This chapter was glamed and prettied by my wonderful Beta Fran. Like, so damn long ago. Thanks, love! And you should thank Fran too, because you probably wouldn't have gotten this update if it wasn't for her ! Any faults are my own, in result of itchy, restless fingers and indecisiveness.

. . . Bella . . .

Man, it felt weird e-mailing Edward's dad. I sent him two dozen different mural ideas, telling him to take some time looking through them.

I felt…proud. Accomplished. It felt so good to be putting something in motion, doing something for someone else; contributing to society. I'd talked to the VP, who introduced me to the art teacher, who happily looked through all of my photos and read through my proposal. Her curriculum was similar to a class I'd taken back home, having a unit using a grid to transfer an image onto a different canvas in a larger size. She seemed excited to be part of my project.

They'd only gotten upset over one thing. When I asked them not to mention my involvement in the project to any of the students. Even though Edward denied it, I knew people talked about me, and I didn't want my participation to have any sort of negative impact. They disagreed with my worries but agreed anyway, so I gave her Doctor Cullen's contact information.

I fired off my e-mail to let him know, even though she'd no doubt already contacted him.

Then I went and dropped onto my bed, exhausted. I was tired most of the time, just generally lacking in energy. Sugar didn't help anymore. Exercise was the only thing that woke me. I hadn't had much of an appetite yet either, and I'd been more emotional. The inhibitors hadn't been helping.

Edward helped. Adrenaline helped. Pot and Vicodin helped. And Edward. Yes, I know I already said it, but it was crazy how much he helped. His touch soothed more than scared me now. It only really bothered me when he reached for my arms, but he was very careful not to.

I was so in love with that boy that it was crazy. He was my happy place. He made everything so…easy. He came over almost every day after school, and the few days he didn't, he was always sending me messages. We never got bored, whether we were doing homework, eating, watching movies, playing video games or walking around in the woods. Each time he touched me it got easier. He never let me take a step back, and when he felt like I might, he just pulled me forward again and held me until I was okay with it.

I think I was getting a little obsessed with him. Sometimes it irritated me how dependant I felt towards him, even more than it did with Charlie. I hated that he disliked so many people; people he'd known all his life, because of me. Jacob, Tyler, Mike. I could see that he felt as if he had to protect me from all of them. From everyone. And what pissed me off the most was that I knew that I needed him to do it.

I just wanted him to be my boyfriend, not my babysitter when we left my house, which we so rarely did, because of me.

I also felt like I was monopolizing him, and that he might feel too guilty to hang out with his other friends, which he hardly did anymore. It scared me because it couldn't last like this, and I needed things with Edward to last. I really, really needed them to. The thought of him leaving was terrifying. I'd never been so scared of losing a friend in my life, but I'd never had a relationship like this before. Edward and I just fit together so easily, and I'd never been so comfortable just being myself around someone. I loved how honest we were with each other, how easy it was to talk to him about almost anything. How relaxing it was just to be in the same room as him.

If this didn't last, if I ruined it by just hogging him to myself and making him miss out on everything just because I wasn't strong enough to go out and be next to him while he did, I didn't think I'd be able to handle it.

So, I did something that I really didn't want to but felt like I had to.

I told him that I was going to hang out with Rose tonight.

And I'm pretty sure he was pissed.

He sent me a short text saying he was going to go to the beach in La Push for his Friday night fire with a gang of people who mostly despised me. Maybe he needed relatable company.

I didn't lie, though, I actually was going to hang out with Rose…and I was kind of excited. We texted every once in a while, not much, but I liked her. Sometimes, when she was locked out, she'd come by, and I'd let her use my shower. We were about the same size, though she was taller, so I had lent her some clothes before too. She seemed like a bit of a lone-wolf type, which was cool with me.

She came over at six, and I knew it had been one of the bad days. Royce was a fucking asshole, and I really wanted to report him, but I couldn't go behind her back like that. Her eyes were all puffy, and a large section of the left side of her face was red. I nodded her in.

I made her an ice pack before we went to my room. She gave me a small smile in thanks.

It's Friday, you could sleep over if you want.

"You don't think the Chief will mind?"

I shook my head. I doubt he'll be back before two, and I doubt even more that he'd mind you staying over.

"Thanks, Bella. You're a good friend," she said quietly.

Yeah, well, you're relatively low maintenance. It's nice.

She smirked. "So, where's Edward?"

The beach.

She frowned. "I doubt he's too happy about that. Did you make him?"

Not really, I just told him that we were hanging out and having a girl's night. I'd gladly hog him to myself every night, but I want him to see that it's okay for him to hang out with others, too. I worry that he might feel too guilty to go see them without me, like he's ditching me or something. I'm kind of terrified that he's going to get sick of me, too.

She nodded, then turned to me, grinning. "You love him!"

I whipped my pillow at her, making her squeal.

I want pizza and chicken wings. You down? We can get half and half.

"Sounds perfect. Vegetarian for me."

I lent her some PJs and told her she could grab a shower if she wanted, and I got changed before placing my order online. I smoked a joint while she was in there too because I knew that it was the only way I'd be able to eat a meal-sized amount of food. And Rosalie was a watcher, just like Edward. She noticed everything, making it near-impossible to hide something from her.

She came out about five minutes after our food arrived, and we sat down on my floor with our boxes, plates, a roll of paper towel and my giant box of nail polish. I had to have at least a hundred and fifty colours. I'd taken most of my mom's too.

A small part of me wondered if I should tell her that she might be using a dead person's nail polish.

So, anything interesting going on around school?

She peeked over quickly, barely moving before her eyes flickered back to the baby pink she was putting on her middle toe. I'd never say it, but she was adorable when she was concentrating hard on something. She sort of bit on her tongue. It was weird but cute.

"Depends on what you'd define as interesting."

Tumbleweeds rolling across the desert.

She laughed. "Well, Tanya's face is still pretty purple. The Band of Blonds won't come near me, so I guess it's good that the season's over and we aren't having any more practices this year. Most of the school seems to think it's an improvement, though." She dipped her brush into the bottle again, scraping off one side on the way out. Her eyes met mine. "Thank you, by the way…she sort of told me that the only reason she wasn't pressing charges was because you said you wouldn't press any if she didn't."

I shrugged, and settled on a deep purple for my fingers. The baby blue on my toes looked awesome.

"So how are things going with Edward?"

I waited until I finished my nail before writing.

I want to say pretty good, but maybe I should wait a day or two before I answer that.

"If he gets pissed about you hanging out with other people…" She hinted, and I nodded.

Oh, I know. I don't need his permission, but our relationship is…different.

"Everyone says that about everyone they date," she said with an eye roll.

I kept working on my nails, not wanting to stop a million times. When I finished my first coat, I gingerly picked up my pencil again.

Look, Rosalie, I get that everyone probably thinks it in some way, but it's pretty obvious that I have some issues. I don't really get along well with kids my age. What I'm doing with you is very rare for me. I talk to Emmett online every once in a while, but besides that, and seeing you every once in a while, Edward is the only person I actually talk to. He's my best friend. I was pretty popular back home, but after everything happened, every single person that I knew cut me loose. Yeah, they'd been worried, made me a giant card that I didn't get to see for a long time. By the time I could have visitors, a few people did come in to see me, but they couldn't handle the way I'd become. A couple came back a second time, but that was it. Gone. An entire lifetime of friendships.

Then, I came here. Edward…well, he was an asshole at first, because he thought I was just like, purposely not talking to him. When he found out that I couldn't speak, he hated himself for it. But instead of just avoiding me, he found me and apologized. When I saw him again, he just came right up to me and started talking. From that moment, he's treated me like a completely normal person. He gets me better than anyone else in the world ever has, and I have a fucking black book of medical professionals. He's seen every side of me, probably more bad than good, and it doesn't even phase faze him. He's the kindest, most compassionate and caring person I've ever met. Of course things are different with us, he's the only person I've been able to touch in almost a year without having a mental breakdown.

I sat my book down and applied my second coat. Rose had started reading immediately, no doubt intrigued by my long-ass note that filled an entire page. She was quiet for a long while. I had finished my third coat of colour and was putting on a top coat when she spoke.

"Okay, in your instance, I guess I have to make an allowance," she conceded. I snorted. "Bella, you know I'd never like, talk to anyone else about you, right?"

I'd like to hope so.

Ah, my nails looked so pretty. I blew on them.

"Will you ever tell me what happened to you?"

I froze. I'd like to put that trust in her, but…I sighed.

"I'm betting that if I looked online, I might be able to find something based on what I know about you. I'm horrible at letting things go. I'd just rather ask you, it'd make me feel like less of a shit."

I looked at her, debating. She'd broken Tanya's nose for grabbing me in a hallway full of witnesses. I really believed she had my back, that we were friends. That she wouldn't talk about me. She hadn't yet. And she told me about her shit. I'm pretty sure I was the only person that knew.

I let out a deep breath, but I was surprisingly numb. I didn't get worked up, I was merely resigned. I wasn't trying to be dramatic; I just didn't want to really linger on the details.

My mom tried to sacrifice me. The police shot her before she could cut too deep.

Rose choked on her drink and looked at me in disbelieving horror, her calm demeanor thrown to the wind.

"Is that supposed to be some sort of fucked-up joke?"

I shook my head.

"Jesus, I'm…I'm really sorry."

I shrugged.

"I won't tell anyone, I swear." I nodded, giving her a small, thankful smile, and grabbed one of the boneless chicken wings gingerly.

You, Charlie, my therapist and Edward are the only people in this town who know. I'd like to keep it that way.

She nodded quickly. "How long ago was this?"

Almost a year now.

I tried not to think about the fact that I knew she was going to comb the internet the first chance she got.

"So, is it like, hard to be in crowded areas and stuff for you? Are you going to be okay shopping? Or would you just like…faint again if someone bumped into you?"

I shifted uncomfortably.

I don't know…I have trouble just going to the school. I've only gone shopping like once, in PA, and that was with Edward. He was really…protective of me. And please don't take this the wrong way, but I only agreed because I could tell that he really wanted me to go for some reason. Now, I don't even know if he'll still be up for it. I'm not even allowed to walk around the school on my own anymore, I'm worried Charlie's going to make a big deal about going to Seattle, but I don't think I'd fight him too hard if he did. I feel like a fucking five-year-old.

"A five-year-old with a giant house to herself."

I nodded.

"Do you have like, pills or something you could take to help?"

Yeah, but they just knock me out most times.

"We'll figure something out, even if your girlfriend can't get her panties out of a bunch."

I rolled my eyes, but smiled.

"Where did you want to go? Any idea what you want to pick up yet?"

I'm not too sure about gifts yet, but I need to go to Victoria's Secret. And I need some new clothes, and a jacket. This place is fucking cold.

"Oh, this is nothing yet."

So I've been told.

My phone vibrated, and I picked it up hopefully. It was from Edward, and I opened it a little warily.

How's your night going?-E

Okay. How about yours?-B

Am I too clingy? Am I smothering you?-E

No, not at all.-B

I'm over-bearing. You make me fucking crazy, and I fucking hate it. I don't know what to do.-E

My heart stopped, and my eyes immediately watered.

"Bella? What's wrong?" Rose asked worriedly. I shook my head, swiping at my eyes.

I'm sorry.-B

There was nothing else I could say because he directly told me to stop trying to get him to break up with me. I couldn't ask him again. My phone didn't buzz anymore, and I dejectedly set it down. Rosalie gave me one look, and I shook my head. I didn't want to talk about it.

So she dropped it, which was something I really liked about her. She didn't pry or push, but she was there.

"Well, I need clothes too. Even if Seattle doesn't work out, we could go to PA or Olympia."

I smiled. That works for me. Do you have a driver's license?

She nodded.

So, any prospective boyfriends in your life right now? I asked curiously.

Rosalie fucking blushed, and my smile split my face.

Spill it! I started smacking my pencil on my book to emphasize.

She groaned. "If you tell anyone, I'll kick your ass," she warned, and I nodded excitedly.

"Umm, well…You know Emmett-"

I gasped.

Well, he does fill out that football uniform pretty well.

"Fuck, he does, right? You might want to scratch that line out of your book."

I nodded, even though I was pretty sure Edward wouldn't be reading my book again. Not thinking about that. I scratched it out.

Give me details.

She frowned. "I've had a crush on him for like, two years, but he doesn't even look at me. I tried dropping hints, flirting with him, everything short of asking him out myself. But he won't bite."

Why don't you just ask him out?

"I don't know…I guess it feels sort of needy. And we have like, nothing in common besides our friends, and I hate most of my friends. And he's never alone."

I pursed my lips. Have you ever played Minecraft before?

"Never heard of it."

Did you like playing with Legos growing up?

"No, not really."

I frowned.

Do you have a laptop? She nodded. Next time you come over, bring it with you. I got another nod, and she quickly changed the subject.

"So, what do you want to do?"

I have some awesome face masks if you want to try one. It will make your skin softer than a baby's.

"Sounds good."

So we enjoyed our girly night, eating junk food and exfoliating. We both tried these hair treatments that I had as well. I had all sorts of crap like that from my mom, like, a whole giant box of random beauty-care products. She was an impulsive shopper. We blew up one of Charlie's air mattresses with my blow dryer, and I made Rose a bed with blankets and sheets. It was about eleven thirty, and we were just starting to zone out, drifting off while we watched The Notebook. I loved this movie, but I'd never try to drag Edward into watching it.

We both screamed when someone tapped on my window, and I flicked on my light.

It was Edward.

And he looked trashed.

I warily went and opened it, but instead of letting him in, I climbed out. His hands wrapped around my waist, spooking me, but he just steadied me and set me on my feet. Then, I didn't want to let go, and pounced on him, hugging him tightly, just in case I'd never get the chance again.

He hugged me back.

"What did that mean?" He murmured.

"What did what mean?"

He couldn't hear me when we were outside, and every time I had that little semblance of normality taken away from me it was like a jab to the gut. I hated worrying him, and tried to stomp down my frustration quickly, taking out my phone from where it was pinned to my shoulder by my bra strap.

What did what mean?

"All you said was sorry. What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

I pissed you off. You said I was driving you crazy, that you hated it, and I'm just…sorry, for upsetting you. That wasn't my intention.

He sighed, holding me tighter.

"It's not even your fault; you don't even know you're doing it. You didn't do anything, it's just…You don't drive me crazy; I'm just kind of crazy about you. I'm not used to this."

So you're…not breaking up with me?

"What?" He asked, a little loudly, squeezing me. "Fuck, no, why would you even ask that?"

Well, with your message, I thought you might have had enough.

"Oh, fuck. No gorgeous, I didn't mean it like that. I swear. I'm so fucking sorry."

I almost whimpered under the weight of my relief and clung to him tightly. I cried a little bit too, and he just held me tighter, and tighter, and didn't look like he would ever let go.

But it was really, really late.

Are you going to make it back for your curfew? I had to poke him with my phone to get him to release me enough to read it.

"Oh, crap," he looked at the time on my screen, and he had seven minutes. "Damnit. I might make it if I run."

I shook my head, typing hastily.

No, you'll fall and ruin that handsome face. I'll grab my keys, meet me out front.

I gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, then backed away and took a running jump for my window, pulling myself in. Shit, my arms were weak. I was still out of shape and needed to up my workout regime.

"What's up?" Rose asked. I pointed my thumb behind me, out the window, made a turning wheel motion with my hands, pointed to my wrist like a watch, and held up all ten fingers.

"…You're giving Edward a lift, and you'll be back in ten?"

I grinned, giving her a small clap, and she beamed before going back to the movie. I was awesome at charades. I ran out front with my purse and Edward was waiting. I unlocked my Bug, starting up it up as he slid in, and I quickly backed out of my driveway. The roads were deserted, and it was a two-minute drive. I smiled brightly when I pulled up in front of his house, and he had four minutes to spare.

He was looking at me, grinning. It took me a minute to realize what the curious smile was for.

I'd driven him, in my car. Without a problem. Huh.

"Thanks, you saved my ass," he said with a chuckle. He leaned in, and I didn't really want to kiss him when he smelled like beer and an ashtray. But he just kissed my cheek, quickly, and opened his door. "I'll talk to you tomorrow?"

I nodded, smiling.

"Goodnight, gorgeous."

Goodnight, I mouthed back, and watched as he walked up his steps and went inside. Then I drove back home and crawled back into my bed.

I sent Rose a text instead of searching for a pencil.

Well, it looks like you're going to have eight hours of backseat driving time with Emmett on Monday. You're welcome.

I hadn't mentioned anything about Emmett before, just that we were taking Edward's car. Her eyes bugged out of her head as she gaped at me, and I just smiled before shutting off the light.

A/N: So! A little bit of girl time with Rose, what do you think?

So, yes, I disappeared again. This note isn't important besides the fact that I won't be able to update for a while, so if you're one of those people that likes to complain about my long author's notes are you can just stop reading right here ;)

So, I have some things going on right now, not long after my last post I entered into this program and it is kind of taking priority over everything else until this process is done. Unfortunately, this shit is time consuming as hell and has ended up making my life overwhelmingly hectic. I'm exhausted, sick, and kind of losing my mind. And it's going to keep going until I either win a position or when my status expires in four years. As I've already won a couple competitions so far, I'm hoping to be done with this in a few months.

This isn't fair to you guys, but I need to do what's best for me in the long run, and this is my best shot at getting my life back on track. I hope you can understand. I'm not abandoning this story, but I can't relax and enjoy writing when it just makes me sick an anxious when I know I'm supposed to be doing other things. I do miss writing it. I might not be able to post again for a while, but if I do get time I'll send a chapter over to my amazing beta and then post it when I can :)

And a really big thank-you to those of you who PM'd me, and all of the lovely reviews for the last chapter! Your kind words meant the world to me, you're awesome.

Until next time lovlies!