Disclaimer: I own nothing. Also, this story is planned to be about 10 chapters or so.

"Silent night, holy night. All is—"

"Isabella Swan would you shut up for once in your life!" Alice Brandon snapped at her best friend, turning back to the computer screen. "It's also July, you monster," Alice mumbled out, scrolling down the FaceBook page desperately.

Bella sighed.

"Al, I told you, Jasper doesn't have a girlfriend already. Why don't you just… ask him yourself?"

Alice unglued her eyes from the screen to shoot a horrified glare at Bella.

"You mean, why don't I just kill myself?" Alice huffed dramatically. "No, Swan, that's not how things work in the twenty-first century. Get on with the times, you old hag."

Bella was twenty-one.

Gently, Bella put down the laptop's screen, turning Alice's chair so she could face her. She was sitting at the edge of Alice's bed, and to be honest she was tired of talking to the back of the girl's head.

"Alice, first of all, you're seventeen. Meaning—" Bella flicked Alice's forehead, to which the younger girl protested heavily. "That I'm not old, you brat. And second of all, don't joke about killing yourself. I've already told you how I feel about that joke. And third, Jasper likes you. I've never seen a guy as moonstruck as him, so why don't you just ask him out? It is the twenty-first century, you know."

Bella smirked for good measure, and this time she got flicked.

"Nope. Progress is only good so long as one benefits from it," Alice huffed stubbornly, crossing her arms over her chest. Bella sighed.

"Al, you've got to do something, or else nothing will ever change. Don't you want Jasper? Are you really gonna wait for him to come around? Much as he likes you, the boy is as painfully awkward as they come."

Alice smiled fondly.

"That is true." Alice sighed dreamily, then shook herself out of it. "Fine, fine. I'll… invite him to this Saturday's party."

Bella laughed. Alice was all about small steps when it came to her love life.

"Will you come? I'd like the moral support, and you know all my friends love you."

Bella patted Alice's knee fondly, knowing the invite was sincere. She loved going to parties, but this Saturday…

"Can't. I've got my editor's housewarming party, remember? I'll be beat, supposing I could even make it." She loved socializing, but it also tired her out a lot. She always needed to recover.

Alice pouted.

"Right. But still—"

A knock interrupted them.

"Alice, honey? You should say goodbye to Bella," Mrs. Brandon poked her head in, smiling warmly at both girls. "You've got your violin lesson in less than ten minutes."

Alice groaned.

"But, mom—!"

"No buts young lady, you know what the deal was. Later nights out on Saturday in exchange for violin lessons." Mrs. Brandon chided gently, turning to look at Bella. "It was really nice seeing you, sweetheart. Come over again any time you want."

Then the door closed, and the two girls sighed.

"I really do like your mother," Bella admitted, standing up. "I'm so glad they found you."

Alice gave her a small, sad smile.

"I wish someone had found you, too, but I wonder if we would've met then."

The girls hugged.

Fake crying, Bella and Alice said goodbye to each other about a hundred times before the older girl finally left.

"Have a good day, Ms. Swan," Mr. Porter, the kind doorman, bid adieu to Bella as he watched her leave at half past midday that Saturday. Bella smiled back at him brightly, taking out a bag of cookies from behind her back and handing them to him.

"Thank you, Jack. These are for you, but if Mrs. Porter asks, you didn't get them from me," Bella winked, making the older gentleman rumble out a laugh and nod seriously.

"Believe you me, she will never know these existed," he said, already opening the plastic bag and pulling out a cookie. He groaned in delight. "You're no good for my diabetes, Ms. Swan."

She giggled.

"Oh, enjoy them. These are bi-monthly anyway, right? You've earned them. Good job on the weight-loss, really." Bella praised sincerely, thanking him as he pushed the front door of her apartment building open. "Thanks, Jack. Have a nice day!"

Humming to herself, Bella all but skipped as she swung the gift bag filled with cookies back and forth as she walked down the sidewalk. The sun was bright, the wind was strong enough to wash away the heat and the bus —as she found out when she hopped on— was mostly empty on the hot summer day. Bella looked out the window the whole time; she counted the amount of green cars that sped past them, the amount of beauty salons that littered the streets, the amount of times she saw a cloud that looked surprisingly phallic. The second time she found one such cloud she also finally saw herself on the reflection and, horrified, saw that every hair was out of place thanks to the wind. Quickly, she pulled out her phone to act as mirror and accommodated every strand of lose brown hair. She admired her reflection briefly; she'd managed to grow her hair all the way to the middle of her back, and instead of pulling it into the usual braid she'd let her waves be free for a day. She wore mascara and lipgloss for makeup, knowing any more would be melted off by the heat. If Bella had to say so herself, she looked nice, if not a bit too young; with her tank top, skirt and Converse she could've passed for Alice's age easily enough. She pressed her lips together; sometimes, she looked too young, but most of the time, she felt too old. Life had been too long already, and now she cherished every day that passed much too quickly for her taste.

She put down her phone, looking out at the passing scenery again.

"It's very beautiful, isn't it? The sky," she heard a voice, and turning, Bella realized that an older woman had sat down next to her. She had purple highlights amidst her gray hair, and the smile she received was so kind she immediately smiled back.

"It is," Bella agreed. "It's so blue and the clouds so white and fluffy, right?"

The woman laughed softly.

"You remind me of my grandson. He's always looking up instead of the ground, so he usually ends up tripping over nothing."

Bella perked up.

"Hey, that's me!" She pointed at herself, showing her the new band aids covering her knees. "I'm a walking hazard."

The older woman smiled fondly, then leaned over Bella a bit and pointed at a cloud.

"Hey, that one looks like a penis!"

Bella and the old lady laughed the rest of the bus ride.


"Coming!" Bella heard the voice of her editor call out from inside the brownstone and the clattering of feet before the door all but got ripped open.

"Hey!" Bella greeted happily as she was pulled into a tight hug by the beautiful blonde. "Thanks for inviting me."

"Thank you for coming," Rosalie squeezed her friend a little tighter before releasing her and pulling back. She scanned her from head to toe before giving a nod of approval. "I dig the outfit. New fall?" She asked, motioning to the bandaids.

Bella shrugged sheepishly.

"I wasn't looking where I was walking."

Rose rolled her eyes good-naturedly, knowing she should've expected this by now. Her friend always had her head in the clouds.

"Tell me something new," Rose said, pulling Bella in and shutting the door behind her. "Everyone's already here. Did you have a hard time finding the new place?"

Bella shook her head, thrusting the bag of cookies at her friend as they made their way to the kitchen to put them away.

"Nah, but I came by bus. It took a little longer than I'd calculated originally," Bella said, looking around at the new home. Portraits, pretty furniture and an elegant decoration made up the inside. "The new house is lovely, Rose. I'm so happy for you and Emmett."

Rose grinned, looking around at the place.

"It's my pride and joy. Emmett's only eating lettuce until we can pay back the mortgage though," Rose joked, and as if she'd invoked her husband, a hulking bear of a man came running into the kitchen at full speed.

He tackled Bella at the same time that he swept her up into a hug.

"B-Bells in the house! We can get this party started now!" He cheered, swinging her around once before putting down a dizzy girl. "You took your own sweet time getting here young lady," he fake huffed in annoyance.

Bella giggled as she tried regaining her balance.

"The day was too nice to have to look straight ahead at traffic," Bella admitted, pointing then at the bag on the counter. "I made you and Rose cookies. I'd tell you to share them with the rest but I know that'd be futile."

Emmett gave her a bone crushing hug.

"I swear if I wasn't married or totally in love with Rosie I'd marry you Swan," Emmett joked, letting go of the 5 foot 2 girl when he saw she wasn't getting enough air. "But she is my wife and I am totally into her, so you can be my concubine, alright?"

Blushing, Rose hit him on the back of the head. Bella just laughed it off.

"Oh Emmett, I can't think of an alternative universe where you're not with Rose," Bella smiled at them. "If you'll excuse me though, I really need to go to the bathroom."

Then Bella left them, instinctively knowing where to go (Bella was a shit singer but a terrific bathroom finder).

Emmett kissed the top of Rose's head.

"She's such a joy to be around, isn't she?" Emmett asked rhetorically, knowing already what his wife's answer would be.

She bit down on her bottom lip.

"Bella deserves the world, Em. It is honestly beyond me how anyone would pass up the opportunity to adopt her," Rose said sadly. "She's told me a bit of her time in the system, and it's such a cruel thing to put a child through. I hate that she went through that."

Emmett sighed.

"She's a sweetheart. I'm thankful though that she caught a break when she met you, babe," Emmett praised his wife sincerely, referring of how Rose had been the one to find a fledgling author and make her into an international best-seller.

"I hope I helped," Rose muttered, and then the couple went to the backyard to mingle with their guests.


"Oh, the water was too cold," Bella was muttering to herself as she dried her hands on her skirt while coming out of the bathroom. She kept muttering nonsense to herself as she walked towards the backyard, but stopped when she noticed a lone boy on the living room's couch. Curious, she approached.

Bright red hair that seemed incapable of being tamed, pale white skin littered with freckles and a lanky frame sat hunched over a phone, but from the movement of it it seemed like the boy was playing a video-game. She sat smack down next to him.

"Hi! What are you playing?" Bella chirped happily, leaning in a bit to try and see what it was. It seemed to be a car racing game.

"A game," the boy sassed back, not even turning to look at her.

"Cool. I love games. Can I play?" Bella tried catching the boy's eye, but he was still evading her.

"You probably don't even know how," he grumbled, his tone clearly dismissive. But Bella blew it off, undeterred by a little attitude.

"That's alright. You can teach me, right? Pretty please?" Bella leaned in a bit closer and lowered her volume. "Truth is, I don't know practically anyone here and I could use a friend. So would you mind being friends with me?"

Finally, the boy turned his head a fraction to look her in the eye. His eyes were a darker brown than hers and, to her great surprise, seemed to hold much anger.

"Did my dad send you?"

Bella frowned.

"Your dad? I'm sorry, but I don't know who you mean," Bella replied honestly. "I just thought that since you looked lonely, and since I'm also by myself, that we could hang out."

The boy's scowl deepened.

"I'm not lonely."

Bella's eyebrows flew up.

"Really? I could've sworn. I mean, you're at a super fun party and you're in here all by your lonesome," Bella smiled kindly, sitting up from the couch. "What's your name, lone ranger?"

The boy pouted.

"Alexander. And you?"

"I'm Bella. Nice to meet you, Alex." Bella put out her right elbow. "Mind coming with me outside? The day's too beautiful to spend it cooped up inside, don't you think?"

Alex frowned again.

"Are you sure my dad didn't send you?"

As annoying as the woman in front of him was, Alex had to recognize how nice her laugh was. It was kind of tinkling and seemed to come from deep within her. So he stood up and put his arm through her elbow, linking their arms together.

"I swear to you, Alex, I've got no idea who your dad is. You'll have to introduce us."

Together they walked out to the yard, which buzzed with activity, laughter and a copious amount of food and drink.

"Bella! Did you kidnap a child?" Jessica Stanley jokingly gasped, hugging the shit out of Bella and ruffling Alex's hair. Jessica was one of Rose's co-workers, so whenever Bella visited Rose's office they'd bump into each other. "He's cute, though. You should keep him."

Alex frowned.

"He's not mine to keep though, Jess." Bella laughed, turning to look down at the boy. "Alex, this is Jessica, another friend of mine. She might seem to put her foot her in mouth a lot, and it's also true."

Bella and Jessica exchanged a few more words before Bella dragged the boy away to the back of the yard, where Rose and Emmett were mingling with a tall, russet-colored man.

"Bella, what…" Rose trailed off, looking at the kid hanging off of Bella's arm.

The girl smiled widely.

"Rose, this is my new friend, Alex. Sorry Emmett, you can no longer be my second favorite friend."

Alex laughed, and Bella turned to smile down at him.

"Uh, Bella…" Rose stopped, not knowing how to continue. Instead she gave a small smile to the kid. "Hey Alex."

Alexander just nodded in acknowledgement.

Bella deepened her voice.

"'Hey Rose, your new house is super cool,'" Bella imitated Alex's voice, hip-checking him. "I think so too, Alex. The backyard's huge and the grill looks so neat," Bella said in her normal voice, chuckling when Alex blushed a bit.

"Thank you for having us over," Alex mumbled, shocking Rose and Emmett. Bella, however, didn't notice.

"And who might this be?" She motioned towards the russet-colored man who rivaled Emmett in the muscle department. He was just standing there nursing a beer and calmly hearing the back and forth between the young girl and the boy.

Rose was the one to answer.

"Oh, right! This is Jacob Black, Emmett's new hire at the gym. Jake, this is Bella Swan, one of my clients and dear friend." Rose motioned between them. "Meet."

Jake and Bella laughed.

"Nice to meet you, Bella," Jake said, extending a hand.

"You too," Bella smiled widely before turning to the rest. "Now, if you'll excuse us, Alex and I are gonna go play with that super cool mini-soccer table over there."

Again, without a care as to who was watching, Bella dragged Alex to the promised land, where they spent about half an hour (with Bella winning every time) before they were discovered by a new figure.

"Alex? Alex! Where are you?" A mess of red hair emerged from the other side of the backyard to where they were, and suddenly a man that could only be a sex god appeared in front of Bella.

Tall (like, 6 foot 3 kind of tall), green-eyes, chiseled jaw with a short haired full beard, low jeans and an Astrid and Obelix t-shirt made up the god, who upon laying eyes on Alex deflated and slowed down the frantic pace at which he'd been moving.

"My God, Alex, I thought you'd gotten swallowed up by the phone or something," a silky smooth voice said, which pretty much sealed the deal for Bella. She could officially die happy now after having seen the definition of perfection.

"Hi! Are you Alexander's dad?" Bella asked when the beautiful man laid eyes on her. He slowed down to a stop his determinate pursuit, coming to stand next to her. "I'm Bella Swan, your son's new friend."

The man shot wide eyes at his son, who refused to make eye contact. Stubbornly, the boy was looking down at the soccer table. The man swung his eyes back to the brunette, who looked like she could be anywhere between seventeen and his age. Her attire and face was young, but something about her eyes told him she wasn't a teenager anymore.

"Yes, I'm Edward Cullen, his dad. Did you just say…?"

Alex sighed in relief, his little shoulders slumping in relief.

"So my dad really didn't send you, Bella. That's good." Alex said, coming around the table and hugging Bella tightly around the waist. Surprised, she put a hand on top of his messy hair (which she now saw where it had come from). "Friends?"

Bella hugged him back, feeling her heart melt.

"Obviously," she said, then let him go when she felt Edward's intense stare on her. She bent down slightly to be on eye level with Alex. "Now, I'm not supposed to do this, but if you go to the kitchen you'll find a bag of cookies that you can dig into. Don't finish them though because they belong to Emmett and I'm dead meat if he realizes I gave some of them away. What says you?" Bella smiled, and her answer was looking at a trail of dust as Alex ran off to eat.

Bella turned to the sex god with a sheepish smile.

"Sorry. I don't know if I wasn't supposed to do that." Bella admitted, a bit unnerved by the man's intense glare. Well, glare or stare, she didn't know by this point which was the difference. She tucked a lose strand of hair behind her ear, suddenly nervous. "Did I do something I shouldn't have?"

Edward suddenly shook his head as if breaking out of a stupor.

"No, you didn't, I'm sorry. It's just Alex…" Edward trailed off, looking after his son thoughtfully. "He's not really a sociable kid. Fuckin' rebellious, that one." At Bella's eyebrow raise, Edward seemed to blush a little. "Sorry. I curse a lot."

Bella laughed it off.

This woman had a big, pearly white smile, Edward noticed. It fit her.

"That's fine. I imagine I'd curse too if I had a kid," Bella winked good-naturedly, making Edward shrug in defeat. "But he's really not that bad. All it took was a bit of pushing and that was it. He's quite sweet, truly."

Edward sighed, running a hand through his hair. Bella didn't think he knew this, but the move made his hair stand even more on end.

"Tell that to the little pricks that are his classmates," Edward mumbled, and though Bella wanted to ask about that, she didn't feel like she should. He trained his gorgeous green eyes on Bella. "So, who are you here for?"

Bella pointed at the lovely couple chatting up what was probably Emmett's grandparents. The older gentleman had Emmett's dimples, after all.

"Rose. She's my editor, so I couldn't possibly miss this, right?" Bella grinned, feeling a warm heart at seeing the older pair. She focused back on the beautiful man in front of her. "And you?"

"Emmett. We've known each other since freshman year of high school; we used to be in the soccer team together." Edward said, and she could hear the fondness in his voice for the bear of a man. "So, you're a writer? What about?"

Bella shuffled on her feet to find a more comfortable standing position. Edward seemed to notice, because he suggested that they sit on the available plastic chairs. They were the type that you always felt should cave in at your weight but only rarely, if ever, did. She hadn't noticed them before, having been so consumed in the game with Alexander. Once they'd sat, Bella answered.

"I write about a lot of things, but I mostly focus on thrillers and mysteries. I like doing comedy for short stories, and I've whipped up a political article or two for some newspapers. So, a bunch of things." Bella answered, and Edward wondered if she really didn't write any romance. Women seemed to like reading and writing it, in his experience. Maybe it was just a prejudice he'd acquired from seeing his sister's bookshelf, though, which was littered in either erotica or just your typical cheesy novel. "What about you?"

Edward tried not to, but he couldn't help but flinch a little. Whenever he said what he did, people seemed to have a moment where they didn't know how to react. It was an honorable occupation, and he was proud of bringing food to the table and a roof over his son's head, but people's minds were almost always set on the fact that success equaled a white collar job.

"I'm a mechanic." Edward said, wondering what the weird little woman would say; true to first impression, she did the unpredictable. Her eyes lit up in excitement.

"Oh, that's so great! I've been searching for one to fix my car, but I didn't know who to ask for references. Do you have a business card or something I could have to set up an appointment?"

Edward barked out a laugh.

"You don't even know if I'm any good, and already you're gonna leave me your car?"

Bella pressed her lips together, cocked her head to the side and shrugged.

"You're Emmett's friend. Do I need any other reference?" Suddenly, Bella's confused face morphed into a teasing smile. "We both know Emmett can't stand dumb people."

The two laughed at the inner joke, one tinkling and the other gruff. It seemed to Bella that the man next to her wasn't all that used to laughing anymore, if the permanent wrinkle between his eyebrows was of any indication.

After a few moments of comfortable silence, Edward reached into his back pocket to pull out his wallet; he took out a card and handed it to Bella. It read CULLEN'S and below it was Edward's name and phone numbers.

Bella giggled.

"I wonder if you own your own shop?" Bella pondered sarcastically, and at Edward's unchanging face, burst out cackling. "Oh my God your face!"

"Bells, you trying to charm my man over here?" Emmett suddenly asked, and looking up, Bella saw that Emmett and Rose had arrived to where they were hand in hand. "Because I'm warning you, I think you could do a little better."

Edward rolled his eyes, and though he tried not to look it, Bella could tell Edward didn't find the joke all that funny. So she huffed and crossed her arms over her chest, trying to look imposing in front of the bear of a man.

"I happen to think you're lying," Bella said half seriously, half teasingly. "I find it hard to believe the Emmett McCarty associates with anything but the best of the best."

Emmett would've pushed on, but Rose butted in to speak to Edward, her original goal in approaching them.

"Edward, you won't believe this." Rose began, and to listen to her better both Edward and Bella stood up from their chairs. "Bella brought Alex over from the living room. He thanked me for having you over."

Both eyebrows raised in surprise. The handsome man cast a look at Bella, who was making a perplexed face.

"I'm sorry, am I missing something? I feel like I shouldn't have even glanced in Alexander's direction or something." Bella worried, but everyone was quick to put her at ease.

"Nah, it's just that Alex has been on a silent strike. Anyone his dad likes he doesn't talk to." Emmett explained, but it only confused Bella further.

"How long has this gone on?"

Rose shrugged.

"A year, give or take. Edward says it's the silent protest for not going to the school he wants to be in."

Edward had gone very still at this part of the conversation, and Bella, ever so observant, changed the subject.

"Well, on another note, it's possible Alex might've finished your cookies," Bella said apologetically to her friend's husband, and the horrified face Emmett pulled made her want to laugh, but she held it in.

"Hold me back Rosie or I'll be cooking us a ten-year-old redhead for dinner," Emmett growled, grabbing Rose's hand and pulling her to the kitchen in a very resolute march. They disappeared, and once again Bella and Edward were left alone.

"Thank you for that," Edward said quietly as they took a seat again. "Rose and Em mean well, but they divulge too much."

Bella waved it off with a smile.

Was she ever not smiling?

"If you're worried I'll tell, don't. But if you're just worried about the fact that I know a bit about the two of you, then I don't know how to make you feel better." Bella said honestly, guessing what it was that bothered him about the interaction. "Alexander's a sweet kid."

Edward, in a moment of strange vulnerability, opened up.

"He is, but… He's just been so fucking angry ever since my ex-wife left us. He gets in trouble at school, won't talk at home or to anyone I'm friends with, thinks he's incapable of making friends if it's not through me for some strange reason…" Edward pinched the bridge of his nose, needing a moment to compose himself. For once, Bella wasn't smiling, and this comforted Edward that the young girl wasn't just an air head. Perhaps she truly was just a happy person? It seemed like such an odd concept to Edward; for more than three years now he'd had no reasons to smile but his son, and Alex would hardly look at him.

Bella leaned forward, putting her elbow on her knee and resting her chin on her hand. She had a pensive expression on, looking at Edward through squinted eyes.

"What approaches have you tried?"

Edward raised an eyebrow.


"Yeah, like, what strategies and such. Like a firm hand, or talking to him, or letting him run amok and so. What have you tried?"

Edward thought about the question.

"Uh, bunch o' stuff. Mostly I've left him alone though, because punishments or time outs don't really work."

Bella hummed.

"Well, in my experience, angry kids are just lonely. You give them company and the anger subsides; I'm not really partial to time outs because it's like saying to kids 'Your punishment is to spend time by yourself', although I'm not really a parent, so that's just what I think." It's what she'd felt as a child when she'd gotten time outs. "I'm sorry your wife left you, though. It must be hard for the two of you."

Edward sighed.

"Well, it's mostly good she left. Lauren was… well, not really a devoted mother. At least she signed over the rights to Alex, so if she tries coming back I'll fuckin' chase her out." Edward grumbled, running his hand down his face. Bella saw he had a cool tattoo on his right forearm; it wrapped around it and was like five inches long. It consisted of lines of different thickness, and in the middle was a lined triangle with a smaller black triangle inside. Bella really liked it, but she also felt it was a bit sad.

"Is the big triangle you and the small one Alex?" Bella asked, pointing at the tattoo. Surprised she'd caught it, Edward nodded. "I like it, but it's missing something, don't you think?"

Edward cocked his head to the side.

"Missing something?"

"A little color. For my taste, at least. Just like you," Bella smiled kindly. "You could do with a little color in your life."

Edward would've answered, but Bella's phone started ringing. With an apologetic look, Bella answered it.


"Hey Bells."

"Hey you. Almost here?"

"Ah, no, I don't think I'll be able to make it. Sorry babe."

Edward didn't know who it was, but he could see Bella was deflated by the news.

"Oh, that's fine. We both knew it was a long shot anyway with how busy you are. See you tomorrow?" Bella asked, and even she could hear the unfiltered hope in her voice.

"Of course. See ya."

"Bye." Mike hung up, and with a deep sigh, Bella sat back down. Edward was looking at her with raised eyebrows. "Sorry about that. My boyfriend was meant to come today, but he's busy. He's a doctor," Bella explained, as always so proud of Mike. They'd met a year ago on a blind date —Rose had meant to set him up with Jessica, but she'd caught the flu. To not cancel on Mike she'd asked Bella to go instead, and the rest had been history. He was often busy though, so the amount of times they could meet was limited.

"Oh. That's good," Edward said, suddenly all too conscious of how greasy his tennis were. He'd come straight from checking on the shop, after all, and hadn't had time to change shoes. He didn't suppose a doctor would've had that problem. "You must be so proud of him."

Bella giggled, her previous mood done and over with.

"You make me sound like his mother. But I am proud; he's told me of how hard it was to get to where he is. He's on his last year of med school, so he's going a bit crazy studying for exams." Bella saw she had a message from Alice; it was asking her to please come pick her up from her location because she needed to leave the party now. She stood up. "Oh shoot, I'm sorry Edward. I gotta make a call."

"Is everything alright?"

Bella bit down on her lip.

"I don't know yet. Give me a sec."

Quickly, Bella called Alice, and the younger girl answered on the second ring.


"Alice? Is everything ok? What happened?"

"J-Just get me out of here, Iz. Please." Bella frowned; Alice only called her that way when she was upset. And if the tearful voice was of any indication, Alice was very upset.

"I get it, Al. I'll catch a cab and be with you as soon as I can, alright? Wait for me inside the house, you hear?" Bella said sternly, not wanting the pixie anywhere outside. "I'll see you soon." Bella hung up, looking up at Edward with a pinched face. "I'm sorry Edward, please say goodbye to Rose, Emmett and Alex for me. I gotta to dash."

"I'll drive you," Edward said, also standing up. Bella immediately started shaking her head no.

"Oh, I can't trouble you that way. Thank you for offering, though."

Edward rolled his eyes and grabbed Bella by the wrist (it was small, just like her), pulling her out of the backyard.

"You're obviously worried about your friend. Come on, Alex and I'll take you. I might not have a sports car, but I'll be quicker than a taxi."

Bella smiled at his back despite her worry. Edward could almost feel it.

"Thank you, Edward. You're very kind." Bella said, practically jogging behind him to keep up with his pace. His legs were too long for her to comfortably keep up.

They found Alex in the kitchen in a stare-off with Emmett. Rose was taking pictures of her mammoth of a husband trying to intimidate a kid.

"Come on Alex, we're going now." Edward said, and his voice left no room for argument. Alex hurried to join his father and his strange new friend, who looked a bit agitated.

"Bella, what's—" Rose began, looking at her friend's worried face and Edward's grip on her wrist.

"Don't worry, Rose. I need to help out a friend, and Edward offered to give me a ride. Thanks for having us!" Bella gave her a cheery smile and then continued to be pulled by Edward out of the house and to the passenger side (the door opened by the chivalrous Edward) of an old Jeep. Alex quickly got in the backseat and put on his seat-belt.

"I've got the location on Waze," Bella said, showing Edward her phone. "Want me to put it in the grip?" Bella asked, motioning to the grip that was attached to the air vents. Edward nodded and in seconds they were pulling out of the McCarty driveway.

"What's going on?" Alex asked Bella, who turned as much as she could to look at the boy.

"I've got another friend who's in a pinch, so we're gonna go help her out. Can I ask you for a favor, Alex?" Bella made sure she'd caught the boy's eye when he hesitantly nodded. "She might be crying when we pick her up, so could you give her a tight hug? She really likes hugs when she's sad," Bella elaborated, and smiled when Alex gave her a hesitant ok.

"What happened to her?"

Bella shrugged.

"I don't know yet, but she called me crying. So she must be sad, don't you think?"

Alex pulled his eyebrows together in concentration.

"Does everyone cry when they're sad?"

Bella hummed.

"I don't think we always cry when we're sad. Sometimes I've been so sad I haven't been able to cry, and other times I've cried from laughing so hard. We're all different, so we all feel differently, I think."

Alex pursed his lips together in unhappiness.

"That's dumb."

Bella laughed, turning back to look at the front.

"I guess it is."

"And you said you weren't friends with my dad, but you are, aren't you?" Alex suddenly accused, and Bella turned around to see him with his arms crossed in front of him with angry eyes trained on her.

Surprised, Bella switched between turning to look at Alex and Edward, whose stiff expression made her heart hurt.

"Can't I be friends with the two of you?" Bella asked. "Your dad's not as cool as you, but he's pretty nice, you know? He's even helping me just because I'm friends with you."

"He's not."

Bella pulled a mock-offended face.

"Are you calling me a liar?" Bella asked, and Alex's shocked face was so funny she nearly laughed. "Because I have it on good authority he loves you so much he wants to be nice to your friends."

"I don't have any friends," Alex mumbled defiantly, and this time Bella gave him an incredibly heartbroken face.

"I thought we were friends."

Alex puckered his lips out.

"Not if you're friends with my dad."

Instead of laughing at his tantrum, as Edward had expected, or getting annoyed, Bella reached a hand over and tugged on his jeans' leg. She looked at the little boy seriously.

"If you really don't want me to, I don't have to be your dad's friend," Bella began, and Alex looked up at her cautiously. "But I happen to think your dad also needs one."

Alex looked skeptically at the back of his dad's head.

"He doesn't."

Bella nodded vigorously.

"Oh, but he does. We all need friends to cheer us up when our family can't. Or will you take over in my stead and cheer your dad up for me?" Shamefully, Alex lowered his eyes. No, all he did nowadays was throw tantrums and ignore his father. He wasn't a very good son, and he knew it. "So can't I be friends with the two of you?"

Alex thought about it.

He didn't want to share Bella, that was true. Other than Seth, she was the only person these days who had willingly talked to him. He didn't want her to be on his dad's side. On the other hand, his dad did seem sad these days, and he could also use a new friend. So Alex nodded with a deep sigh.

"Fine, you can be his friend, too."

Bella smiled at him brightly and sent him a kiss, making the boy blush. She turned with the same bright smile to look at Edward, who saw it out of the corner of his eye. She truly had a way of making his heart feel light.

'Thank you' he mouthed to her, to which Bella just shook her head and looked out the window. After a few minutes, Edward told her she should call her friend because they were five minutes away, and that he could remember the rest of the way.

Bella called Alice.


"Al, start heading out. I'm five minutes away," Bella said, her heart squeezing painfully at hearing her friend still crying.

"Ok. That was f-fast," Alice hiccuped, then hung up. Bella sighed.

"How'd she sound?" Edward asked, making a right and looking at her face in the process.

"Still crying. It must've been bad," Bella lamented, hating that one of her oldest friends was so clearly hurting. "Thank you for giving me a ride, Edward. I can take a cab from here to Alice's house."

Edward rolled his eyes.

"Nonsense. My mother would beat my ass into next week if she ever knew I'd left you on the sidewalk." He said, and for some reason Bella got the impression that Alex was already used to his dad's cursing.

Bella smiled at him.

"Thank you, Edward. You are quite the gentleman." Bella complimented, and Edward felt the tips of his ears burn in embarrassment.

"Shut it," he grumbled, making Bella giggle but not make any further comments. How could a girl be so damned open? He felt that her parents, if not she, must've been hippies.

"Oh, that's Alice!" Bella said, pointing at the girl standing on the sidewalk. It was only five in the afternoon, so the sun still shone brightly enough that the sequins Alice so loved shone in the daylight.

"She's wearing sequins during the day?" Edward mumbled to himself, pulling the car to the side. Bella didn't even hear him, too concentrated on jumping out the moment the car stopped to grab Alice into a fierce hug.

"You ok, Ali-cat?" Bella whispered in her ear, and her answer was a slow shake of the head.

"Whose car is it? Mike drives a sedan." Alice whispered, and her voice sounded so raw from crying that Bella felt like she wanted to cry along with her.

"A new friend's. His name is Edward Cullen, and the little kid in the back is his son Alex. He's Rose's friend," Bella whispered back, then gave her a tight squeeze before letting go. "Come on. They're gonna drop us off at your place."

Alice got in the back of the car and Bella went back into the passenger side; she put in the address for Alice's house and placed the phone back in the grip. They all took a moment to breathe deep.

"Edward and Alex, this is my best friend, Alice. Alex, remember what we talked about?"

Alex dutifully nodded; Edward had already pulled out and was heading in the direction Waze said.

"Bella said you would want a hug. Was she—" He didn't even get to finish his sentence before Alice had slipped to the seat in the middle and grasped him in a bone-crushing hug. In the mirror, Edward could see his son blushing.

Bella smiled at the man next to her, but otherwise said nothing.

Out of the twenty minutes to Alice's house, fifteen were spent holding onto Alex as if the girl's life depended on it. When the boy started looking blue, Bella chipped in.

"Al, could you let Alex go? You're cutting off his air supply," Bella commented, and finally, Alice let go. Sniffling, she sat correctly.

"Your son is an excellent hugging pillow, Mr. Cullen." Alice said hoarsely, and Edward felt his heart whimper a bit.

"Please, call me Edward. Thirty's not that old yet," Edward said, making Bella laugh.

"Please, you're getting off easy. She calls me old to my face and I'm only twenty-one." Bella said, glancing back at her friend in the mirror's reflection. "But she's closer to Alex than she is to you, so maybe she should call you mister?" Bella laughed in mock hurt when Alice leaned over to slap her arm. "Violence!"

"You started it," Alice mumbled, huffing and crossing her arms over her chest.

"Oh, we're here," Bella said, pointing at the driveway Edward should park in. It was a very nice house, Edward thought; gated, three stories high and modern. The oldest thing here was probably his car. He slowed to a stop in the driveway, and as soon as he'd parked Alice mumbled out a quick thank you and had dashed inside the house, probably ready to cry again.

Though he didn't fault her, Bella shot him an embarrassed smile.

"Sorry. She's not a rude person, but she usually cries for hours when she's sad. I'm actually quite proud that she managed to hold it in for fifteen minutes," Bella apologized to Edward, and to Alex she gave him one of her brilliant smiles. "It was probably because you did such a good job at comforting her, Alex."

He shrugged in embarrassment.

"I just hugged her."

"You were patient with her. Most people would've pushed her off after a minute or two, but you held on. Thank you for taking care of my friend, Alex." Bella said, making the boy blush at the sincere praise. Bella's heart warmed; like father like son, she supposed. She turned back to Edward. "And thank you for driving me around. It would've taken me a lot longer to get to her and get us back if it wasn't for you."

Edward shook his head.

Thank you for making friends with my son, Edward wanted to say, but didn't. He wasn't one for emotional outpours, and he didn't think he'd start now.

"It was my pleasure."

"Oh yeah, is this your cell phone number on your card?" Bella asked, and Edward nodded. "Great! Can I call you tomorrow? I usually show my gratitude in cookies, so I could drop them off at your house or something."

Edward had a better idea.

"How about you text me your address and I'll come pick them up in the morning, and we'll have brunch? My house is currently having some things fixed, so it's not very hospitable right now."

Bella nodded easily enough. She didn't mind, really, but didn't think he'd budge.

"Sure," she said, opening her door. She craned her neck around to look at the boy. "Bye, Alex. See you tomorrow!"

Alex waved goodbye.

"Bye Edward. Thanks again," Bella said, and with a final smile hopped out of the car, shut the door and hurried in the house to comfort her friend.

Edward remained parked there for a few minutes.

"Bella's quite nice, isn't she?" Edward asked, hands gripping tightly the steering wheel. After a couple of beats, Alex replied.

"She really is."

Edward let his hands relax, and they pulled out and away.

Hi again! So, let me say that this story's got me quite excited because I've literally never done one like this. I did a list and everything, and most things are either totally new or moderately different. I hope no one can spot details where you go 'Oh but you've done this before, Leah!' because if I did, my subconscious is just too powerful. I wanted to do a story where Bella's character was a bit different from usual, and where y'all could see the natural progression of her and Edward's relationship. It's important for me to make a positive character like Bella; despite what I'll start revealing about her, little by little, I want to emphasize that she's not faking how nice she is. I just wanted to try and make a Bella that's quite different from me on most fronts, unlike the usual one. It's hard to not pour your personality into your characters, but this is my attempt at it. Hope you like it!