Welcome to my new story. It's been a work in progress for a while. And since I've been a bit of a flake with other stories, I decided to pre-write this one completely before posting! I'll update every Wednesday or Friday! Happy reading! And if you want to… you could leave me some love at the bottom.
Chapter 1: Ben
"Rae, I'm heading out. Rose is going to stay with you, okay?" I holler upstairs.
She pokes her head out around the corner and smiles. "You're going out?"
"Yes," I lament.
"On a date?"
"Yes. On a date."
"That's cool, Mom." She says it so nonchalant.
"Question though, why when I'm almost sixteen do I need someone to stay with me?"
I smile at the darling child standing just a staircase away. Her bright green eyes shining with mischief. "Because sweetheart, you're almost sixteen, and I might be late. That's why."
She grumbles something unintelligible.
"I love you and I'll see you in the morning."
"Okay, don't have too much fun. I'm pretty fond of being an only child."
I chuckle dryly, grabbing my wallet and going to check on Rose before I head out for the night. I find her in the kitchen getting a snack together.
"Thank you so much for doing this."
She looks over at me with her mountain of popcorn and glass of wine. "Thank you. I get a whole evening of uninterrupted TV time."
"Emmett doesn't let you have the remote much?"
"Not during football season. It seems like there's a game on every flipping night."
"So thanks to you, I can watch my girly stuff, enjoy a glass of wine and kick back for the night."
"So you haven't told me anything about this guy. Who is he? How'd you meet?"
"I work with him. His name is Ben. He's kinda quiet, but he's really nice. He always makes sure my burger has extra pickles when we order in from Red Robin. So, I mean, he must care, right?"
"What?" She wonders with a shrug. It's like talking to my daughter.
"Yeah, but nice isn't really what you need right now, is it?"
I cock my head and look at her. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"You need a good fucking and a nice guy isn't going to be the one to give you that."
My eyes bug out.
"Don't pretend like you don't."
I shrug. I guess I can't deny it.
"Bella, how long has it been?"
My eyes narrow. "A little while."
"A little while? It's been like five years and before that it was Edward. You need to let go and allow yourself be loved."
I swallow at the truth of her words. I know she's looking out for me, like any good friend should. However, occasionally she seems to think that none of my dates actually measure up to what I deserve.
"I wish Mr. Perfect was out there, but right now, I'm feeling like 'nice' might be as good as it gets. Especially at my age."
"Bella, you're way too much of a catch to settle."
"Thanks, but Ben is a decent guy and I like him. I'm going to see where it goes, okay?"
"Okay, but make sure he fucks you—hard. You need it." She nods emphatically and winks.
I grab my keys and scurry out of there, before my friend says anything else about my sex, I mean love, life.
Ben and I meet up at a book store we both frequent, because I still feel weird about Rae meeting the men I'm dating. Obviously, if anything were to become serious, I would introduce them, but right now, I'm still testing the waters.
"Hey," he greets, looking nervous, but adorable.
He grins, making my nerves come alive too.
"How are you?" I ask.
"I'm good, you?"
"Good," I answer, nodding like an idiot.
"So…do you wanna ride with me? I know this delicious little spot not far from here," he says warmly.
"Sure, that sounds lovely." I admit, I didn't know what to expect with this date. Ben's rather shy.
He opens the door for me and we drive down the street to Stoltzfus. I blink when he parks outside, wondering if he's serious or not.
"This place is amazing. They have the most delicious bread."
I nod, knowing that to be the truth. They're an Amish bakery. It's not exactly what I would consider a first date restaurant, but I'm willing to give it a chance. We walk in and wait to be seated by a friendly, older woman.
She puts us at what can only be described as a well-lit table and hurriedly hands us menus.
I sit there, nervous, but still enjoying myself.
Ben begins to flip through the menu, while drumming his nails on the tabletop. It occurs to me then that there's no music. No ambiance in the least.
I look around, searching for speakers or anything and see nothing.
"So…what're you thinking of getting?" I wonder slightly, but mostly say it to make conversation.
He looks up at me, almost like a deer in headlights. "I don't know. I guess...the meatloaf?"
"Okay," I answer, glad he's made up his mind. The faster we eat, the faster we can get out of here.
Then we can at least go for a walk, or something.
Another woman comes to take our order and I notice her staring daggers at my empty ring finger. Ignoring it, we order—plain water and our meals. Since there isn't anything other than coffee on the menu.
We eat in pretty much silence, except for an occasional comment on the meal, then we leave and he immediately starts driving us back to my car.
"Do you wanna go for a walk, maybe?" I suggest, trying to salvage this night in any way that I can.
He looks over at me briefly before refocusing his eyes back on the road. "I actually have to go into the office early tomorrow. I was kind of hoping this would just be dinner and then I could go home to bed."
"Okay," I mutter, dragging out the word. I wonder why the hell I ever agreed to a date with this bozo anyway.
After being dropped off at my car, I thank him for the evening. He grins and says it was great to spend time with me, and he'd like to do it again.
I somehow get away without agreeing, because I don't think a second date is ever going to happen.
I sigh as I pull into my driveway and walk into my house, fully prepared for the onslaught I'm about to receive. Rose isn't the kind of person to let something go. She's going to love this.
"Well, well, well," she begins, setting her half-full glass of wine on the coffee table.
"Hello to you, too."
"Bella, by my watch it's not even ten. Am I right?"
"Ugh, God yes."
"So it was awful?"
"Awful isn't the word for it," I tell her, setting my stuff down and making my way into the kitchen.
"What is the word for it, then?"
I grab a glass and the bottle of wine she started, pouring myself a hearty glass, before looking up at her. "Horrid, terrible, tragic, boring as hell—I mean, any one of those descriptions would be appropriate."
She frowns, her face softening. "That bad?"
"Worse," I sneer, taking a long sip of my much-needed wine.
"Where'd you go?"
I cock my head, pulling my lips from my glass. "You know that place in town? The Amish one? They make awesome pastries and bread?"
"Okay, so the food was good?"
"Yeah, but the atmosphere was not first date territory. It was bright, no music, and the servers were looking at me like I was a whore."
"I'm serious. I thought they were going to break out their pitchforks. It was so uncomfortable. Not to mention the fact there wasn't an ounce of alcohol in the place."
"It's Amish, Bell," she says with a snort.
"I know! But a first date basically requires some form of alcohol to make it through the awkwardness."
"True," she agrees.
I sigh, taking a seat at the island next to her. I look longingly at my wine, swirl it in my glass. "He was so quiet, he couldn't even keep a conversation going. The only comment he made—twice—was how good his meatloaf was. And the restaurant ambiance, or lack thereof, wasn't helping. I finally asked him if he wanted to go for a walk, to save the night, maybe try to chat a bit, but he told me he had an early morning"—I raise my eyebrows—"and he needed to go to bed."
She frowns, giving me a pitiful look. "Bella, I keep telling you that you're selling yourself short."
"I don't see how."
"Are there any other prospects?"
I shrug. "Not really. The dating pool is pretty shallow at this age."
She shakes her head. "No way! There're plenty of awesome guys out there just dying to be with a knockout like you."
I give her a skeptical look.
She thinks about it for a minute, then turns to me. "What about online dating?"
"I don't know. That seems a little extreme. Don't you think I could still meet someone naturally?"
I roll my eyes. "Okay, so what am I looking for, Farmer's Only? Because I'm sure as hell not signing into Tinder."
She chuckles. "I'll consult with Alice and we'll pick the best one for you. Maybe tomorrow night we can come over and help you make a profile."
I shrug, not having anything to lose at this point. "Sounds good to me. I hate the whole dating process, but maybe a change in how I go about it could be great."
"Well, they all can't be slobs with hearts of gold like Emmett."
I laugh and nod my head. "Tell me about it. Jealousy overwhelms me on a daily basis when I think about just how lucky you are."
"Hey, once upon a time I looked at you and Edward and was envious. Now, it's your turn."
I shrug. "There wasn't much to be envious about with me and Edward. We weren't together enough to make anyone jealous."
"It's when you were together that the whole world was jealous."
I frown and shake my head. She has no clue what it was actually like.
"He wasn't gone that much, B."
"Yes, he was! The year after Rae was born, I added it up. He was gone more than he was home. We were strangers by the time we had a chance to talk about things. It just wasn't fair to her. I was almost a single parent."
"Well, at least he woke up…about the traveling and not seeing his daughter part."
I purse my lips and nod. "Thankfully, he did."
"It's too bad it was too late for you two."
"Yeah, it was…but this is water that has long passed under the bridge, Rose."
"I know. I just always think about you two together and how goddamn happy you were when you got married. I haven't seen you that happy since."
"I was too!" I argue.
"When I was with Jake!"
She gives me a confused look, almost like a lost puppy.
"When the hell were you happy with him?"
"Rose, come on, I almost married him," I say, trying to get my point across, before taking a swig of wine.
She nods emphatically. "Yeah, yeah, but what I remember is, me and Ali trying to talk you out of what could've potentially turned out to be the biggest mistake of your life."
I slap her arm. "Rose, before he turned out to be an asshole of epic proportions, I was happy. He was good to me."
"You and half the rest of the females in the county."
I let out a dry chuckle. "That's true."
There's silence as we drink our wine, and I think of something funny Edward did the other day.
"What's the grin for?"
"Oh, just something Edward did with Rae. You know how goofy he can be."
"Yeah?" She questions with a smile.
I wave her off, knowing she wouldn't find the humor in it.
"You think a lot of him still, huh?" she asks delicately.
I let out a dry laugh, shaking my head. "Rose, it's like your first boyfriend. You know how you still remember his name? And how you remember all the time you spent with him, even though you've happily moved on to greener pastures?"
"Yeah, Andy Landry."
"Exactly. Edward was that for me. Except, I married my Andy and had a kid with him. No one will ever live up to that in my head. Not a single person, no guy I've encountered since, and I've learned to accept that."
"Don't you wonder if that's because you're still in love with him, even after all this time?"
I chug the rest of my wine. "I still love him. There's no denying that. The basis of the love is the question. Is it because he was my first love? Is it because he's Rae's father? Or maybe it's because he's now just plain amazing—as a father and a human being?"
She cocks her head and looks me dead in the eyes. "You need to figure that out. If you don't, I wonder if you'll ever be able to move on."
"Oh, please, I almost married someone else. I'm definitely able to move on. I just need to make sure that person lives up to, or close to, as good as he is."
She snorts out a short, "Ha!"
"Hey, a girl can dream, right?"
She nods and smiles. "Absolutely."
"All right, I'm going to bed," I announce.
"Sounds good. I'll go see what shape my hubby's in."
I give her a quick hug, and she sees herself out.
Then I trudge upstairs to tuck my lonely self into bed, not sure if I can sleep, with so many thoughts my conversation with Rose put in my head.