Hello, my beauties! It's been so long, and at the same time, a really short time since my last story. I was going to publish this until I was completely done, but oh well, the festivities always get the best of me. Happy New Year! Also, not to brag, but recently I hit peak Twitter popularity for defending Twilight. Sadly, many of the counter-arguments were quite good so I partly admitted defeat. I'm sorry. P. S. I discovered this rock band called The Struts -if that's your kind of genre, I recommend it. I've been hearing them nonstop the last couple of days.

Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight.

"You two… you do realize that we're in broad daylight, right? And that this is where I work?" Isabella Marie Swan snapped her teeth —kind of like a turtle— and narrowed her eyes at her best friend and his girlfriend.

"Oh come on Bells," Emmett McCarty gave her his most charming smile, once he'd torn away from the lips that had held his attention for the last, say, fifteen minutes. "You know Ali and I want to make the most of our last summer vacation together."

Bella glared.

"Em, you know I'm all for you and Alice being together, but looking at the two of you make out in Denny's is slightly nauseating, not to mention I can throw you out over it."

Bella wasn't sure she could, but she could bullshit her way out of any situation.

Alice pouted cutely, batting her eyelashes at her boyfriend's best friend.

"But Bella," she said, tucking her head under Emmett's chin to try and amp up the cutesy effect. "If not here, then where?"

Her lack of shame was, in itself, one of the things Bella loved most about Alice Brandon. That, and how she so easily kept the big oaf in check.

"Oh, I dunno," Bella rolled her neck, pointing with her chin at the children behind the couple. "Just somewhere that kids don't stick around. Like, McDonald's or something."

The three snorted; Bella was always so full of it.

"Careful B, or someone might think you're actually loyal to Denny's or something," Bella flipped off her chortling best friend, deciding not to trouble herself further for those two. They were beyond redemption, anyway. Besides, and she wasn't proud of it, Emmett had confided in her he'd break up with Alice before going off to college; she was going all the way to New York, and Emmett was staying behind in Arizona for college, as was Bella. More than not wanting to do the long-distance relationship, Bella knew that Emmett wasn't confident about Alice not finding someone that suited her more than him in the big city. And that, Bella saw no way of denying: Alice was a very free spirit with her head in the clouds and in fashion, always looking for the next big adventure. Emmett was a family man who didn't see himself leaving the state, too attached to his family and friends. It was, in itself, a miracle they had lasted so long together; maybe it had been out of sheer stubbornness, or maybe they just loved each other that much, but when they'd started dating freshman year of high school, Bella had bet they wouldn't stay together longer than a month. Four years later, she'd been proven wrong over and over again. So now, she didn't really have it in her to make them break it up the same way she had over the years.

"Now if you'll excuse me, I've got other customers to attend to. Ones who'll actually tip," Bella turned her nose up, walking away in an exaggeratedly angry fashion and leaving behind an amused couple.

"The times we've tipped her she's literally given the money to her co-workers in our face. Does she expect us to keep that up or something?" Alice pondered, nonetheless pulling out a five and handing it to Emmett. He took it, knowing if he didn't his girlfriend would pull out his hair, and put it away for safekeeping. Even though they'd given up on giving Bella tips, they'd agreed to set aside five bucks every time they came to Bella's workplace; then, they'd split the money between Bella's birthday and Christmas and would buy her a shitload of comics. To her they'd give a couple each time, and to her mother a few more to give 'on her behalf' to Bella; then Emmett would sneak into Bella's room and hide all over issues in such weird places and at weird times that Bella could only assume she'd bought them and forgot. Possible only because Bella had one of the shittiest memories of all time; sometimes, Alice had heard her ask three times in five minutes what day it was. It was an awful lot of trouble they went through just to be able to give her gifts, but it was necessary; anything more expensive than twenty bucks was frowned upon heavily by Debbie Downer. And they wanted to give shit to Bella, who was constantly doing little things for them —like tending to them every week at her workplace for free. One time, Bella had even taken up the tab for them —though she'd never done it again.

"Emmett McCarty, listen to me," Bella had sat him down seriously, receipt in hand. "If I ever pay for any of your meals again, there are only two options. Either I'm about to get fired and want to give my boss the middle finger, or I killed somebody and need your help hiding the body."

Yeah, she'd almost died a little bit back then.

But in any case. Emmett and Alice owed Bella a lot, and if leaving the restaurant so she could flirt with Edward Cullen in peace was a way to start paying her back, they'd do it.

It was the least they could do.

Isabella Marie Swan was born on a chilly summer night to a cop and a hippie in the town of Forks, Washington. Said cop, Charlie Swan, was shortly thereafter divorced by the tired hippie, Renée Higginbotham, who took their daughter with her to the hot-as-hell town of Phoenix, Arizona. This happened when Bella was three years old, so there wasn't much she missed about Forks or having her parents be together, especially given how Renée remarried two years later to Phil Dwyer, a baseball coach. From the time she was five until she was eighteen, she lived in the same state, in the same neighborhood, in the same house, which happened to be right next to Emmett McCarty's. This was to say, Bella and Emmett had been best friends for the last thirteen years —they bathed together as children, went to the same school and shared each other's first kiss, but… this was as far as the similarities went. Emmett was a linebacker for the football team —Bella had literally cried the last time anyone tried to make her exercise. Emmett had had a steady girlfriend for all of high school —Bella'd never had a boyfriend at all. Emmett was a genius at math —Bella had flunked Calculus. Emmett was an avid gamer —Bella all but inhaled Western comics. Emmett was popular by choice… and Bella by association. Not that Bella couldn't have been popular on her own merit —she was the most beautiful girl in school, hilarious, genuinely cool, occasionally kind and incredibly interesting. The problem? She was also the greatest wet blanket known to man. Bella's first word ever spoken (true story) in this life had been 'no'. If everyone thought it was fun, Bella on principle refused to partake. The only thing she did was drink alcohol, and even then she didn't do it in parties or if someone encouraged her to. She was a strange person, or so said Emmett; despite her snark and overall Debbie Downer aura, everyone liked her. The same couldn't be said on her end, though, which was why she only maintained a handful of friends. Emmett had once confessed to her that he wished he could've fallen in love with her; that loving her had been even easier than falling in love with Alice, that she was the one person on Earth he couldn't picture not having by his side laughing until they were old and gray. That even he thought she was more gorgeous than any other woman he knew, his girlfriend included.

The problem?

She was a B-cup.

That had been it; the whole problem had been her breast size, though what she lacked in boobs she made up for in ass. Did it matter? No. Did Bella remind Emmett she could've gotten breast implants? She did not. Not only did she not want to get surgery for a man, she plain and simple did not want Emmett. She felt the same as him —she, too, had often wished she could've fallen in love with him. She, too, thought loving him was as easy as breathing, and thought he was the most attractive guy in school.

The problem?

He was Emmett.

That was it; he was more than a brother, less than a lover. He was more handsome than any celebrity, he was really not her type. He was smart as hell but also not interested in the subjects she was always most excited to talk about. He was the best friend ever —but also not the boyfriend she wanted. Besides, the mere thought of kissing him made goosebumps break out; she didn't want to find out what her physical reaction would be at the thought of sex.

Bella loved Emmett, but just not that way.

She loved no one that way.


"Hey Edward, how's it going?" Bella smiled, setting in front of him his usual vanilla milkshake. He smiled back, thanking her.

"Hey Bella, pretty good. You? How's graduate life treating you?"

They'd graduated from high school last week.

"Pretty well, I'd say. I've taken up more shifts though, so you can pretty much find me here every day but Sunday." Bella said, not even bothering to lay down a menu in front of him; he always asked for the same thing, be it morning or evening.

"That's great! Me too," Edward said, referring to his job at Newton's right across the restaurant. He'd been working there for the last year, while Bella had been a waitress at Denny's since she turned sixteen. So for the last year, Edward had been coming in every Saturday at two o'clock on the dot for his lunch break, leaving after a quick meal. They'd become friends of sorts, much to Bella's joy and dismay.

Edward Cullen was their high-school's star track and field short-distance runner. He had unruly copper hair, bright green eyes, a crooked smile, sharp jaw, pasty white skin (impressive given that he all but lived under the sun) and Coke-bottle glasses that obscured half of his face. Up until junior year, Bella had pretty much never spoken to him; while he wasn't at the bottom of the food chain, his brand of athlete wasn't as appreciated as others. What was strange was that while both of them should've been popular by association (Edward's best friend was basketball player Jacob Black) Edward had remained out of the spotlight all of high school. This had made him remain pretty much unknown to Bella, who didn't make an effort to get to know anyone outside of Angela Webber (not popular, but another comic book geek), Emmett, Alice, Angela's boyfriend Ben Cheney and occasionally, Jacob's girlfriend Vanessa Vaughn. How come they never met at parties? Easy: Bella never went. The only one she'd gone to in the last six years had been the graduation party, which had been a disaster.

But more on that later.

With Bella's inherent desire to not be put on the spotlight, and Edward's inability to join the popular crowd, the two had stayed apart most of high school. The change came from him starting to work at Newton's Phoenician Outfitters, and Mike Newton figuring a newbie joining was a good enough excuse to come barging into Bella's workplace seeking attention. The surprise? It had not; Bella had treated Mike as coldly as ever, making him retreat with his tail between his legs. Not that she felt bad; Jessica Stanley, his girlfriend, was a nightmare she didn't want to have. Edward, though, had come back; Denny's was cheaper than the other options, and besides, he'd liked Bella's efficiency. Over time, the two had developed a friendship of sorts; while they still never talked to each other in school, they started spending a few minutes longer chatting every time he went in for his lunch break. A few times Bella had taken up the bill for Edward, given how he only asked for a sandwich and milkshake every time, which Edward had graciously accepted. Apparently, though, he worked at a library a few days a week —so he'd be constantly lending Bella books that he thought she'd like. While he didn't really spend money on said gifts (which she had to return, obviously), it really meant a lot to Bella; it showed her he paid attention to her likes and dislikes, and also he saved her from annoying trips to shopping malls. Bookstores, she loved. Getting to them, she abhorred. Last Christmas he did buy her a book, though, and she got him a meal with dessert. So everything was perfect in her world, right? The popular, beautiful girl would eventually get the hidden gem, right?


Three months ago, Bella had finally learnt a key piece of information that she'd been too self-absorbed to notice. Edward Cullen's reason for even starting to work at Newton's? He got a girlfriend. Yeah, a super pretty, super nice girlfriend, to add insult to injury. Kate Denali was Irina Denali's twin sister; Irina happened to be Lauren Mallory's girlfriend, the Lauren who happened to all but rule over the school.

But more on her later.

So three months ago, Bella had decided to come out of her bat-cave (read: school library) and eat for a change at the school cafeteria. She never went there; crowds and her on principle did not mix well. She always felt stares on her, the food sucked and Emmett was always smooching with Alice; this decision to stay away had been made at the end of her junior year, when she couldn't stand it any longer. But on that particular day Alice had been out sick with a stomach bug, and Bella had decided to brave the crowds in order to get some sustenance —she'd forgotten her lunch at home and her stomach had been grumbling loud enough to annoy every living soul in the library. So she'd decided to head over to the cafeteria, ask for the least poisonous-looking meal set and sit down with her bright-eyed best friend.

So the food had been ordered.

The tray had been taken to the 'popular table'.

She'd sat down next to a high-on-feelings Emmett.

And had promptly tried not to choke on her own spit when she'd seen Edward and Kate holding hands as they walked into the cafeteria.

In that moment, a flashback of the last, oh, nine months together ran through her head. How she'd taken every friendly sign as 'flirting', now that she had this key piece of information. How Edward had never actually done more than give her a brief hug for Christmas as far as physicality went. How Edward seemed like the kind of genuinely nice guy that could pay back kindness with books, which meant nothing to him, unlike her, for whom the gesture meant a lot. Bella had wanted to scream at herself for her foolishness; of course he wasn't interested! He'd never so much as hinted at being into her. It had all been her misinterpreting nice acts for something more. She saw it then, with how affectionately Edward touched his girlfriend and how much his eyes shone when she laughed. He hadn't been playing games or anything with Bella, stringing her along. He hadn't been aware of her feelings, and so had continued to be his naturally charming self. She saw it then, with how clearly he wore his heart on his sleeve for Kate Denali and how contained he seemed in comparison when he'd been with her.

Bella had started muttering to herself.

"This is what happens when you throw a virgin a bone," Emmett could've sworn he'd heard Bella mutter to herself, but he'd never confirmed nor denied.

Flash forward to now, and everything was a lot better on Bella's end. Was she over Edward Cullen? Well, no. Getting over your first real crush could be a bitch, especially when said person was so good and you saw them every week. However, she'd learned to deal a lot better with holding her feelings in check, and also with learning to not dislike Kate simply because she was dating the guy she kinda sorta liked. She'd discovered, too, that maybe now it was time to start dating; she couldn't just wait around for Edward to become available. To become interested in her.

She needed to look for someone else.

Which brought us to now.

"Oh? What about your shifts at the library?" Bella asked, kicking herself internally. You don't become less interested in someone by asking more questions, you fool.

"Oh, I had to give those up," Edward grimaced, looking obviously saddened by the fact. "The hours were good, and I loved it there, but the pay… not so much. And I think we can all agree everyone can do with some extra cash before starting college," Edward said, finally shrugging a little sadly. "Now I belong to Newton's for the rest of the summer. What about you? Why the extra shifts?"

Bella pretended to look for something in her pockets, knowing that somewhere Emmett was seeing her and laughing at her awkwardness.

"Um, I just don't like not doing anything all summer long, for one. And on the other hand I've got this conference I want to attend in San Francisco just before college starts, so I figure I could also use some extra cash."

Edward's eyebrows climbed up into his hairline.

"Conference? What about?"

Fucking stop it heart. His clear interest, though, made it hard for her maiden hard to chill down.

"Micro-expressions," Bella said sheepishly, giggling at Edward's lost expression. "Um, it's like… You know in the shows, when they speak of tells people have when they're lying? Well, it's like that, but about a wider range of emotions."

Edward's interest amped up.

"Oh? So you want to study something among those lines?"

Bella shrugged.

"A little. I want to be a psychologist, so while it's not a requirement or anything like that, it is helpful." It was nerve-wrecking to be so honest, but Bella didn't want to lie to Edward. It was strange that up until now the subject was coming up, but sometimes the things people prioritized in conversation were strange. Somehow, neither of them had spoken of the thing everyone seemed most willing to talk about these days.

"That's so cool. Do you know stuff about it already or are you going to learn about it for the first time in the conference?" Edward asked, sipping from his milkshake. He'd stopped asking Bella to sit down; her boss would murder her if she did, no matter how empty the restaurant currently was.

"I've read a couple of books about it, but I'm willing to bet it's different hearing Paul Ekman talk about it in detail than to read his book," Bella said, shifting her weight on her other leg. "What about you? You've never told me what you're gonna study."

All Bella knew was that they were both going to Arizona State University, and that Edward was going on an athletic scholarship because of his outstanding record in track and field. He'd never mentioned if that was what he wanted to do for a living, though.

"I didn't? I could've sworn I had, Kate says it's all I ever talk about," Edward hummed, and Bella felt her eye twitch. It seemed like he was just the kind of man to miss important details. "I want to be an architect."

Bella felt her eyes grow wide; somehow, she hadn't seen that one coming.

"That's so cool! Did you always know that's what you wanted to be?" Bella asked, in spite of herself leaning against the table to get into a more comfortable position. But this was a huge breakthrough as far as her virgin heart was concerned —she knew something else about him!

Edward saw how excited his ex-classmate was, and chuckled about it. Somehow, it was kind of cool for him to know this side of Bella Swan, the most popular girl in school; everyone always spoke of how aloof she was, yet she'd always been anything but with him (barring their first interaction at the restaurant). She always greeted him with a smile, even when he wore a deep scowl on his face, a gift from Kate or a customer. Outside of school, she was funny and interesting; inside of it, he'd always seen her be cool as a cucumber and the kind of unreachable beauty no one dared approach. Though he hadn't known she wanted to be a psychologist, he thought it really fit her; she was a great listener, and even more interesting to listen to. He really hoped they could become closer friends in college; he needed people like her in his life, the kind of person you were always in the mood to see.

"I did. Ever since I was like seven years old I was always more interested in the kind of roof a building had than the playground, which kind of tipped my family off. People always assume that I want to be an architect because of my mom, but I've always just felt that calling, you know?"

Bella was about to say something else when she heard her name be called.

"Gotta go, Edward. Your lunch'll be right out, though!" Bella grinned, and without giving him a chance to reply she skipped off to receive another customer.


"I just… I can't believe you're seriously asking me that, K." Bella heard Edward say, and because she was nosy as fuck, slowed down her pace. She was eavesdropping and she had no regrets. Hot lunch in one hand, heart in the other, Bella low-key hoped they were on the verge of breaking up. "Of course I want you to come with me to the beach house."

And her hopes were shot to hell, given the sincerity in his voice. Rolling her eyes at herself, Bella approached Edward's table with enough loudness to let him know she was there.

"I've got to go, K. I'll call you when my shift is done, alright?" Edward said, seeing Bella approach in the window's reflection. He smiled briefly. "Love you too. Bye."

There was a moment where, when Bella set down the turkey sandwich in front of Edward, she couldn't fake a smile. She didn't have to be in love with the guy in order to feel hurt when she heard those words come out of his mouth. There was just that one second where she remembered this wasn't a simple crush, and that she couldn't let her heart run away from her as she pleased —because she couldn't go all in with this boy, since he was a man in love and she was just a girl with a crush.

So Bella smiled, telling herself she'd find someone who could put her soul in a frenzy and that she'd be able to let herself be charmed.

"Lunch's out!" Bella said, placing the plate in front of him. She wanted to ask him what the vacation was all about —if this meant she wouldn't be seeing him one Saturday— but couldn't bring herself to. She couldn't even bring herself to make small talk. "Enjoy your meal, Edward. I'll be right back with your BBQ sauce," Bella said, knowing that he really enjoyed the sauce.

"Hey, you ok?" Edward asked, suddenly frowning when he realized Bella's smile didn't look quite right. Bella gave him a quick, dismissive nod that reminded him of the time he'd come here with Newton.

"I'll be right back," Bella repeating, for a change not saying anything else. She left quickly, going to find one of her co-workers.

"Hey Missy, I'm gonna take a twenty minute break. Can you take care of my regular for me? I just really need a breather, and you can keep the tip," Bella said to the otherwise unoccupied Missy. She was sixteen and cute as a kitten.

"Sure Bella! Anything I need to know about him?"

Bella shook her head.

"Just that I promised him some BBQ sauce. You know who I mean, right? Table thirteen," Bella said, watching as Missy's face lit up with enlightenment.

"Oh! That regular. I thought you meant the hunk and his girlfriend," Missy winked, laughing at Bella's disgusted face. "Oh, I'm kidding. I know he's your childhood friend."

"Might as well think of him as my brother," Bella shuddered dramatically, placing a hand on Missy's elbow gratefully. "Thanks Missy. I owe you one."

Missy waved her off.

"I've only got one other table right now anyway. No sweat," Missy said, watching as her co-worker left on what was probably a smoke break. Bella thought no one knew, but everyone was all too conscious of her nasty habit.

Skipping off, Missy grabbed the sauce and went over to the redheaded regular.

"Hi! Welcome to Denny's, my name is Missy, and I'll be your server for today! Here you go," Missy said, putting down the sauce next to the barely-touched sandwich. "Anything else I can get you?"

Edward blinked.

"Uh… Where's Bella?"

Missy put away her notepad, realizing this man wasn't going to ask for anything else.

"She's on her break. She said she was tired, so I'm taking over for her. I hope that's ok?"

Edward eyed the overly-chipper teenager, and though he shook his head and smiled his thanks, a part of him knew that… it wasn't ok. Bella hadn't seemed alright when she left his sandwich, despite the smile she'd tried plastering on.

His phone rang, Kate's picture appearing on the display. Answering, Edward forgot all about the waitress that had previously held his attention.

"Did you know?"

Bella paused washing the dishes, looking to her phone on loudspeaker.

"Know what?"

"That Emmett was going to break up with me," Alice said, and Bella almost dropped the plate in the sink.


Bella heard a sob on the other end.

"Emmett just broke up with me, Bella! One week before he enters college!" Bella flinched at the pitch from Alice's tone, but couldn't find the right words to say. So she settled for the ones she thought were right.

"I'm so sorry, Ali. I really, truly am."

The sobbing quieted down.

"Did you know?" Alice asked again, this time in a calmer voice. Bella sighed to herself, shutting off the water.

"I did," Bella said, wishing she didn't. "I'm sorry. You know he tells me everything."

Alice had found that out the hard way, when Bella had let it slip once that she knew how many orgasms Emmett had given Alice during their first time together. Not that Bella had asked —in fact, she'd emphatically pleaded to not know.

"I'm not surprised, though it hurts to know he planned it," Alice sighed, and Bella assumed the rustling in the background was of magazines. She was always reading them as reference material for her fashion obsession. "I can't believe he broke up with me."

Bella hurt for her friend, she really did. On the other hand… it was awkward, talking about Emmett. He was clearly Bella's best friend, and though she truly loved Alice… she didn't want to hear shit talk about him.

"Me either," Bella admitted, remembering how much she reeled after Emmett's confession. "If it had been up to me, he wouldn't have done that. But you know you can't change his mind so easily."

Alice laughed sadly.

"I know, it's one of the things I loved most about him," Alice admitted. "Should I not have called you? I'm sorry, I know it's unconventional to talk to your ex's best friend right after the breakup, but… I couldn't think of anybody else to call."

Bella's heart broke for her friend; Alice had moved to Arizona from New York right before high school started, and she'd never quite finished fitting in with the rest of the girls. She was the quarterback's girlfriend, and that had been pretty much the only qualifier people had ever used for her. The two girls had spent quite a lot of time together, and it was unfair of Bella to not recognize how enjoyable every moment with her had been.

"It's a bit awkward for me," Bella said honestly, knowing the pixie-like girl appreciated it. "But it's ok. I'm glad you called me, Ali. Same policy as always, though; I can't tell you anything Em confided in me about, just like I won't tell him anything you say to me if you don't want me to."

Another sob.

"Can you just tell him… I took it well? I don't want him to know how much it hurts," Alice whispered, bruising Bella's heart. Even now, what Alice cared about was Emmett.

"I can tell him that," Bella said, going to the window of her hotel and pulling away the curtains; she admired the San Francisco nightlights, only allowing her brain to play out a brief part of the conference on micro expressions from today. "And, Alice? You didn't hear this from me, but he thought you were too good for him. He knows his dreams might hold you down, just like my father's did my mother."

Alice sighed sadly.

"You know what the worst part is? You didn't have to say it for me to know it. That's just how long I've loved him."

Alice hung up, and Bella simply continued staring out the window.


"Knock knock."

"You know, you could just knock," Emmett said, pausing the Crash game and turning around to see his best friend appear. "Or, you know, just come in, since who the fuck knocks when coming into a tree house? That you own?"

Bella shrugged.

For as long as Bella had lived in Phoenix, she'd had a treehouse in her backyard which had been her and Emmett's hideout, and both held equal ownership of it. It was rainproof enough that he could keep his video games (Mrs. McCarty grew tired quickly of Emmett's shouting) and Bella could keep her comic books (not all of them —she had too many to keep in her room) without worrying about the elements. If you added to that a puff couch and blankets, you had the perfect room for two soon-to-be adults.

"I didn't know what scene I would find. My most worrying options were you jerking off or you crying. Either were equally scary." Bella admitted this with utmost sincerity, and Emmett flipped her off for good measure. "Seriously though, how are you? All you did was text me that you'd broken things off with Al. You almost scared the bejesus out of me when I couldn't find a single emoji in your message."

Another flip off.

Emmett was notorious for his expressive texting.

Now that Bella was closer to him, she could see that his eyes were bloodshot, and that his shirt had that wrinkled quality that cloth got when you used it as tissue paper. It hurt her to see the big oaf so clearly heartbroken, and even more that there was nothing she could do to heal him.

"I just… couldn't agonize over it anymore. If I did it in the beginning of summer, there goes our last vacation before real life took over. If I did it during college, Alice might've thought I was breaking up with her over someone else or because I'd, I dunno, done it with some sorority chick. I mean, there wasn't a right time, you know? It's not like I was eager to do it, either, but… God, Bells, I hurt us so much. She's my first love, you know? That shit doesn't just go away."

Bella and Emmett didn't usually have heart-to-hearts, simply because neither were the type to have them. Bella wasn't really in tune with her feelings, and Emmett was always reluctant to think about anything. That is to say, neither really knew how to pour out their feelings without cracking jokes or just switching the subject.

"Do you regret doing it?" Bella asked, sitting down next to her best friend. She put her arms around his chest, thinking in the back of her head it felt like hugging a wall. In response, Emmett put a paw over her arm.

"No. I'm not gonna say she was too good for me or some bullshit like that, but our dreams were too different —and neither should have to give up on theirs for the other. I wouldn't have been happy living in the spotlight all my life, I've had enough with football thank you very much. And Alice is going to be so successful there's no way to avoid that with her. You know I've always wanted the white picket fence, Bells, and that's not an apartment in a stuffy city being hounded every day because of who my wife is. Or because of who I am. I might be a millennial—" Bella was pretty sure he wasn't "—but that's not what I want, you know? Not right now, at least."

It was unlike Emmett to overthink anything. Then again, Emmett had seen first hand from Jason, his older brother, what it was like to settle on the big things and be miserable. His brother was twelve years older and got married quite young; then, to his shock, his wife had declared she wouldn't be having children. Ever. For nearly eight years Jason had stuck it out, until the depression had been too much and he'd gotten divorced. It turned out that he couldn't be happy without that one precious thing, no matter how crazy he'd been for his wife. Like two months after the divorce Jason had knocked up one of his co-workers during a one night stand and, truth be told? Bella didn't remember seeing the older McCarty happier than he was now, with his fiancée and two year old kid. Turns out, some things you can't sacrifice despite how much you love the other person. For Emmett, it was his white picket fence, not unlike his brother.

"Maybe you or Alice could've changed your minds in the long run," Bella suggested half-heartedly.

"Unlikely. It's who we are —who we've always been— and it'd be unfair to ask the person you love to change for you if it's not what they want. So I'd be stuck, forever waiting for Alice to change her mind or vice versa. So no, I don't regret it. Neither do I regret our four years together, for that matter. She made me a better man than I used to be, and nothing will ever change that. But now, I think we've gotten to the end of the line. Who knows? Maybe years from now one will change their mind, and if we're both available we could get back together. Or maybe we'll both find someone who doesn't need us to sacrifice our dreams to be happy."

Bella lent a shoulder to her oldest friend, who slowly buried his face in her neck and let out heart-wrenching sobs. She let him cry it all out, and though she tried really hard, she couldn't help but cry with equal intensity. This was a man who always seemed to be made of steel, but at the end of the day, his heart hurt like any other man's, and his tears hurt as much as anybody else's. More, in fact, because he was someone who only ever cried out of laughter. Not because he was such a macho man or anything like that, but because that was just how fortunate Emmett was. How strong inside —and also, how unwilling to watch movies that had even one sad scene. He hated Toy Story 3.

Neither knew how much time passed by, and neither cared. All one knew was their pain, and all the other cared for was the other's tears.

"Oh God, why do we have class at 9 am?" Bella whined, letting Emmett drag her by the arm to their first ever class in college, English 101: First Year Composition. Even though they were both part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, they'd chosen two wildly different majors. Bella, as previously stated, had picked Psychology (with a science focus), and Emmett had gone into Computational Mathematical Sciences. Surprisingly enough, they did share two other classes, which were Calculus with Analytic Geometry and another one about success in their department or some stupid thing like that. Honestly, Bella could've chosen another, easier-looking Calculus class, but the appeal of having Emmett in her class to basically leech off of had much more appeal. Bella had even tried getting Emmett as a roommate, seeing as they were both new residents at Manzanita Hall, but she'd instead gotten some girl from the same major (well, kinda; her roommate didn't have the science focus). Bella hadn't really gotten a chance to meet the girl, though; she and Emmett had moved in on Saturday, and the girl late on Sunday night; since then, either they'd missed each other or the girl was gone before Bella was even awake. Rumor had it she was an ice cold bitch, but then again, Bella didn't trust the sour-looking dude who told her this.

"Because it was either this or 7 am class, and we both know neither of us would ever make it there in time." Emmett said, although this was mostly directed at his best friend. He had morning practice from five to seven in the morning, so he could've gone to class as early as eight; and he would, just not for the classes he wanted to share with his best friend. Bella was the antithesis of a morning person, and he neither enjoyed being in her presence before nine in the morning nor did he pretend to. It was actually quite impressive that she'd lasted like three years of high school going to work on Saturdays with a bright smile on her face as early as seven in the morning, and that she'd even done this for most of the summer. Bella Swan was a grump, but more than that, she was a woman willing to put up with anything for money. Well, anything so long as it didn't hurt her.

"I hate college," Bella whined again, dragging her feet. Emmett huffed, screeching to a stop.

"Will you stop bitching if I carry you?"

Bella gave him a blinding smile, immediately hopping onto her best friend's back.

"Giddy up!" Bella laughed, rejoicing as her old friend grabbed her legs tight and made a run for it; class started in five and they were a six minute walk away. He didn't want to run the risk of being left out, and Bella had short-ass legs with zero motivation to hurry. Giving her a piggy-back ride in a college campus, while slightly embarrassing, was wholly necessary.

"Yo, McCarty! You want to start college with a bang?" Mike Newton called out from the other side of the courtyard, and even from the distance they could see him leer.

"Shut up, Mike!" Bella hollered back, wincing when she got a little bit of wind knocked out of her when her chest clashed with Emmett's back because of the movement.

"Dick," Emmett muttered under his breath, and Bella said an amen in agreement. Neither were fans of a man who, despite having a girlfriend, pursued someone else. And Mike was also just plain old annoying, truth be told.

The two of them made it into class with two minutes to spare, Bella slipping down from Emmett's back just as they were about to step through the door. The two quickly scanned the classroom, aiming for a seat in the middle —not wanting to be too far back nor to be near enough to the professor to kiss their ass. They managed to find two seats exactly in the middle row, so the football player opened way and the smaller girl followed suit.

As soon as they sat down, the professor (a hippy-looking old woman) breezed in.

"Hello, hello! This is First Year Composition, correct?" Many voices answered yes. "Oh, wonderful. I accidentally went into another class for the 7 am class and I was about to give my syllabus to the Physics class. They almost threw me out! No phones, dear, please. It's only an hour of your day. What was I going to say? Oh, right! I'm Professor White, at your service. Now please, make groups of five. Chop chop! Time's-a-wasting!"

Groans rang out, but everybody started moving nonetheless.

"Hey. Got room for two people?" The girl beside Bella asked, motioning to herself and the guy next to her. Both of them had golden blond hair, though while the guy's was slightly curled, the girl's was long and flat. Their ice blue eyes also spoke of a certain level of blood relationship, although the guy's tight-lipped expression and the girl's more open one made it hard to tell.

"Uh, sure," Bella said, not nearly as willing to make new friends as this girl. "I'm Bella, this is Emmett."

The girl smiled, showing a much friendlier demeanor than the boy next to her.

"I'm Rosalie and this is my cousin, Jasper."

"Texas?" Emmett asked, referring to Rosalie's accent. Bella didn't notice, but Emmett saw how the girl's smile slipped a little at the question, and her eyes became a little harder.

"Yes, born and raised," Rose said, then changed the subject. "Do we have a fifth person?"

Emmett turned to his right and asked some dude with a man-bun, but he said he had a team already. Frowning, Emmett asked in the front and got the same response; Bella was about to ask in the back when the last voice she wanted to hear spoke up.

All her blood pooled at her feet.

"Can I join in?" Edward suddenly stood next to Rosalie, but he was giving his friendly smile to Bella. As always, he looked hot as hell. Coke-bottle glasses, styled copper hair, graphic t-shirt and jeans made up the only boy Bella had ever crushed on. Oh, and a crooked smile, which Bella barely returned.

"Sure," Jasper finally spoke up, and the four of them watched the redhead sit down on the free seat next to Jasper. Edward simply waved from his spot.

"Nice to meet you, I'm Edward Cullen," Edward smiled at the blond cousins.

"I'm Jasper, this is my cousin Rosalie," Jasper said with a Southern twang even more noticeable than his cousin's. "And this is—"

"We went to high school together," Emmett chuckled, extending a fist in greeting. Edward pumped it back, glad to see the big guy's friendly smile. They'd never been close, but Emmett had always treated him well whenever he'd come across Jake and Edward. "How's life been?"

Edward gave his easy-going smile with a little shrug.

"Same old, same old. Now this lady, however, I haven't seen in a while," Edward accused, giving Bella the stink eye playfully. "You avoiding me or something?"

Bella gave him the 'how dare you insinuate the truth' look.

"I changed my shifts on Saturday, young man. I couldn't go anymore unless it was the second shift," Bella sniffed, so full of bullshit that Emmett had to hold back his laughter. But he did, and that was all she cared about.

"Shifts?" Rosalie asked, looking between the pair with a quirked eyebrow.

"I worked at Denny's up until a couple of weeks ago. Edward here was a frequent client since he worked a few feet away," Bella explained. She was about to say something else when Professor White shushed the class in order to move on with class.

"Alright, class, quiet down. Does everyone have a group? Yes? Perfect! These are your groups for the rest of the semester. Now, on to the syllabus…"

The rest of the class went on in a lull, everyone either too asleep or too bored to pay any real attention to the teacher. A few jokesters could be identified even from the first class, two dudes and a girl bantering with the professor and trying to diminish homework the most they could. When class was dismissed, Rosalie took the chance to pound on Bella —subtly, of course.

"Oh hey, um, Bella. Do you have class next?" Rosalie asked, tucking a gold lock behind her ear nervously. Rose hated this about herself —how she could have so much confidence at one moment, and then be afraid to make conversation the next. Instead of answering, Bella looked up at Emmett. He shook his head.

"I don't. What's up?" Bella hiked her bag over her shoulder, really careful not to look in Edward's direction. Everyone started slowly exiting the classroom, much to the displeasure of the people trying to get out behind them. Today, they were those annoying classmates.

"We were about to go grab some breakfast. Y'all want to join us?" Jasper asked, looking at the three other people. Rosalie faltered slightly before echoing her cousin's question, this time amping up her confidence.

"I could eat," Emmett declared, making Bella snort.

"You can always eat, you glutton." Bella rolled her eyes, but nonetheless answered the question. "Yeah, we're in."

"Who's the glutton?" Emmett muttered, grabbing her cheeks in one of his paws and squeezing. Bella gave him a dirty look, but the severity of it was hindered by how much she resembled an angry fish.

"Edward?" Jasper asked.

"Yeah, sure, I've got time. Where were you planning on going?"

Stupid ass butterflies were freed in Bella's stomach, which she was quick to squash down.

After a few seconds of deliberation, Emmett was the one who decided.

"How does Chompie's sound? It's like fifteen minutes away walking, tops."

"Chompie's?" The cousins and Edward asked. Bella and Emmett nodded seriously, each as gluttonous as the other.

"Breakfast there is like getting diabetes first thing in the morning. Glorious," Emmett said, putting an arm around Bella and squeezing. "We've been eating there ever since we arrived."

"I have a car," Rosalie offered hesitantly, showing her keys for emphasis. "I don't mind walking, but I know Jasper's got class after this, so…"

Bella's eyes lit up, and it showed.

"You've just earned yourself a spot in this bum's heart," Emmett chuckled, releasing Bella from his hold. "Not that she even has to worry about that. She's got class until four." Bella elbowed him for being such a snitch; he was always accusing her of being lazy, and even if it was true, he knew better than to do that in front of new people.

"On we go!" Bella cheered, skipping ahead and lacing an arm through Rosalie's. "So, Rosalie, right?"

"Rose," the blonde offered, and Bella took it. She never liked using people's full name, anyway… which was ironic, considering how infrequently she used one of Emmett's multiple nicknames.

"Rose, Rose, Rose… Alright, fingers crossed I won't forget. Rosalie what?"

"Rosalie Hale," Rose said, amused by the five foot three brunette. She'd seen this girl arrive on the big guy's back, and she'd thought it was funny how both of them seemed alright with the arrangement despite being in college (or maybe it was because of college?). Rose could do with friends that had a sense of humor; her friends back home hadn't been all that interesting, and Jasper was quite the taciturn man. She loved him, but she also constantly wanted to choke the words out of him. "You?"

"Bella Swan," Bella replied, her eyes widening when they came to a stop next to a red convertible. "This is yours?"

Rose nodded, used already to this reaction.

"Shotgun!" Bella and Emmett called out at the same time. There was a pause, the two looked at each other, and then they made a run for it —they both made it at the same time, so they started arguing about who should get the seat.

"Are they always like this?" Jasper asked Edward, who was looking at the pair in amusement.

"Wouldn't be able to say, really. I was never really around the two of them at the same time," Edward said, chortling when he saw Emmett suddenly grab Bella like a sack of potatoes. He could see Bella's outrage even from her upside-down position.

"Ed, man, can you help me out? Will you open the back door for me?" Emmett asked, and even though Edward hated the nickname, he complied if only to tease his friend. One moment Emmett was dumping Bella in the backseat, and the next he was sitting shotgun.

"Alright, we're ready to go!" Emmett cheered, and the other stunned passengers got in the car. Rose didn't even bother being offended over them deciding shit about her car by themselves, though she usually did. It was how much they'd amused her.

Bella fumed the whole (five minutes) way to the deli, arms crossed over her chest and glaring at Emmett through the rearview mirror. She hated being manhandled, and she'd felt some suspicious wind on her asscrack that made her fearful of having had shown her butt to the boy she liked. Nothing said, 'Woman you want to date' like an asscrack.

"Oh cheer up, Bells," Emmett chortled once they were seated in the deli, Bella and Emmett on one side, Rose and Jasper on the other and Edward at the head. "You know we'd never have left the parking lot if I hadn't done that."

"I am going to spray paint your Jeep in pink the next time you do that," Bella threatened, not aware of how the table was following the interaction with avid interest. Neither of them was ever aware; they were too used to it being just them.

Emmett shrugged indifferently.

"You've already gone through the purple and the green. Rick told me I have a 20% discount for the third time," he said smugly, outraging Bella and making the rest of the table laugh. Edward especially, who'd heard the tales told of how much the linebacker loved his car.

"How long have y'all been together?" Jasper asked, looking between Bella and Emmett. The two blinked.


"Oh, they're not together together. Emmett's got a girlfriend. How's Alice, by the way? I heard she's in New York studying fashion or something like that," Edward said, not noticing the crazy eyes Bella made at him. She felt Emmett tense up beside her, so she put a hand on his knee beneath the table.

"Oh, I hear she's really enjoying the big city life. But they're not together anymore, so I'm not all that sure," Bella said with a strained smile, one that reminded Edward of the one he'd seen on her right around the beginning of summer. "And Em and I have been best friends since we were five. We live next to each other, so it was kind of inevitable." Bella decided to do a dramatic change in subject. "What part of Texas are you from?"

"Dallas," Jasper said, thankfully getting the hint that this was a sore subject. Rose was, for some strange reason, giving Bella a sympathetic look. She decided to ignore it, since she could already tell this Rose chick was weird. What kind of weird was yet to be seen.

The conversation went on from there, everyone trading off on the different lifestyles led by Texans and by Arizonians. Much to Rose and Jasper's relief, none of the three others made comments about Southern stereotypes or brought up anything annoying. By the time that they were done eating and Rose was taking Jasper back to class, the cousins were relieved to have sat next to these people.

"They're nice, aren't they?" Jasper asked, and Rose nodded. "You ready to go to your dorm now?"

Rose bit her lip but nodded.

"You think they told her anything bad about me?"

Jasper snorted.

"Darling, you nearly bit that dude's head off when he tapped you on the shoulder. I'd be surprised if this Bella girl didn't hear shit about you."

Rosalie sighed, as always comforted by her useless cousin.

"I swear, Aunt Libby should've let you melt in the sun as a child."

Back in the diner, Emmett was in the process of inhaling a fourth donut when his phone rang.

"Hello?" Emmett answered, his mouth full. Bella shot him a nasty look, which he ignored but nonetheless grabbed a napkin to wipe himself off. "What? Oh, shit, I'll be right there," Emmett swallowed with a face that said he should've chewed more, then hung up. "Kids, I gotta go. Bells, can you foot the bill for me?"

Bella arched an eyebrow.

"Everything ok?" she asked, then crossed her arms. "Also, no way."

Grumbling, but expecting that, Emmett took out a ten just in case.

"Coach wants to talk to me. Dunno why. I'll call you as soon as I know. Laters dudes!"

Then Emmett left, and just Bella and Edward remained.

"Emmett's drained my wallet a few times with his eating. It's why I promised him I'd never pay for his food ever again," Bella explained, feeling like the response needed an explanation. "Though he still likes pushing me."

Edward chuckled briefly, and immediately after flinched.

"Sorry about the whole foot in my mouth thing about Alice. It didn't seem like Emmett was fine with it," Edward said, and Bella shrugged in reply.

"He's better now. Not great, but he's been slowly going back to his old self. It hurts me to see him that way," Bella admitted. Edward's eyes were sympathetic.

"Can I ask what happened?"

"Sure," Bella said, partly because she'd say anything Edward wanted her to, and partly because she knew Emmett wouldn't mind. "Alice wanted a different kind of life —not a bad one, just not the kind Em would ever be happy with in the long run. So before she left for NYU he decided to break things off. I think he just… didn't want to hold her down, or feel guilty towards her in the future. I hope that with time, the two can be friends again."

"Do you still talk to her?"

"Oh yeah, almost every day. I mean, she and Em dated for a long-ass time; it was nearly impossible for me not to become friends with her. She's a great person, and honestly? I like her even more now, since she's not just 'my best friend's girlfriend' anymore." Bella finished the last of her strawberry milkshake, weeping a bit at it being done.

"I can imagine. Kate was always trying to get closer to Alice, but it seems like for some reason things never worked out."

Bella didn't reply to that. She knew the reason, after all; Alice had never liked Kate or her sister, thinking they were too fake or something. Then, when Bella started liking Edward, Alice and her fierce loyalty dictated that Kate could never be her friend. She wasn't mean or anything, just… aloof, in a way the bright pixie never was.

"How's Kate?" Isabella the Masochist asked, forcing a grin on her face.

"Great! She's in Northwestern right now; she wants to major in biology since she's aiming to be a doctor."

A fucking hot doctor. Fuck me.

"A doctor and an architect," Bella said, and left it at that. "She's quite far away, isn't she? Are you gonna be visiting each other?"

Edward grimaced.

"We're… kinda fighting about that. Maybe on Thanksgiving break, if she comes back to see her family, I guess. Thing is neither of us likes skipping class, and we both have classes Monday through Friday. So either one of us skips, or we see each other until November."

Her masochism was rewarded by the fleeting hope that there was trouble in heaven.

"How about you? Were you seeing anybody in high school?"

Bella couldn't help the surprise from showing on her face.


Edward shrugged sheepishly.

"I mean, everybody always kind of speculated about it. You never dated anyone in our school, so everybody thought you were dating someone from another high school or even from college."

Bella arched an eyebrow.

"I seem to be more interesting than I thought," Bella muttered. "But no, I wasn't seeing anybody. You don't meet a lot of people from the confines of your bedroom."

Edward chuckled, although he seemed skeptical of her reply.

"Weren't you dating James Hunter during our freshman year?"

Bella snorted.

"What? No, absolutely not. He spread that rumor because he wanted to make Victoria jealous," Bella said, dismissing the thought.

Edward distinctly remembered James bragging that he'd managed to crack the most popular girl's shell, and making quite a few comments that made it seem as though they really were dating. He'd heard that Victoria had been after James since middle school, and it took a year after the rumor for the two to get together. Not that it mattered anymore, so Edward dropped the subject.

"Anyway, how was your summer? Did you go to the micro-expressions thing you talked about?"

Like seeing a light switch on, Bella's eyes lit up with excitement.

"I did. You wouldn't believe how amazing it was. If I had one more screw loose I would've stalked Paul Ekman until he gave me his phone number or something." Bella then went on to describe what she'd seen, seeming to forget all about why she'd avoided Edward like the plague all summer.

On Edward's behalf, he was glad that she was talking to him again. He hadn't seen her in about two months, and he'd had the distinct feeling that it was on purpose. He'd been worried (more than he cared to admit) that he'd done something to anger her, though he couldn't think of what; nothing about their last interaction stood out, other than the fact that for the first time ever she'd taken a break mid-serving him. When he'd insisted on seeing her, the chirpy waitress had told him Bella was on her smoke break —surprising the shit out of him, since he'd been under the impression that she was too… something… to do so. Then when he'd spotted her entering the classroom, he'd been incredibly happy about having the opportunity to hash things out between them —not to mention, Bella carried a different air than she'd had in high school when she went in. More approachable in a way. He wondered why he'd never seen her be that way before. Now, speaking with her in an easygoing manner, he was relieved to find she was acting normal with him, even with him accidentally hurting her best friend. This made him hopeful that, perhaps, they'd be able to become closer friends during college.

"Edward! Where'd you go?" Bella snapped him back to the present, a blush spreading over her cheeks. "Sorry, did I talk too much?"

"No, not at all. Sorry, just got lost in thought a moment there," Edward reassured sincerely. Bella was usually a woman of few words, so seeing her go on with something she was passionate about made him glad. It helped that he found everything Bella said interesting, to be honest. He saw as more clients trickled into the deli, so he pursed his lips. "Wanna change venue? I feel bad about hogging the table when we're not eating anymore."

Bella looked around, and she saw what Edward had. Nodding quickly, the two paid what remained of the bill and left Chompie's.

"Wanna come to my dorm? It's like ten minutes away," Bella offered, not knowing what possessed her to offer. Wasn't she done with the masochist act already?

One look at Edward's bright face and she knew that she really wasn't.

"So, he was here until it was time for you to go, and even then he walked you to the classroom?" Emmett asked disbelievingly. They were in Emmett's room doing what they always did: he played video games and Bella read a comic. His roommate (some dude called Garrett) wasn't back from class yet, so they were enjoying the privacy by pigging out on Cheetos and gossiping. "Dude, he's into you."

Bella sighed in frustration; with Emmett, everything was always about that. She wanted to smack some sense into him, so she did.


"He's got a girlfriend, remember? Whom he loves," the word felt bitter on her tongue. "Besides, he said he needed to pick up his bike since he left it there in the morning."

"He rides a bike?"


"Where's he staying at?"

"Hayden Hall. He says it's like 5 minutes away." Bella glanced at the corner of the screen. "Duck."

Emmett did, narrowly avoiding being decapitated by an orc. He fist pumped Bella.

"Anyways dude, did you notice that Rosalie chick was acting weird with me?"

"Weird how?"

"Like, she didn't want to talk to me. Nor did she want to talk to Edward, for that matter. Think she hates men?"

Bella rolled her eyes.

"Maybe she thought you looked like a dick, Em," Bella retorted, making her best friend laugh at the comeback. "I don't know. I mean, I guess I did kinda notice she mostly talked to me or to her cousin. What was his name?"


"Right, Casper," Bella said, though something felt odd about that name. She shrugged it off. "I dunno, maybe she's just bad at dealing with men. Did you see her hair, though?"

Emmett nodded, but he didn't know where she was going with this.

"Fucking gorgeous," Bella admired. "I mean, just all of her. From head to toe she looked like an Amazon, don't you think?"

Emmett shrugged.

"Meh. Leggy blonde's not really my type," Emmett said dryly, which made Bella flinch when she remembered Edward's slip up.

"You know Edward didn't mean it, right? He really didn't know about you two," Bella said, even if she knew Emmett wasn't one to hold grudges.

"Yeah, I know, don't worry about it. It's just… it feels kind of, I don't know, wrong I guess, to say Ali and I are over. It still doesn't feel all that true."

Personally, Bella thought they were both idiots. She had both halves saying, every week, that they missed each other. But it wasn't her business to press the issue further.

"Have you talked to her?"

Emmett nodded.

"I sent her a text for her birthday the day after. I didn't want to send it on the day itself in case it messed with her. You know how she is about her birthday being perfect," Emmett grinned, and boy did they both know what a nut Alice Brandon was about her birthday. They both shuddered remembering the last festivity they'd been forced to attend.

"I'm glad. I think it's gonna take some time, but I really believe you're both gonna end up being friends in the future," Bella said honestly. Emmett didn't reply, but she knew he appreciated the thought. She was about to say something else when the door to Emmett's room opened, and in came Garrett.

"Oh, hey dude, hey Bella," Garrett greeted, surprised to find his roommate sitting on the edge of his bed and the girl sitting behind him with a comic book in her hands, a bowl of Cheetos between them. Garrett was pretty sure that the two of them were dating in secret, but he had no way to prove his theory. They were always either eating, playing a video game or chatting. That in itself was weird, because Emmett was a hotshot football player and Bella was his smoking hot friend. The laws of the universe dictated they be together.

"Hey Garrett," Bella greeted, actually glad to see the guy. She practically saw him as often as she saw Emmett, and she'd grown to like him quickly. He was an easygoing pothead who knew better than to offer her best friend weed, so she found him cool in her book. The one time Em got high, he emptied his fridge in just four hours —after that, not only had she never looked at him the same, he was banned by everyone from doing pot again. That, and it could put his scholarship in jeopardy and stuff.

"S'up?" Emmett greeted without ripping his eyes apart from the screen.

"How was your first day of college?" Garrett asked, putting down his bags on his bed.

"Good. Bella and I made it to our first class on time, which was nice for a change," Emmett glared at his best friend out the corner of his eye.

"And Coach Clapp called Emmett to tell him he was starting in the next game!" Bella said excitedly, knowing how much it meant to her best friend to get the recognition.

"Oh? Are you gonna go watch him?"

"Of course. I wouldn't miss his first game for anything," Bella grinned at Em, who didn't reply but appeared to be suddenly too focused on the paused game. Emmett had always been too humble to do well with upfront praise.

"D'you like football?" Garrett asked her, taking off his shoes and lying down on his bed, beat already from the long day. The two friends snorted, one louder than the other.

"I know that Em's the outside linebacker and that everyone is always super psyched about the quarterback. That is literally all I know and all I'm interested in knowing." Bella stated, grabbing a handful of Cheetos and stuffing her face with them.

"She still says goals instead of touchdowns," Emmett exemplified her ignorance, making Garrett laugh.

"Anyway," Bella sighed, closing her comic and licking her fingers clean of cheese. "I'm out, boys. I have class tomorrow at ten and need some sleep."

Garrett looked at his phone's time, confused.

"But it's only seven," he said.

"I've gotta hit the gym, then shower, then read more comics, then sleep," Bella lied, making the pothead nod in enlightenment and her best friend burst out laughing.

"What?" Garrett asked, confused.

"Bella's never set a foot inside of a gym," Emmett explained, disbelieving of his friend's brazenness. Bella flashed the two a smile and then slipped out of the room.

Whistling, Bella made her way back to her room, thinking about how glad she was that Emmett seemed to be doing better every day.

"If you wanna be…" Bella trailed off awkwardly, coughing like she hadn't been caught singing. The moment she'd opened the door to her room one Rosalie Hale had been standing in the middle of the room, and for the life of her Bella didn't know if this was where she was meant to call the police. "Uh… Rose?"

The blonde had the look of a deer caught in the headlights.

"Er, hey Bella. I… Uh, I'm your new roommate?" Rose flashed a nervous smile.

Bella blinked.


"I mean, I've always been your roommate, it's just that I'd been staying in Jasper's room since I wasn't ready to live with someone I didn't know. I only realized you were my roommate until you told me your last name, though, so it's not like I—"


"Rose, stop. It's fine. You don't need to explain yourself to me," Bella said, thinking it was a bit funny how much of a worrywart this girl seemed to be. "Do you snore?"

Slowly, Rose shook her head no.

"Well, I do. Sorry about that." Bella took off her shoes and started the search for some pajamas. She looked back at Rose, who was still chewing down on her bottom lip. "Also, you might want to know Crowley's been telling everyone you're an ice cold bitch."

Rose groaned, dropping like a rock on her bed.

"He asked me out the moment I arrived to the dorm. I said, no thank you. He insisted. I said no thank you again. When he asked me the fourth time, I told him I wasn't interested in going out with him. He took that to heart, and now everyone thinks I almost bit his head off or something."

Bella laughed, imagining the beauty irritably being polite to a persistent dick.

"Well, at least you hurt his ego. He asked me out once and I told him I only date men smaller than me."

Rose's lip twitched; Bella wasn't the tiniest woman she'd ever met, but she was definitely shorter than average. Crowley, on the other hand, had to be two full heads taller than her roommate. Rose thought it was a great way to say 'fuck you no'.

"Speaking of dating," Rose suddenly said, sitting up so she could look at Bella, who was already decked out in a huge shirt that read McCarty in the back. "What's up with you and that Emmett dude?"

"What about him?" Bella asked distractedly, putting her dirty clothes in a hamper and taking out her clothes for the next day.

"Are you two really not dating?"

"I'd rather walk in on my parents having sex than ever date Emmett McCarty," Bella said seriously, settling on a pink shirt and mom jeans.

"I don't think you mean that. I've only known you for a day and already it feels like you and Emmett would rather die than be separated from each other."

Bella shrugged.

"He's my best friend. Always has been. I mean, he was my first kiss and I'm still suffering from the side effects. There's just no way either of us likes each other that way. I love him, he loves me, but we don't like each other enough to fuck. That's pretty much it." Bella picked out some black Converse to go with the outfit, placing all of it on a chair. "Why so much interest?"

Bella saw that Rose suddenly got super red, and turning around with her eyebrows almost in her hairline, Bella suddenly started shaking her head no.

"No way. You can't possibly be crushing on Emmett already. No, I'm against this."

"But—" Rose started whining, but Bella was really hearing none of it.

"No, listen Rose, I'm serious about this. I like you, and I want to be your friend. I also want us to have a good time as roommates. But if you start dating my best friend you'll tire me out —wanting me to both be your friend and informant. I've done it too many times to want to do it again, the whole befriending Emmett's girlfriends and being caught in the middle. I hate it, and I don't want to hurt you if you were ever to expect me to choose you over Em."

It wasn't often that Bella put her foot down on something, but she was sure about this. She hated seeing Alice suffer, and she really didn't agree with Emmett's decision to break up, but ultimately the person who would donate a kidney should she need it would be Em, and she would do the same for him. So having to be the middleman again was not something she wanted.

Rose pressed her lips together, dissatisfied with the turn of events.

"So you don't want me to go after him?"

Bella sat down on her bed facing the Southern beauty.

"Look, if you told me you really liked him, and he liked you too, I'm not gonna put up any resistance. But right now, he's not in any state of mind to date, and he's not into the whole 'friends with benefits' or 'one night stands' kind of thing. I don't want you getting hurt either if he's not into the relationship. So please, Rose, can you just… hold back unless you're serious about him?"

Bella felt shitty even saying it, but she didn't want to lose a potentially great friendship (which she deduced would be the case from the hour she'd gotten to know Rose) because of shallow feelings. Emmett meant the world to her, but she also needed new friends. Friends who weren't in love with her best friend, preferably.

"I get it," Rose said, and she did. Jasper went out for six months with one of her high school friends, and when things went to hell, her friend stopped talking to her since Rose refused to play matchmaker. And truth was, Rose just thought Emmett was hot —curly hair, dimples, bodybuilder body; he was exactly her type. Even personality-wise, she could tell he'd be great to be with. Right now, though, she cared more about making new friends and not antagonizing her roommate.

So Rose did what any good friend would do —she changed the subject.

"And also, what's the deal with that Edward guy? You seemed really uncomfortable around him."

Bella avoided looking Rose in the eye, fidgeting with her iPhone and setting the alarms for the next day.

"Oh, I was just surprised to see him. Like I said, I used to see him every Saturday until I changed shifts." Bella half-lied, not feeling close enough to Rose yet to say the full truth. She'd never even outright told Emmett she liked Edward Cullen, which was a testament of how weird it felt to say it out loud.

"I don't believe you," Rose said flatly, slowly understanding who this Bella Swan was. An open person was hardly on top of the list. "I think something happened with him that he's not aware of, but you're too aware about. Like he pissed you off or something."

Fuck, she's sharp.

"You're not gonna let this go, are you?"

"Not at all."

Bella sighed, figuring she should just rip the band-aid off.

"I… like Edward. Like like him. But he has a girlfriend, so it's not like I can act on it." Bella collapsed on her bed, looking up at the ceiling. It felt like a small weight had disappeared from her shoulders; like admitting the truth was a little piece of relief. Even though she knew Emmett and Alice knew (and until now, nobody else), she'd never quite felt at liberty to discuss it. Now, maybe that could change.

"Oh! I see. That's… unexpected," Rose treaded carefully, not wanting to upset Bella. Truth was, she thought the brunette was out of the redhead's league —it's why the thought hadn't even crossed her mind. Bella had that 'cool' vibe going all the time —like she didn't care who she pleased, like she could wear whatever she wanted and look beautiful. It didn't escape Rose's notice that Bella didn't wear a stitch of makeup, and that she was somehow pretty enough to not need it… unlike her, who had a few skin flaws and eyebrow concerns she could only fix with makeup. Bella seemed to be the popular girl in high school that every girl wanted to be and every guy wanted to date; easygoing, beautiful, smart, loyal and serious. Edward, on the other hand… wasn't. He wasn't ugly by any means, but his Coke-bottle glasses, Pac-man t-shirt, tattered Converse, gelled hair and pasty white skin hardly spoke of any popularity. He'd been nice, but he'd also stuck his foot in his mouth at least three times in an hour, which was a feat. So, while Rose knew she'd been working on prejudices, she hadn't been able to help herself but to think the two were just friends. Maybe there was something about Edward that Rose couldn't see.

Bella snorted.

"Not really. I think if any girl were to spend more than an hour with Edward they'd see what a great guy he is. And his girlfriend is nice, to make things worse, so it's not like I can hate her," Bella sighed. Rose quirked up an eyebrow, although her roommate didn't see her.

"You think she's got something you don't?"

"Edward's heart, for one," Bella replied melodramatically. "And I think she's nice in a way I'm not, which is fitting for Edward's kindness. And cute."

Damn, she was starting to feel bad about herself.

"Bella… you do know you're fuck hot, right?" Rose asked worriedly, for a moment wondering if this would be one of those 'she's beautiful and she doesn't know it' kind of situations. Which would be incredibly annoying. Thankfully, Bella snorted and nodded.

"Of course. Emmett tells me all the time. It also helps that men are constantly asking me out —I'd have to be seriously delusional to not think my appearance had anything to do with it." Bella pursed her lips, hoping she hadn't sounded arrogant. Oh well. "But I think beauty doesn't matter to me. I'm lucky to be able to think that, I know, but I just find it's not a part of who I am or who I want to be. I happen to be a lot of things —unsociable, geeky, stubborn, and a Debbie Downer among them— but beautiful's just never been something I've been interested in being. So I think I can't go liking people hoping my attractiveness is enough to lure them in."

Rose thought about how pretty people really did have different worries from the rest. Rose didn't feel ugly by any means, but she also knew she had to work for her beauty a lot. She wasn't a naturally pretty girl, and that was fine on most days; she just had to work twice as hard at it. She also found this girl's approach interesting; like in everything, people could either use their virtues as sins or see them as inconsequential matters. It seemed this girl believed in the latter application of them.

"Well, I think you're nice. I don't know Edward's girlfriend, but I doubt she's nicer than you," Rose offered honestly, making Bella smile and thank her for the compliment. Rose found that to be a good trait as well —people who could take a compliment were hard to find.

"Thanks, Rose. I'm glad you think so, but I really think you'd have to know Kate to know what I mean," Bella explained, not wanting to put herself down and claim she was some kind of ogre when she didn't think she was. She just… didn't think she was as nice as Kate. And definitely not as important to Edward, although that was obvious.

"Well, you've got me on your side, Bella. I'll root for you, ok?"

Bella turned her head to face Rosalie, who was looking really pretty in her pink pajamas and blond hair in a ponytail. She looked like an Amazon alright, and it was beginning to seem like she had the heart to match. Bella grinned.

"Then that's all I need, isn't it?"

Man, that was a long one, wasn't it? Truth be told, this has been a really hard story to write. I've been at it since late May or early June (can't remember) and it took me like three tries and quite a few months to advance this story. I tried doing something I'd never done before, which was hard because what I usually don't do (in recent years) is overdone subjects heh, like popular girl-meets geek. Now that I've written quite a good portion of it I'm a lot more satisfied -I wanted this story to speak to all of us who've had an unrequited love come crashing down on us. Now, I'd never let you down so this is BxE, but bear with me. For those of you who've read The Road To You... you won't have to stick it out for that long, lol.

Thank you so much for being with me all these years, for reading and following my stories. Sometimes it's just all in good fun, other times I want to speak about something a little more serious. I've tried to keep this story more towards the entertainment side, but I'd never write something mindless or without a lesson to reflect on. For me, this year especially has been all about changes and amazing adventures -I managed to get one of my dreams done, which was visit Japan. I was actually working on ideas for a new story in the shinkansen lol. 10/10 would go back in a heartbeat.

I also wrote a oneshot about YouTube culture (now that one doesn't have much of a lesson), but I'm still debating with myself whether or not to post it. I did it while I was trying to get over my writer's block with this story, so it's a pretty simple plot all around, and there's a part or two I'm not sure about. Maybe I'll post it, but if not, I'm sorry to say this might be my last fanfic for a long while. I'm starting my internship (med student over here) in July, so I'll be quite busy this coming semester. (Or I don't know, maybe I'll be inspired during spring break and write out a beautiful one shot or something idk).

As always, thank you for reading. Don't forget to follow, favorite and review.