"Mmhmmm," she smiled. "He's the best. Here," she said, plucking a card from the card holder and sliding it across the cluttered desk to me.
"If your Ferrari ever needs any work, ask for Edward Cullen. He's the best."
"Will do," I said, grabbing the card and getting the hell out of there and back into Bella's idling truck.
She peeled out of there while I clapped a hand over my mouth and started giggling uncontrollably, from nerves, bravado, and sheer fun foolishness.
"Okay, tell me," Bella said when we were cruising along."Blonde, brunette...oh god. Red head? He likes red heads-"
"No, black hair—"
"Oh god. All exotic and gorgeous, isn't she?"
"No, not at all. And she like, was rude about my car the whole time-"
"You have a car?"
"I said I had a Ferrari."
"Bree! You're like, fourteen!" Bella guffawed.
"I know!" I laughed.
Bella laughed into the steering wheel before straightening back up.
"You're a fucking riot, you know that?"
Not until now I hadn't, and the idea of that had me beaming and smiling widely.
"And something else, too," I added.
"She told me if I ever had trouble with my Ferrari to ask for Edward Cullen, because he's the best."
The engine accelerated and Bella's hands gripped the wheel tighter.
"That. Mother. Fucker," she growled and we didn't slow down until we were in the Forks High School parking lot.
Bella grabbed her purse and looked at me.
"You have to talk to him for me," she said.
Oh what, no! I couldn't actually speak words to Edward Cullen.
Especially not important words from Bella Swan. There was no way, no how—
"Will you, Bree?"
"And say what?"
"Should I ask him about Leah saying he's the best?"
"No! I don't want him to know we were there...just...ask him what's up with the two of us."
"I can't do that!" I shouted.
"Why?" Bella asked, confused.
"Because! He'll tell me it's not my business after he asks who the heck I am! And then he'll like, want someone to kick my ass."
"He won't do that...he's...gentle," she said, this sad note in her voice as she poked at a pair of fuzzy dice hanging from her rearview mirror.
Edward Cullen once threw, actually picked up and threw, Mike Newton over a lunch table.
I was failing to see how he was gentle.
"Why can't you just go talk to him?" I asked Bella.
"Because! I can't talk to him first...it's like admitting I was wrong and I'm so not wrong."
I wanted to tell her what my mom would say: Use your words. But somehow gathered that this was beyond my mom's expertise.
"He'll be in the Senior hall right now. Burrow's class."
"I can't just walk in the Senior hall-"
"The bell's gonna ring. Just catch him in the hall."
"Do you know what they do to Freshman in the senior hallway?" I asked.
"Nothing," Bella said with a shrug.
"Oh. Well. I...if he goes bananas on me, you better come rescue me."
"He won't and I will."
It turned out the seniors actually didn't do anything to a freshman in the hallway.
They didn't even acknowledge I was there, including Edward 'Oh My God' Cullen, who I had to run to keep up with for like, five seconds before he even noticed I was there. The entire thing was a wonder because my heart was pounding so loud I thought the people two hallways over would be able to hear it.
How people didn't pass out in Edward's presence was a mystery and a phenomenon that needed to be thoroughly researched.
He was so tall and his shoulders, they were just this expanse of strong...man.
He didn't even tie his shoe laces, it's like they just knew to stay out of his way.
He had these sideburns growing up into this wonder-mess of hair that just...oh god.
His eyelashes curled, curled! and he smiled at one of his boys going by and when he did that-that smile with the teeth and one dimple- I tripped right into his side.
"Hup! Watch it," he said, then kind of patted my shoulder and kept his stride up, almost leaving me in his sexy dust.
"Uh. Bella Swan!" I called out like a fool.
He was already five paces ahead of me...but he stopped and turned around, his head downturned and he chewed on the corner of his lips for a half second.
Oh my god, what have I done?
My throat went dry and my elbows shook and I just held on to my backpack straps and waited in his thick silence.
"What about her?" he finally asked.
"She...yeah, what about her?" I asked back, shrugging one shoulder, playing cool and chanting "he's gentle, he's gentle" over and over in my mind. He was gentle, alright. Gently killing me.
"Do you have something to say?" he asked me, looming over me now like a tower of all of the things my father stays up at night praying against.
"What's up with you two?" I asked, trying for nonchalant but only succeeding in not choking on my own tongue.
One corner of his mouth turned up and leaned back.
"You're too young for me, kid. Sorry," he said, and rolled gum over on his tongue and turned back around, just as it made a cracking sound in the back of his teeth.
"Cheater," I scoffed under my breath and oh boy.
If that didn't get under his smooth, glowing man skin.
There was no way that he'd actually get away with hitting a freshman girl in school, right?
I mean, there was no way. Rather, it was improbable at the very least.
"Where'd you hear that?" he asked me.
"Is she talking shit?" he asked.
I would be loyal to Bella Swan. We had a sisterhood and an adventure shared!
I wouldn't let the most gorgeous boy in the world manipulate me in to spilling my guts-
"Have you talked to her?" he asked.
He snapped his gum then nodded his head down the hallway.
"Come with me," he said.
I followed him.
I don't know if people looked or not, but I felt like they did and I kind of hoped they did. During the short walk, various lines ran through my head:
You know,Bree Tanner, just cruising the hallways with Edward Cullen.
Who was that after second period?
Oh, Bree and Edward.
Did you see Bree?
She's with Edward
Oh, I was late for class. I was with Edward Cullen.
He led me to the auditorium. The empty auditorium.
Daddy be damned and Bella Swan who?
I was going to the auditorium with Edward Cullen, hot damn! I heard all about what Edward and Bella do in the empty auditorium, lusty rumors proved by the fact that he knew it'd be empty right now and he knew to use the dressing room doors, not the main doors.
He sat in a left row, end seat, bent his long legs to put his feet on the chair in front of him and dropped his head back.
"I didn't cheat on Bella and I never would," he said, his voice low. "I'm in love with that girl and fuck her for thinking otherwise."
"Yeah," I agreed.
He just looked so...hot. And sad. And when Edward Cullen is staring at you with sad intense eyes and bearing his soul, loyalty goes out the window because you get hypnotized in his charisma and his intensity and his eyes.
"Bree. What'd she say?"
"Just...she thought you were cheating on her."
He shook his head and opened his eyes, looking right at me.
He kind of half smiled, but oh boy. It was some kind of smile, a humorless but reckless thing that made me understand the teen pregnancy epidemic on an entirely new level.
"Everything got so fucked up," he said after a second, then scrubbed a hand down his face.
"Fix it?" I offered.
"I told her I didn't cheat on her. That's about all I can do and even that I shouldn't have had to do...I never would cheat on her and she doesn't believe me. I love her, but how can she not know me? I tell her everything. No one knows me better than her. I mean, she thinks there's more but…there's not. Whatever I am, she has it."
Edward Cullen with the heavy eyelids and a tired grin looked forlorn. Absolutely blue and heart-broken.
"She does know you," I insisted.
"Then she'd know better," he said.
"It's just you're so hot and so that means that she gets a little worried because what girl wouldn't want you?" I asked.
He laughed slow and low, shaking his head on the seat.
"That's sweet, kid," he said.
"I don't think-"
He sat up abruptly and looked at me.
"Bree. If you love someone you have to trust them. Or at least know them. And she was so mean to me about it- she flipped her shit on me for no reason."
"Right. But wouldn't you be mean if you thought she was cheating?"
"I wouldn't," he said simply. "And she better fucking not."
"She wouldn't. She loves you. She told me she loves you. It's all really simple, actually. You love her and she loves you—"
"Is there like, something the matter with me?" Edward asked suddenly and I stopped short.
Not from this angle, Sweetpea. Or the back, either.
"No?" I answered.
"Why can't anyone ever just...give me the benefit of the doubt? You know I got an A on Burrows mid-term? He accused me of cheating...and that's whatever. He doesn't know me. But Bella, she knows me. And she still thinks that. Am I that big of a fuck up? That people think that of me?" he asked, his eyes, so green and so sincere and so desperate, set in all of that hotness. "Do you know what it's like when the one person that knows you the best, the one person you need to be on your side…thinks that you're full of shit?"
"I think...you're just so larger than life around here that maybe no one thinks you're like, real? So maybe if they make up these flaws for you it kind of brings you down. Makes you real..." I said, staring at the floor, feeling like a complete, but honest, tool in the sudden silence before daring to glance at him again.
Edward looked up and slowly blinked at me then I think he might have actually blushed.
"You're sweet. You're full of shit...but sweet," he chuckled.
I smiled limply and leaned back against the stage.
"I'm kind of serious. Like, I think she just wants you to assure her or like, apologize-"
"I didn't do shit wrong," he said, leaning back in his chair again, his sadness swooped away and the defiance that I'd always known him to have was back.
"I know, I know, but maybe if you just-"
"Because she freaked out on me for no reason. And then it got shitty and she started texting this kid Jake-"
"She did?" I gasped.
How dare that she-snake text another boy! How dare Bella go behind Edward's back!
"Yeah, she did," he said, rubbing the back of his neck. "She's the fuck up here, not me."
"Did you ask her why?" I whispered.
"Their dads are friends. Jake's dad owns the garage I work at. Her old man hates me but loves this Jake kid…I don't wanna play games, you know?"
"Not with Bella. She's my baby."
He leaned back in the chair again and closed his eyes briefly, before hopping up and grinning at me.
"Thanks, for this. You're a good thing, Bree," he said, and ruffled the top of my head as he walked by.
I made a silent vow to not wash, brush, fingercomb, curl or flat iron my hair ever again.
I didn't see either of them until I was waiting for my dad to pick me up outside the front of the school.
My nerves were absolutely frayed from the day I'd had and to top it off, Riley Biers was standing a few feet away with his hands in his pockets and he kept looking over at Tory and I, but then he looked away when I waved which made me look like a complete tool.
"He totally likes you," Tory said.
"He totally ignores me."
"Hello! He's all shy, he's Riley."
"Yeah, but like, why is this always this way? If a guy likes a girl and a girl likes a guy, why do we pretend we don't and not say what we mean and mean what we say?" I started on a rant that went on for a few minutes before Tory shook my arm.
"What on earth is your deal?" she asked.
I looked over my shoulder then to the side. I mean, I was planning on telling Tory about Bella and Edward anyway, I was bursting to, but I figured it was a conversation best had over text at home but by that point she knew I had something big to say.
So, from the side of my mouth, I was trying to inconspicuously relay my unbelievable day to Tory.
"You were not in the auditorium with Edward Cullen!" she shrieked and like, nine juniors turned to stare at us while my face went up in flames and I tugged Tory's sleeve.
"Shut up!" I hissed.
"Sorry, sorry," she mumbled, leaning in to me, "But seriously? Were you?""They're like, broken up and I'm trying to help them rekindle things," I said and even gave a cool little shrug.
"Why you?" Tory asked with a wrinkled nose. Her bewilderment might've been insulting if I hadn't felt the same way.
"I have no idea—"
"Tell me everything he said to you. Every word and did he do that thing with his hands in his hair? Did he talk about sex? I heard they had sex on the beach over Christmas Break—"
"Tory, that's like, not even feasible. I think. It's been freezing for months."
"Sure it is."
"He didn't talk much about sex," I said. Or you know, at all.
"Stop leaving out the details!"
I opened my mouth but stopped short. It didn't seem right, just airing out their private relationship stuff. Yesterday I wouldn't have thought twice but now they're like…real people.
I was saved from Tory's inquisition when Bella walked by, her bag slapping her thigh, with Jessica Stanley.
She nearly missed me but then looked right at me over her shoulder.
"Thanks for today, Bree," she called.
"Sure Bella! Anytime!" I shouted back, louder than necessary while Tory whispered 'oh my god,' at my side.
"Safe travels in that Ferrari," she grinned and Jessica Stanley gave me a half blank look, half sneer and Tory's jaw hit her tennis shoes while I laughed at my inside, secret joke with Bella Swan, completely forgetting that I had just taken Edward's side. What. A. Day.
Bella Swan had simply walked in to my Algebra class just before the bell and sat right on Eric Yorkie's desk, her feet in his chair while he stood there, all bright red and half bent over, like he wasn't sure if he should start kissing her feet or just pass right out.
"You never told me what he said," Bella said, digging through her bag.
"He said he didn't do anything with Leah. And he looked all sad and hurt that no one ever trusts him."
"He like, really did. And then he said something about a guy named Jake?" I prompted.
Bella rolled her eyes and criss-crossed her legs, right there atop Yorkie's desk.
"I don't like Jake. My dad likes Jake. Edward knows that and I only texted Jake to see if he knew where Edward was because he hadn't called me all night and it turned out he was at the garage with Leah well past his shift. What am I supposed to think?"
Bella paused and looked up to the fluorescent lights—she was like, the only person in the school who looked decent under them, other than Edward.
"You want me to ask him?" I asked.
"You don't have to drag yourself through my bullshit anymore. But thank you."
"I don't mind," I said, "I consider it research for future romantic reference."
Bella actually laughed and told me I was a riot again
"So, okay, I'll ask him."
"Okay," she said, her eyebrows arcing in relief as she smiled at me. "Seriously. Thank you for this. I kind of don't want to involve all of our friends in this, you know? You're like, an impartial party."
"I understand," I said solemnly.
And so it was during lunch time I skipped out on the cafeteria in search of Edward Cullen, who spent lunch in one of four places: auto shop, the art room, the auditorium or off of school grounds completely. Yet that day, he wasn't with any of his friends or Bella in any of those senior sanctioned lunch spots. He was by himself on that back stairwell, white ear bud cords snaked out of his sweatshirt and disappeared under his hood and he held an apple in one oil stained hand.
He yanked one of the ear-buds out when I approached but kept his hood up and didn't say a word, he just bit in to that lucky-ass, crisp apple, chewed and stared at me.
"Hey," I said, standing on the bottom stair. Edward chewed and the corners of his jaws rhythmically pulsed and retracted and I was momentarily hypnotized until he took a second bite and raised his brows in question.
"Right. So. Why do you hang out at work after your shift with Leah?"
Edward swallowed another chunk of apple then inspected it, already half gone, before looking up at me which was good timing because I was about to run away.
"It's just not that simple."
"Yes it is."
"What? Is she sending you here to pump me for information? You tell Bella to grow up and speak to me if she wants answers."
"She's mad at you."
"Yeah, well, I'm mad at her. So."
I stepped down from the stair and turned to go, but then I turned back.
"I don't understand," I said weakly. "I won't even tell her, but like, boys are so confusing. Why do you guys do this?"
"Make everything so complicated," I said, thinking of Riley Biers and how he can tell everyone in the world he likes me but he won't even wave at me.
Edward raised his eyebrows again then smiled so big it turned in to a laugh.
"It's not me that's making this complicated. She won't even speak to me, so she sends you just to add more confusion to the mix. You can compliment her on her maturity for me, by the way."
"You chose Leah over her."
"No I didn't," he said. "I'm rebuilding an engine for her truck for a graduation gift. Or I was, anyway."
"You are?" I gaped at his heroicness and hotness.
"I can't afford anything for her, not really, but if I do extra work at the shop all I have to do is the labor, the rest will be free."
"You couldn't have just said that?" I asked, throwing my hands up.
"Sure. And I would've. But the first thing she did was accuse me of cheating on her. What the hell is that?"
"She wanted you there and she was feeling insecure," I said. "She didn't know about the engine, she thought you were spending all your free time with another girl. I mean."
"So what? I could be surrounded by the star line up of PornHub and she should know I wouldn't do her dirty. She doesn't trust me. This whole thing got so out of hand because she didn't trust me."
"Maybe it's not that she doesn't trust you. Maybe it's that she doesn't think she's good enough."
Edward shook his head and laughed out a slow, whisper laugh. He kept his profile to me, the apple hung in his hand as he stared at the cinder block wall and chipped railing of the stairs.
"Her parents, who hate me, are throwing her this huge graduation party. Already planning it. For her birthday, Jake bought her front row concert tickets for like, three hundred bucks a pop. Her parents offered to buy her a new car but she wants to keep that stupid truck. You know what I got her for her birthday?"
"Nothing. I couldn't afford anything so I wrote her this pathetic letter that like, spilled my guts about how I feel about her."
"No. It's not," he said, his head turning quickly to look at me. "She has everything and I can give her nothing but…like, who I am. And she doesn't even trust who I am. Like I said, this is not that simple."
"I think she only wants you," I said weakly. "It's not that she doesn't trust you. It's that she doesn't trust herself. To like. Be enough."
I knew that to be true. I knew Bella Swan knew she'd landed herself the most beautiful boy and she was insecure about her hair, her boobs, her everything.
He looked down but I saw a smile tug at his lips and he shook his head again.
"Enough," he repeated me. "You know what, Bree?"
"When you don't have much to give to someone but yourself and they don't even take you seriously…." He trailed off, gaze past me, then threw his apple core right over my head and into the trash can to my left. "Fuck it. You can tell her I'm over it."
"As in, over the fight?" I asked hopeful, but my stomach was sinking.
He got up quickly then, put the ear-bud back in and took the stairs down, two at a time before walking in the opposite direction of where I stood, cursing myself.
I avoided Bella Swan like she was the super-syphilis we learned about in Health class. I spent an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom and lingering against back walls of my classrooms until the last minute. I was very possibly responsible for the break-up of the perfect, epic couple of Forks High. This was too much stress. I may have been pH balanced for a woman, but unfortunately I was sweating like a pig on a spit.
I managed to avoid Bella until just before final period. I was headed to English, my normal reprieve of the day, when she was coming straight at me, bag slapping her thigh, her expression was hopeful but anxious, she had that high pony tail swinging and a tissue clutched in her fist.
"Bree!" she called and I started to whistle a random tune, like that could have deterred her. "Wait up!"
"Oh. Hey, Bella. What's up?" I asked, eyes to the floor, my stride becoming quicker when she U-turned and fell in to step with me.
"Did you see Edward?"
"Cullen? Oh, sure. He's been around. You know. School today. Hey, do you have a protractor I can borrow?"
"No, sorry," she said with a sniff. "Listen, did you talk to him?"
"You know he only eats an apple for lunch? I mean, that's kind of weird. Isn't it? I think it's weird. I mean, you don't really want to be with someone with weird dietary habits, do you? Think about the long run—"
"Bree," Bella said, but she already knew. Her eyes welled and her hand went to her mouth for a split second before she let out a shaky breath, and then, "What have I done?"
"No, it's not you, Bella. He just—"
Was walking straight toward us, one finger dragging across the row of lockers, his gait slow but defiant, his pretty face set like stone.
Just when I thought he'd walk right past us and we'd let him, Bella called his name and me, Edward and the twenty other kids in the hallway turned to look at her.
"What're you doing?" she asked him, her nose red, a slow tear falling as she clenched her ratty tissue.
"You talking to me now?" he asked, fully facing us now.
"If you're ending it, just do it," Bella said, chin high in the air despite her sad, sad face.
Edward used his hand to make a slashing motion over his throat and his tongue made that clicking hitch noise, callous and cold. He ended it.
"You're such an asshole," Bella actually cried and I swear, I saw him flinch, I saw his face turn in to what must be that gentle she claimed he had before it quickly rearranged in to something stoic.
"What do you care?" he asked, squinting one eye. "I'm a piece of shit cheater, right? What the hell do you care if it's over?"
"How can you say that?" she shouted.
"How could you say that?" he shouted back and if everyone wasn't frozen before, they were freaking ice cubes now, just staring, not one of us cracking under the intensity that was sparking and arcing all down that otherwise quiet hallway.
"What was I supposed to think?" she finally said, voice loud and firm, tossing her hands up in the air.
"You were supposed to think that I love you," he said, stepping closer, "That I wouldn't fucking do that to you. That maybe I'm not a constant fuck up and that I just…"
He stopped and cocked his head to the side and we all heard his neck crack and pop before he rolled his shoulders and just stopped talking completely, he only stared down at her hard.
"What? Say it. Maybe if for once you would just say what you mean and what you think—"
"Fuck it. I don't have to," he said.
"Fine. Let's go Bree," Bella said, linking her arm with mine, but this drew his attention to me and he nodded his head at me.
"You don't have to go with her. You need a ride home?" he asked me.
"No, uh, there's still a class left, actually, the day isn't over—"
"You're not giving her a ride," Bella scoffed. "She doesn't want to go anywhere with you."
"Pfff," he uttered with a mean smile, "You wanna come with me, Bree?"
"Why, you gonna lie to her too?" Bella snapped.
"No, but when I talk she actually listens and that's a nice change for me—"
"I listened to you!"
"Then why didn't you hear me?!"
"Oh my god," Bella muttered, "Let's go Bree."
"Stay here, Bree," he said.
"I'm not going with either of you!" I said, finally finding words after watching the two of them muddle through their own obnoxious problems for the past five minutes. "You two are ridiculous! I have missed classes and was tardy and you know I couldn't even barely sleep last night over this? And it's all so…stupid! Bella, he was building you an engine, not cheating. Edward, when you don't show up and don't offer explanations, you suck. God. It's simple and you two better hope and pray you can work this out because you deserve each other! Get over it or work it out but for the love of all things sacred—stop torturing the rest of us with your…your…bullshit!"
They both stared at me but not in half the shock I was in. My lips were numb and it was slowly starting to sink in what, exactly, I'd just done.
Edward said nothing, he just turned and walked away. Bella was still staring at me and I tried to find words to say sorry, forgive me, don't kill me, etc. but you know, those words wouldn't come. Because I wasn't sorry. I was right.
She threw her long arms that smelled like tangerines and the inside of her truck around me.
"I'm sorry," she whispered in my ear, "I'm usually not such an asshole to friends. Turns out, heartbreak makes me shitty."
"It's okay," I said.
Later that night, I sat up straight in bed, my phone in my shaking palm when a friend request on Facebook from Edward Cullen came through. I actually looked over my shoulder to see if anyone was witnessing this. I accepted with an uncertain and shaking finger. I figured he was either going to completely ream me out or he was going to cry about Bella some more.
Instead, a message immediately popped up.
It took me twenty six seconds to come up with: "It's cool."
Then his little light went dark and I immediately looked at my friends list, where Edward Cullen was now nestled nicely right in between my Aunt Edna and Elliot, the seventh grade bed wetter who lived next door.
The next day at school, Bella Swan tossed me a brand new tube of cherry Chapstick and we had a seven minute conversation in which Edward didn't come up at all. Her eyes were puffy and her voice was nasal, but she was trying to be a friend in return and for that, I figured that Bella Swan was actually a really nice and really real person.
And even a friend.
I saw Edward, too. He had a hat on, brim pulled low so I couldn't make out his emotional state, really, and he didn't talk but he did tug on the end of my pony tail while I was shoving my coat in my locker as he walked by.
And you know, it went that way for the rest of the week. I was kind of busy with new found attention from my freshmen peers who now knew my name and asked my opinion and Riley smiled at me in Algebra and when I said hi, he actually said hi back.
Things were quiet on the Edward and Bella front. Apparently, they'd both taken my advice about shutting up and staying away from each other.
And that broke my heart.
He was miserable, she was miserable but you know, if people can't get it together then I guess they just can't.
And then Friday happened.
Our first real snow fall of the season began in second period and Mrs. Henk let us all stare out the window like fools for the first half of class. I put my palm up on the cold glass, watching the snow cover everything in clean and white.
"You know how to pack a really good snowball?" Riley asked me.
"No," I smiled.
"You better learn," he grinned. "I'm coming for you after school."
I rolled my eyes and he bumped my shoulder with his, it was just a light nudge, but I swear it made my stomach drop to my toes in the best way.
Riley made good on his threat.
Outside after school, the student body went mad with that feeling of something different happening. Snow was flying, people were laughing and shrieking, hollering to friends across the lot and Tory and I were running from Riley and Garrett, who were advancing with snowballs and smiles.
"I don't have gloves!" I shouted, holding up my bare hands. "I can't defend myself! I'll get frostbite!"
Riley threw the snowball over his shoulder and looked me in the eye while he peeled his gloves off and held them out my way.
"Really?" I asked, my cheeks heating.
"Sure," he said, "Hey."
"You have snowflakes on your eyelashes."
"Yeah. It looks…pretty."
I chewed my lip and concentrated stupidly hard on putting his gloves on, my heart racing and my smile uncontainable.
"So, that pond out by Crooks road should be frozen solid by tomorrow," he said.
"Yeah. I guess. People can't wait to bust out their ice skates."
"Do you? Skate?"
"I mean. Not well," I laughed.
"We should go. If you want."
"Yeah," I said. "I do. Want."
"Cool," Riley said and he looked away the same time I did, our dumb smiles matching until he said something I couldn't have anticipated. "Oh shit!"
When something huge and terrible and earth shattering is occurring, things get very…contradictory. Everything happens so fast and so all at once that it actually all seems to turn to slow motion and each movement is independent of the other.
To the right of where I stood, Tyler Crowley's van was skidding and sliding on the slick concrete. At first in a jagged line and then it half spun out and just kept careening like a run-away ton of steel on a snowy slip and slide; like a wrecking ball on a path of destruction whose destination looked to be Bella Swan. She was walking away, her back to the van, the shouts that were now serving as warning seemed no different than the playful ones not directed at her and I knew she was undoubtedly still in the fog of heartbreak.
To the left of where I stood, Edward Cullen had seen the whole thing go down, hissed the word "Fuck" and actually leapt over the fence, one hand grabbing the top and the other like a javelin pole, springing him over it and on the other side where his feet barely hit the ground before he was running.
It was a blur as the van passed and it was only when it slowly and with a groan stop moving, did I see that Edward had made it on time. He'd crashed in to Bella, pinning her back to the chain link fence, his fingers gripping the metal loops on either side of her head while she was staring in shock, her brown eyes wide as she stared up at Edward.
For a few seconds, the lot went quiet before I stepped to go over there, to run to my new friend and make sure she was okay, he was okay—but I stopped.
The whole school stopped and we saw them. We saw him take her face in his hands and he whispered things to her, lots of things I couldn't hear, that none of us were meant to hear, because it was only for Bella to hear and then she had his shirt in her fists and she was sobbing. And we saw them and we witnessed and we knew: for little bits of time, only sometimes, love is perfect and love is real.
Edward pulled her from the fence and arced over her, holding her close before he said something else and she nodded. He wiped her face with his sleeve and took her hand and they crossed the lot, hand in hand.
The silence ended when shocked mouths began to murmur then speak then panic, but I just stood there on my tip-toes and watched Edward help Bella in to his Firebird then gently close the door and go to the driver's side.
We all noticed the accident about to happen, but he was the only one who ran, who risked, who made it in time. I hoped they both recognized that and what it meant.
And they did. Bella and Edward ended their senior year together, with her on his back and his heart back in her hands where it belonged. Bella still found the time to say hi to me, to do my hair for the Spring Fling which was my first high school dance with an official date, Riley. Edward would nod at me in the hallway and because I was keeping my own romance a secret from my parents, it wasn't my dad but rather Edward who told Riley he'd 'kick his face in if he fucked me over'. It took me three weeks to convince Riley to look at me again, but, you know. He did.
After they graduated, I heard they were planning to get married and I waited diligently for my invitation in the mail, but it never came.
During my senior year of high school, long after the epic romance of Edward Cullen and Bella Swan had left the hallways of Forks High, I heard through the grapevine that they'd broken up for good. She moved to Seattle and he had a girlfriend he'd met when he, I kid you not, fixed her radiator.
Maybe a great love doesn't have to last forever to be still be considered great. Maybe part of the epic is the tragedy of it all, the knowledge that it can't last.
But perhaps that's just the fatalist romantic in me, because my own love is great and dammit, it's going to last. Riley and I would do long distance for a few semesters at our own separate colleges and then, where ever we would land, we would land together.
When I was packing my room up the August after I graduated from Forks High, I came across an old snapshot in a shoebox under my bed, just under one of me and Tory at the Junior Prom. It was a photo of Edward and Bella, she was on his back in the auditorium and I was beside them, a gawky freshman next to that gorgeous couple, I was smiling like an idiot because at that point, I hadn't known my own love yet, but I'd seen how wonderful it was, just to stand near it.
I tapped the photo against my chin a few times then climbed over my bed and opened my laptop and headed straight to Facebook to look up profiles I hadn't searched for in years.
Edward Cullen had grown up, unsurprisingly, handsome and cool. In his profile picture he was standing on a dock in the middle of a lake, grinning at the camera. His hair was a little longer and nothing of a high school dream-boat remained, he was a man with the beginnings of a beard and narrow hips and there was a lightness in his eyes that had been formerly covered up by teen-age angst. He looked happy. He looked like maybe he felt like he was good enough. And his relationship status was single.
I searched Bella and saw her balancing heel-to-toe on a curb in some city at night. Her hair was shorter, her smile fuller and that patchwork bag was strapped over her. I let my fingertip touch the screen and smiled back at her as though she could see me. A lot had changed. But maybe a lot hadn't. And, well, her relationship status was set to single.
It took me minutes to scan and upload that picture and then tag two people in it. Then all that was left to do was stick my thumb nail in between my teeth and wait.
You know, fate is strong and if something is meant to be, it will. But is that fool proof? Can you always trust it? And even if you can, who's to say that sometimes fate doesn't need some interference?
Maybe I did it because I was feeling nostalgic as I was on the cusp of leaving behind Forks High, maybe I did it because I'm a meddler, but maybe I did it because I was called upon to. Again.
I went back to packing but to be totally honest, I took a break every ten minutes to check in on my post.
It took six hours, but finally, Bella Swan liked my picture and posted a comment.
'Love this one! I've never seen it. What's been up with you?'
I messaged her back about Riley and graduation and she messaged me back with congratulations and all about the world of copywriting, which was her line of work.
The next morning, Edward Cullen had liked my picture and left a comment of his own, just beneath Bella.
'Congrats on graduating, Graduate. Did I really look this douchey?'
It was only seconds later when Bella responded.
B: 'No. And Hi.'
E: 'Hey, B. How you been?'
B: 'Good. Can you believe what babies we were?'
E: 'Best days of my life.'
At this point, I was glued to my phone, watching it go down, one comment after another.
B: 'How are you? You look good.'
E: 'Yeah, you like this?'
B: 'Exactly the same I see '
E: 'Some things changed. Some haven't.'
B: 'Like what?'
Me: Take it to messaging, you two. I'm not getting in the middle of this again ;)
Five minutes later, I snooped and discovered they'd friended eachother.
I won't lie. I wanted more, I wanted to step in and shout that they should always, always be together and all of that stuff. I wanted to be kept updated and I wanted them to know that even I could still feel it between them. But you can't do that. You can lead Edward to Bella or Bella to Edward, but now, just like then, I could only take them so far and then step back and hope for the best, hope those tiny moments of absolute and perfect love is enough. But really, that's the thing about epics. They go on and on and twist and turn. Just when you think it's over a whole new beginning can start.