July 2019

The humidity of a southern summer mixes with the scent of blossoming honeysuckle. It gives the air a sticky-sweet consistency that clings to my skin as my eyes follow a lightning bug wandering by in lazy flight. The insect flashes messages to its companions hiding in the vines above me, and I have to tilt my head against the dewy grass to keep track until it disappears behind the wood-slatted fence.

Inspired, I return my attention to the drawing pad balanced on my knees and grab a yellow pencil from the pile at my side. My tongue pokes at my cheek as I sketch the glowing bottom of a lightning bug.

"Hey, look, Bella. I caught one." Edward flashes me a smile as I push up to my elbows and watch the tiny creature crawl over his hand.

"How come they like you so much?" I pout. He always catches the bugs easily while they fly up high every time I get near.

He shrugs, but the movement is slight so as not to disturb his new acquaintance. "You wanna get a mason jar? We can collect 'em and make a lightnin' bug lantern."

"That never works." I flop back down. My gaze returns to the few stars beginning to pepper the dusky night sky above the Cullen's backyard.

Edward stands and places the bug on a honeysuckle leaf before pulling at one of the flowers until it pops off the vine. He rolls it in his fingers, watching the sap spill onto his skin.

"You're makin' a mess," I say. He drops the flower and rubs his hands against the dress slacks his mother made him wear today for his cousin's wedding. The outfit and his slicked-back hair make him look older than fourteen. He's handsome the way men are in movies when they take pretty actresses on dates. When he showed up on my front porch this morning, my pulse quickened, and my face flushed with heat. He's been my best friend since birth, almost like a brother. I shouldn't be thinking of how handsome he's become. I know he doesn't have the kind of thoughts about me that I have about him.

"Bella…" He squints like he does every time he's deep in thought. Sometimes, I watch him take tests in class, and I can always tell when he hits a question he doesn't quite know the answer to. "Do you think you'll ever get married?"

I bite my lip, rolling to my side while I push away pictures of white dresses, tuxedos, and a flower-petal-lined aisle with Edward Cullen waiting at the altar. "I don't know. Probably. What about you?"

"Maybe." Stands of his shaggy, auburn hair fall in front of his sea-green eyes as he dips his head. "It seems kind of weird, you know? Like thinkin' that I won't live with my Ma and Pops forever."

I think of Mama Esme and Dr. Cullen and understand why Edward would never want to leave home. If my mama baked sugar cookies after school and offered the kind of hugs Mama Esme did, I would want to stay forever too.

"It would be weird not bein' your neighbor anymore."

"That ain't gonna happen." He shakes his head and grins, making his dimples pop. "The Cullens and the Swans will live on Amelia Island until it sinks into the Atlantic Ocean."

"You're crazy, Edward," I laugh as he lies on the cool earth beside me. His white dress shirt soaks in the evening dew, and soon the fabric is as damp as the chiffon on the pale blue dress my mama bought me for Katie Cullen's wedding.

Edward picks a blade of grass and holds it to his lips, blowing air and whistling through it. "Hey, you wanna go fishin' tomorrow?"

I groan and flop to my back. "I hate fishin'."

"What if I take you to the market at the pier and buy you any candy you want?"

I purse my lips, considering the wall of sugar in the old-timey general store. "Two pieces. Whatever I want."

"Whatever you want." He nudges me, his elbow pushing gently against my arm. He's so close I can smell the mixture of soap, detergent, and boy, that makes my tummy tickle in an unfamiliar way. I look toward the honeysuckle, afraid if he watches too close, he'll see how he affects me.

"Alright. I'll go fishin'. But I ain't watchin' while you gut 'em. I almost puked the last time."

He smiles like I just made his summer. "Cross my heart. You can wait for me by the water while I clean 'em out."

Shifting because I need distance before I say something stupid like, "I love you, Edward Cullen," I tug my chocolate brown hair away from my neck. My mother got the idea to curl it before the wedding, but July in Florida doesn't agree with fancy hairstyles. Now it's just a mix of hairspray and frizz sticking to my skin. I wish I were pretty like Katie or the girls that stood by her side in rose-colored dresses. Maybe then Edward would want to buy me candy just because.

The back door to the house on the other side of the fence creaks open, and I turn to Edward, placing my fingers to my lips to tell him to be quiet. I'm not ready to go home yet.

"Bella?" Mama's voice carries over the fence. I squeeze my eyes closed because, even though I'm thirteen, I want to believe that if I can't see her, she can't see me.

Edward's shoulder brushes against mine as he chuckles. "She's just gonna come over here, ya know."


The gate between our yard and the Cullen's swings open, and I sigh in defeat.

"Sweet pea, there you are. It's time to come on inside. Y'all are gonna get eaten up by mosquitoes if you stay out here much longer."

"Yes, ma'am," Edward answers for us before climbing to his feet and holding a hand out to help lift me to mine. "Meet me tomorrow mornin', seven am."

"Seven! Edward, that's even earlier than school starts! It's summer. I'm not getting up early." We've got another month before high school begins, and my freedom to sleep in will not be taken away- even by Edward.

"Fine. Eight. But the fish won't be bitin' if we get there too late."

"Bella, say goodnight," Mama reminds me, her shoulder propped against the wooden boards keeping the gate open.

Edward gives me a wave as I collect my drawing supplies, and he walks toward his back porch. "'Night, Bella."

"'Night, Edward." I pout but allow my mother to escort me into our yard.

As we climb our back stairs, she slips an arm around my shoulder. "How was the wedding? I'm sure Miss Kate looked like a princess. And that boy of hers, well, goodness knows, he's a looker himself."

"Her dress was really pretty. It had a lot of lace," I offer as we enter through the door and into the kitchen. My father sits at the table, drinking a beer and watching highlights from the Braves game earlier in the afternoon.

"'Evenin', kiddo. Let me get a look at you." His mustache twitches with his smile. I roll my eyes but twirl in a circle. It's not often they see me all dressed up. Even when we make it to church on Sundays, I stick to my khaki skirt and one of my two blouses. Otherwise, all summer, I opt for cut-off jeans and tank tops.

My father's deep brown eyes, identical to mine, stop on my mess of hair, which was only made worse by the grass in Edward's yard. Pieces of leaves are stuck in the dying curls.

"Bet you were the prettiest girl there?" He winks.

My cheeks heat, and I slide into the chair across from him. He's still got his sheriff's uniform on, but the top buttons of his shirt are undone.

"No, that was Katie. The one gettin' married. How was work."

"Okay. Caught a couple of college kids drinkin' out on the beach. Told them to go South to Daytona if they wanna party."

Our little Island, nestled just North of Jacksonville but not quite to Georgia, is attracting tourists more and more due to the city council putting together vacation ads and playing them all over the Southern states. Lots of people from Atlanta and the Carolinas want to get away, and resorts are popping up all along our short stretch of coastline.

"Edward's makin' me fish with him in the mornin'." I make a face sticking out my tongue for effect.

My dad rubs his chin, appraising me. "Makin' you, huh?"

My gaze dips to the tabletop, and my stomach does a fluttery dance. I don't want him to know about my feelings for the boy next door.

"Well, tell him to catch me a good one. Maybe we can fry 'em up tomorrow night and have the Cullen's over for dinner."

"I'll call Esme in the morning," Mama says from where she's scrubbing a pot left over from dinner.

I stand and stretch, letting out a yawn. "I think I'm gonna go shower and go to bed."

"Sweet dreams for my sweet pea!" Mama's words follow me up the stairs as I shake a twig from my tangled hair.


Waiting for Edward in front of his garage, I curse myself for not agreeing to leave at seven am. Because if I had left my house earlier, I would have missed the screaming that started at seven-fifteen.

Mama found a job painting murals at one of the new resorts- she's an artist just like me. She says it means her own paycheck and freedom to do what she wants with the money, so she's not living under my father's rule.

My father says it's too many hours, and she still needs to supervise me even though I think I can supervise myself. He says he's always taken care of us, but if she wants to work, she can help pay some of the bills, including childcare- which I do not need.

I keep my mouth shut and don't mention that Mama Esme is right next door. I can go to the Cullen's after school for free.

Poking at the pedals of my bike, I sigh and check my watch. Seven fifty-five.

At seven fifty-nine, the Cullen's garage door rolls open, and Edward emerges, pushing his bicycle. He's already strapped a cooler and his fishing rod to the back.

"I gotta stop at the market and get bait," he says, climbing onto his bike. "You ready?"

"Sure." I'm too distracted to appreciate how his arms flex as he grabs the handlebars or how his tattered Florida State baseball cap sits backward on his head.

I'm not convincing, and Edward stops to read my expression. I hate that he knows me so well. "Bella? What's wrong?"

"They're fightin' again." I nod my head toward my house, where, thankfully, things have quieted down.

"Oh." Edward is the only one who knows what the Swan house has been like this summer. He's the only one I can trust to keep it a secret. "I'm sure things 'll get back to normal soon." He gives me that grin that makes my heartbeat quicken, and I look away.

He pushes forward, and we're on our way. We ride, side by side, through the sleepy North Island streets toward the pier. It's already hot enough to make me sweat, and I'm happy I chose to wear a bathing suit under my tank top and shorts. My hair is pulled into a ponytail, and the soft offshore breeze whips it back as I pedal faster.

Edward pumps his legs, working to catch up. "You wanna race?" he asks once he's beside me.

"No! That's not fair. You always win." Ever since he grew four inches last winter and started getting muscles, he's been unbeatable.

"I'll give you a head start. Come on."


"On the count of three…." He grips his handlebars and leans forward like he's going for aerodynamics. I huff but ogle the way the muscles in his forearm bunch with the effort. "One… two… three…go!"

Despite myself, I push my legs as hard as they'll go, shooting down Beach Street. Even with my head start, Edward catches up quickly, passing me and throwing a cocky smirk over his shoulder.

"You suck, Edward!" I cry out as I give up and fall behind. He turns the corner toward the market two blocks before me.

When I finally catch up, I prop my bike on a brick wall next to his and hang my drawstring bag off the handle before meeting him inside the store. He's scanning the coke cooler by the register, faking nonchalance and fighting off a victorious grin. I step beside him and enjoy the cool air hitting my skin.

"Cheater." I pout.

He grabs a couple of cokes from the cooler and lets the door slide shut. "Aww, come on now, I won fair and square." I stick my tongue out at him and turn to pick out the candy he promised me.

I'm debating between a Twix bar and a bag of Gummy Bears when the bell from the front door rings. I glance over to see who entered because, in our town, it's a fifty-fifty chance whoever is in the shop is someone your parents expect you to say hello to.

My eyes narrow as I watch the blonde monster I know as Rosalie Hale and her evil re-headed sidekick Jessica Stanley trail in behind Jessica's Daddy. Mayor Stanley has a boat down at the dock, and judging by the string bikini tops and short skirts the girls have on, they're spending the day on the water.

Rosalie nudges Jessica when she spots me. She sticks her nose in the air as she saunters over, Jessica hot on her heels.

They stop in front of me, eyeing my dirty converse and windblown hair. Next to their perfect braids and sparkly flip-flops, I look like a haggard mess.

"Hi, Bella," Rosalie says, sickly sweet, as her bright blue eyes dart around the store. I nervously fiddle with the candy in my hands because Rosalie is the kind of person who can make your life hell. "You here alone?"

"No," I sigh. I know exactly what, or who, she's looking for. Ever since Edward's growth spurt, girls like Rosalie and Jessica have hung around, being nice to me only to get to him. Gritting my teeth, I nod toward the bait cooler, where he's hovering over a selection of sardines and worms.

Rosalie grins and reaches toward the candy wall, grabbing a sucker out of a bowl. "Jess, go tell your daddy to buy two of these." She hands a second to Jessica, who quickly runs off to do Rosalie's bidding.

My tongue twists, and I watch in frustration as Rosalie pops the sucker in her mouth and heads toward Edward. My heart stutters as she slides a hand across his arm and bats her lashes. She twirls the sucker in her mouth before pulling it out with a pop and juts her chest forward, making her already impressive boobs look even bigger. I glance down at my own flat chest. Rosalie got her breasts right after she turned fourteen last October. I don't turn fourteen until September, and I'm praying it's a magic number that will turn me into a woman.

Edward says something that makes Rosalie laugh, and she smacks his chest playfully. His eyes dip down as her breasts shake with the movement, and the side of his mouth ticks into a lopsided grin. I drop the candy in my hand, feeling nauseous. When Edward turned fourteen last month, he suddenly started to notice Rosalie's boobs. What the hell was it about fourteen and boobs?

"I'll see you around, Edward." Rosalie licks her sucker as Jessica waves her out of the store. Edward watches in a daze, the container of worms in his hand forgotten.

He grimaces when I surprise him by elbowing him hard in the side. "You buying those?"

"Jeez, Bella. Yeah, I'm gettin' these." He finally returns to Earth. "Where's your candy?"

"I'm not hungry."

"Get some for later, then."

He heads toward the register, and I quickly grab both the Twix and the Gummy Bears… along with a couple of suckers. I have a sudden urge to make Edward look at me the way he looked at Rosalie.

He pays for our loot, handing me the bag full of candy and Cokes so he can throw his bait in the cooler. We hop back on our bikes for the short ride across the street to the pier. I squint from the bright morning sun as we park and walk out onto the gray wood slats that make up the structure.

We set up on a bench near a couple of granddads we see down here all the time. Edward and our fathers have made friends with old Pete and Randy over the years. They give a breakdown of how the fish are biting today before Edward tosses his line in the water.

I rip open the Gummy Bears and pop a red one in my mouth.

"I thought you weren't hungry," Edward teases, holding his hand out for a few.

"I changed my mind."

We turn our heads as Pete stands from his camping chair and takes a few stiff steps to his line, which is bending toward the water in a way that can only mean he got a bite. A small crowd gathers as he reels up a good-sized sheepshead. Edward helps him hold the fish down to unhook it.

Once they throw the fish on ice and the onlookers move on, Randy and Edward reel in their lines to check their bait.

"What are y'all using today?" Edward asks, frowning at the missing worm on his hook.

"Got some shrimp from a neighbor. You wanna try one?" Randy holds up one of the sea creatures, and I shudder. Ocean bugs freak me out.

Edward grabs it without hesitation. "Sure."

"So, Edward, your pops told us about an all-state baseball team you made this spring."

"North Coast All-Star team. We won our region but lost to Miami in the last playoff game."

"You still pitchin'?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good," Randy says, squeezing Edward's arm. "You keep this arm healthy. Pete and I are lookin' forward to seein' you play at the high school."

"Yeah, I will. You get to any spring trainin' games this year?"

"A few. The wives put their foot down- said only three this season. We're thinkin' of takin' 'em down to Bradenton next year. Let 'em cook on the Gulf beaches while we check out the up-and-comers in the Pirates organization. Pete here's from Pittsburgh, lifelong fan."

"Best day of my life when they made it to the playoffs after twenty losing seasons," Pete says wistfully.

"I'll be sure to tell Ms. Mary that," Edward laughs, referring to Pete's wife, our school nurse.

Pete shoos him away, chuckling. "Son, someday you'll understand. Baseball can break your heart just as well as a woman can."

I behead a green Gummy Bear as Edward rejoins me on our bench, opening the Twix and handing me the right side.

"I don't want it yet."

"It's gonna melt." He nudges me and gives me his lopsided smile. Light reflects off the water illuminating the emeralds and blues in his eyes, and the chocolate begins to melt between my fingers as I stare, trying to memorize each streak of color.

"Edward," Randy calls. "You got a bite, son!"

Edward jumps and adjusts his hat as he rushes to tend to his rod. I join him at the railing, cheering him on as he pulls up a large speckled trout.

"That sucker's at least two feet long." Randy stands over Edward's shoulder, sizing up the fish as Edward removes the hook from its mouth.

I finish my Twix and lick the remaining chocolate off my fingers, keeping my distance from the flopping creature on the floor. "My dad said he'd fry it up tonight if you want."

"Yeah?" Edward tosses the trout in his cooler and wipes his hands on a towel Randy gives him. "Guess I better catch some more then."

While the men wait for their lines to bend, talking bout baseball statistics and a deep-sea fishing trip they want to take off the coast, I pull out my sketch pad and collection of colored pencils from my bag. My first sketch is of Randy and Pete. I try to capture the moment, the dock filled with tourists and other fishermen behind them while they sip on sodas and relax in their chairs. When I hand it to them and tell them they can keep it, I'm told I have just as much talent at drawing as Edward has at baseball. I smile, and my cheeks heat with the compliment.

The second picture I keep for myself. It's of Edward leaning on his knees, gazing out at the open ocean. He begs to see what I drew. I tell him it's for my eyes only. If he knew how much of my drawing pad was filled with pictures of him, I'm sure he would second-guess our friendship.

It's not until two more fish and an hour and a half later that I'm following Edward past Egan Creek toward Pastor McCarty's house.

"I don't think this is such a good idea, Edward," I argue as we pass the turn for the church.

"Emmett promised they'll be gone until Saturday. Said his Mama and Daddy don't care if we use the pool."

"Oh, Lord, we're going to hell."

We drop our bikes behind the McCarty's garage, and Edward finds a key for their backyard gate behind a rock. His fish are on ice, and Edward says we've only got about fifteen minutes before we gotta take them home, but we're sticky with sunscreen and sweat, and even though I know it's wrong, nothing sounds better than dunking into cool water.

When we enter the yard, I turn my back as Edward reaches behind him and pulls his shirt over his head. Watching him take off his clothes feels more intimate than it should. I toe off my shoes and unzip my shorts, careful not to tug down my bathing suit bottoms as I slip out of the denim.

My skinny frame doesn't allow for the string bikinis Rosalie and Jessica wear, but I found a purple two-piece with a bandeau top at the surf shop with Mama last week. She says it's a good fit for a girl with my build, and not "inappropriate."

Water splashes as Edward jumps in. I turn my head in time to see him emerge and slick back his wet hair.

"Get in, Bella. What you waitin' for?"

I fight the urge to wrap my arms around myself to shield my bare stomach from his view. I'm being silly. This is Edward. We took baths together when we were little. He's already seen everything.

But it's different now.

I run forward and jump into the deep end. Submerged in the pool, my skin cools off, and I shiver as I pop out of the water. "Jeez, it's cold!"

"Uhh… yeah."

I wipe the water away from my face and catch Edward glancing at my chest before he turns away so fast I think he'll get whiplash. He rubs his neck and faces the hedges separating the McCarty's yard from the neighbors.

Confused, I look down to find my strapless suit has ridden so low you can see the tops of my nipples.

Oh, God, no!

My face heats as I tug the fabric back into place, and once again, I curse the fact that I barely have anything there to hold the top up. Edward swims toward the pool steps and sits on the second lowest one while I cross my arms across my chest for security.

"Hey, Bella…" He's got his scrunched-up thinking face on again, and I can't imagine what almost seeing my wanna-be boobs made him want to ask me.


"Have you ever- I mean- well- you ever thought about havin' a boyfriend?"

I can't stop the laugh that breaks free. Is he kidding?

"What fool is gonna wanna be my boyfriend, Edward?"

He frowns and stares at the ripples on top of the water. "I don't think a guy would have to be a fool to wanna be your boyfriend."

"Oh, come on. You're just sayin' that to be nice. No guy wants this." I wave my hand over my body. "When they can have someone like Rosalie Hale."

"Rosalie Hale?" he laughs. "Bella, what are you talkin' about?"

"Big boobs, blonde hair, skimpy clothes. She's everything I'm not."

"You're right," he says, and my heart sinks. It hurts to hear the truth coming from him. "You're not a ragin' bitch."

"A- what? Edward!" I'm relieved and horrified all at once.

"Yeah, she's a pretty girl, but Bella, no guy with a brain would wanna go out with her. She's vain and mean. Bossy as hell."

"I thought Emmett likes her." I nod toward the McCarty's house.

"Emmett ain't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed."

I giggle, thinking of Emmett's regular shenanigans and his overall lack of judgment. It's always the preacher's kids.

Biting my lip, I lean against the side of the pool and dip my finger into a puddle collected on the concrete. "Then why did you look at her like that in the market?"

Edward cocks his head to the side in confusion. "Like what?"

"You stared at her, Edward. At her… boobs," I whisper the last word, afraid Preacher McCarty will pop out at any moment and tell me to repent for using foul language.

"Oh." Edward flushes and drops his head. "I didn't mean to. They were just kind of… there."

"Sure," I scoff.

"I'm a guy. It's hard not to look."

"You don't look at me like that."

Edward stares at me for a moment, his lips twisting. Pulling in a deep breath, he sets his shoulders. "Trust me, Bella. I-"

The swinging screen door to the McCarty's house flies open, and Edward jumps to his feet as I scramble out of the pool.

"Mr. Cullen and Miss Swan, what are you doin' in my pool?" Mrs. McCarty steps outside, arms folded and brow raised. Behind her, Emmett stands in the doorway, his shoulders shaking with laughter.

"Emmett said-" Edward's eyes widen as he searches for a reasonable explanation.

I jump in to interrupt. The boy never could think on his feet. "We are so sorry, Mrs. McCarty. It's just- we were out ridin' bikes, and I started to feel faint from overheatin'. We were right down the street, so Edward thought fast to bring me up here to cool me off."

"Uh-huh. Well, y'all run along home. We drove all the way back from Tennessee today, and I have no interest in listenin' to teenagers causin' a ruckus in my backyard."

We mutter, "yes, ma'am," as we collect our clothes and slip into our shoes. Edward grabs his Florida State cap and sends Emmett a dirty look before we rush through the gate.

"Jackass," he mutters as we climb on our bikes.

I chuckle but keep my comments to myself.


The Cullens don't bother knocking when they arrive for dinner. When they appear through our back door, Mama rushes over to take the pies eleven-year-old Alice is just barely balancing.

Edward walks in last, freshly showered and smelling like the men's soap he uses. I busy myself setting the table to keep from running over and burying my face in his neck to sniff at him.

Alice flounces around, running dishes from the kitchen to the table and telling me all about her recent haircut that stemmed from an incident with bubble gum. Her jet-black locks are chin-length and pixie-like. They suit her bubbly personality perfectly. Soon she's talking about lockers and switching classes while she fiddles with the colorful bracelets that adorn her wrist. She starts middle school in the fall, and according to her, she needs all my advice on "how to survive."

"It's really not that bad," I promise her as we take our seats around the dining table.

"But Edward said it was horrible! That the teachers yell at you all the time, and if you are even one minute late to class, you get silent lunch and can't sit with your friends."

Mama Esme sighs and shoots Edward a stern look, her hazel eyes kind but firm. "Edward, what have you been tellin' your sister?"

He holds his hands up wide-eyed, caught in his deception. "Nothin', I swear!"

Dr. Cullen chuckles, smoothing back his perfectly coiffed, thick blonde hair. "Alice, listen to Bella. You'll be fine. Just don't go raisin' hell like your brother and Emmett did."

"We aren't that bad!" Edward scoffs.

"No, of course not," my father laughs. "I only had to throw the two of you in the back of my cruiser… three times?"

"In our defense, no one ever told us that catchin' frogs and lettin' 'em free in the cafeteria was illegal." Edward sends me a lopsided grin, and I narrow my eyes. Since I knew about the prank beforehand and didn't stop it, I had to spend an entire Saturday helping Edward and Emmett track down all the slimy creatures.

"See, now all the teachers will think I misbehave like Edward does. They'll see Alice Cullen, and they'll be watchin' me like a hawk!" Alice whines.

"Well, I don't think you'll have to worry about that too much, Alice, because we have some news." Dr. Cullen wipes his napkin across his mouth as we turn to him and Mama Esme.

Edward stops eating and glares at his father. I drop my fork because something is off, and my stomach clenches in preparation for whatever Dr. Cullen is about to tell us.

Mama Esme reaches across the table to pat Edward's hand, but he pulls it away, dropping it in his lap. I swallow hard, my pulse picking up speed.

She sighs, "We wanted to tell everyone together because Renee and Charlie, you and Bella are like family."

"Tell us what?" Mama's trying to hold her smile, but I know she's worried too. Edward's face has gone pale, and I'm gonna cry if someone doesn't tell me something soon.

"I was offered a position with the CDC in Atlanta," Dr. Cullen says, his piercing blue eyes taking in the faces of shock from around the table. "It is in the infectious disease department, and I'll be heading up a research team."

"Congratulations, Carlisle!" Mama says. "You had us all worried. This is fabulous news."

"It is an amazing opportunity. However, there are some drawbacks."

"No," Edward hisses, shaking his head.

"Edward, we talked about this. You knew it was a possibility." Mama Esme tries to soothe him.

Edward stands suddenly, his chair falling to the floor with a smack. "We're not moving!"

"Moving?" I gasp.

"To Altlanta?" Mama's eyes dart to me and back to Dr. Cullen.

"Unfortunately, the position requires me to be in the city. But it's only temporary. Once the research is finished, we'll be coming home. We aren't going to sell the house or anything drastic."

"But what about our friends?" Alice asks.

"We won't be far, honey," Mama Esme says. "We'll be able to visit, and we'll set you up with email so you can write to them."

"This is bullshit!" Edward's hands lift to grasp his hair while he blinks back tears.

"Edward, language!" Dr. Cullen scolds.

Edward ignores him, turning and storming toward the backdoor. He throws it open and lets it slam behind him while the rest of us watch in uncomfortable silence.

"I'm so sorry. We had no idea he would react like that." Mama Esme wrings her hands in her lap.

I jump up and hold myself steady on the table, dizzy with disbelief. "I have to, um, I'm going to…".

"Go talk to him, honey." Somehow Mama sees my heartbreak and releases me.

I hurry after Edward, who has already crossed into his backyard. I find him on the brick steps that lead to his house, head in his hands.

"I don't wanna talk," he snaps when he hears the gate slam shut behind me.


He looks up, and my heart shatters at the tear that rolls down his cheek. "How could they do this?"

"Did you know?" I ask, sitting next to him.

"They mentioned it, but I didn't think he would seriously take the job."

We're so close that my thigh pushes against his, and all I want to do is throw my arms around him and make it better. "You won't be that far."

"It's far enough, Bella. I'm gonna miss everything. Startin' high school, playin' baseball with Emmett and the rest of the team, and…." His face flushes as he looks away toward where the lightning bugs hover near the honeysuckle.

"And what?"

He sighs, eyes squeezing shut. "And you, Bella. How can I live without you?"

My breath hitches, and I freeze, afraid that with the slightest movement, he'll realize what he's saying- that I'm the reason he doesn't want to leave Amelia Island.


"You don't even get it, do you?" he scoffs. "You're… special, Bella."

My pulse is pounding because what if this is the moment I've been waiting for? What if Edward sees me the way I see him? "What does that mean?"

His ocean eyes lock onto mine, and I've never seen them burn so intensely. He's making me nervous and excited, and something in the air shifts around us, crackling with energy like a firework about to burst.

"It means this." There's no warning before he leans forward and presses his lips against mine. The touch of his soft, plump skin sends sparks through my body, and soon I'm grasping his shoulders and molding my mouth against his. The fluttery feeling in my tummy returns, but it's magnified by a thousand. We break apart, gasping in shock.

"You don't know how many times I've dreamed about doin' that." His smile is bright, alighting his features as his still glassy eyes stare at me in wonder.

"Me too," I admit in a whisper.

"So, you see, Bella, I can't leave you. I'm in love with you."

My heart dances, and I feel so light I could fly into the honeysuckle with the lightning bugs. "I'm in love with you too, Edward," I confess, dipping my head because I didn't prepare for this. It's new and unfamiliar.

"How do we do this?" he asks, propping his forehead against mine.

"You won't be gone forever."

"I don't wanna be gone at all."

"We can write, and y'all will come to visit. You're not even sellin' your house."

He pulls back and nods. "Maybe you can come to visit me in Atlanta. I can show you around. We can go to a real Braves game in their new stadium."

"I'd like that." I smile as he wraps his hand around mine.

"I bet we can convince our parents to get us phones so we can call and text."

"I wish Preacher McCarty didn't tell the congregation they're the work of the devil."

Edward laughs, his eyes dancing with mischief. "Emmett bought his own."

"No, he didn't!"

"They sell 'em at Walmart."

We sit on the porch steps, giggling, fingers intertwined and sides pressed together until the screen door from my kitchen creaks open.

"Edward? Bella?" Mama Esme calls. Edward and I look at each other wide-eyed and scoot apart so six inches separate us.

"Over here," he answers, his shoulders slumping.

After a few seconds, she appears at the gate, sighing when she takes in her son's defeated frame.

"Honey, I'm so sorry." She walks over to us, standing at the foot of the steps, and tucks her caramel-colored hair behind her ear. "We should have told you at home."

Edward kicks at a weed with the toe of his Converse. "It wouldn't change anything."

She reaches over and rests her palm against his cheek, forcing him to meet her eyes. "We're going to get through this. All of us." She looks toward me, and my face heats as I wonder if she has a sixth sense and knows that Edward kissed me.

Dr. Cullen and Alice appear through the gate, carrying leftovers from our interrupted dinner.

"Bella, your parents asked that I send you home." Dr. Cullen gives me a sad smile. I nod and stand, brushing debris off my legs.

"Goodnight," I say to Edward.

His smile doesn't reach his eyes as he repeats the goodbye. Dr. Cullen murmurs an apology for ruining the night as I pass by. I tell him it's okay, even though it's not.


The Cullens leave Amelia Island on August first. It's early morning when they climb into their SUVs with the back seats folded so boxes and suitcases can fill the cargo space to the brim. Edward wraps me in his arms, and I try to memorize his scent while he squeezes tight, refusing to let go. It's Mama Esme's gentle promises that he'll see me again soon that finally convince him to step back. I catch him wiping a tear from his cheek before he climbs in and shuts the door.

I stand on the edge of the curb until their cars disappear around a curve in the road. But my heart continues to follow after them, and I know it will find itself stuck in Atlanta until Edward returns.

I'm not ready to accept that he's gone, so instead of returning to my house, I follow the edge of the Cullen's driveway until I pass through the side gate into their backyard. My feet carry me without conscious thought until I sink to the ground where the honeysuckle vines grow.

Something catches my eye, and I reach forward to grab a paper-wrapped package propped against the fence. My name is scrawled neatly across it, and a little bouquet of honeysuckle flowers is tied to the string. Carefully, I unwrap the gift. My lips tug up into a grin when I see what's inside.

It's a journal with pressed wildflowers decorating the cover and a matching wildflower pen. I flip the first page open to find an entry dated August first.

Dear Bella,

Tell this journal every thought you have. You can read them to me when we talk, so we don't miss a thing. I have one, too (but it doesn't have flowers on it).



Blinking away tears, I open the pen and scrawl out my first entry.

Dear Edward,

I miss you.

A/N: Hey, y'all! Thanks for coming over and checking out Honeysuckle!

If you can't already tell, this story is going to be very different from my others. Believe it or not, there's no mafia involved. *gasps in shock*

I'm going to be totally straightforward. For some reason, I am way more nervous about posting this story than I usually am.

Fair warning, there will be angst. If you haven't already noticed the timeline, check the top of the page for the date this chapter takes place. In the next chapter, we will be jumping forward in time by quite a bit. The storyline will be dealing with the aftermath of the years in between from the perspective of young adults. I pulled inspiration from watching my own teens and their friends as they dealt with the world both inside and outside their homes during the time period. Please note there are no character deaths or illnesses, and I do not plan to preach about anything that did/didn't/could have/would have happened. This is one hundred percent about these kids dealing with the trials of life.

As for the location, Amelia Island is a real place. However, I am taking liberties with the actual layout and businesses on the island. I've combined traits from a few different islands along that stretch of coastline. Overall, the experience will be similar to that of the actual location.

I will do my best to update weekly, but if I go MIA for a week or so, don't worry. It just means my life got a little crazy for a minute.

All typos and mistakes are my own.

I've got my fingers crossed that you're ready to jump on this next journey with me :)

Don't forget to click that follow button below, and if you're so inclined, drop me a review. Thanks for reading!