Author's Note: This is it; thanks to those of you that stayed with me until the end. It means a lot to me.
Nice reviews are better than chocolate, unless maybe you're licking that chocolate off someone.
His cell phone's shrill ringing woke him up. He felt like he hadn't moved all night. As he answered the phone, the day before came back to him. Holding the phone to his ear, he sat up abruptly, looking for her.
"Yeah?" Edward said roughly into the phone. His breath came out in short gasps; he felt a cold sweat forming on his skin. For a moment, he thought this must be what a panic attack felt like. He got up and ran to the kitchen; there were no remains of the night before left in his apartment.
"Edward, I know you don't have your class 'til 11, but I'm gonna need you to fill in for Darrell. His kid is sick so he needs to stay with him… Edward?" He barely heard Christopher on the line. He was standing by his front door, remembering.
"Yeah, uh, I don't –"
"Thanks, he's got class the hour before yours in the room across from your lecture hall. Darrell has a quiz ready for them and they can leave when they're done. Thanks again, see you later." Christopher hung up before Edward could say anything. He looked at the phone for a moment as if it held all the answers.
He got down on his hands and knees on the cold floor, the button. He'd accidentally broken the button on her pants, if he could just find it, he could prove that it was real. He ran his hands under the couch; he got up and went to the living room, to the kitchen, back to the front door. It wasn't anywhere. Tears of frustration clouded his vision. "It happened, she was here," he said to himself. "She was here."
Edward showered, dressed, and went to the university, not that he could remember any of it. He walked to Bella's office suite; it contained the mail room, empty. He picked up the quiz out of Darrell's box. Walked to the first floor classroom.
The students were already waiting, doing their last minute studying. "Here's your quiz, put your stuff on the floor. You can leave when you're done," he said on autopilot. He split the pile of papers in half and handed one to each side of the room to pass back. He sat at the desk silently until students slowly filtered up to the front to hand in their papers.
Edward was afraid to think, that if he let his mind go he might never be the same. He sat at the desk stoically, waiting for the last of the students to finish. Once everyone was gone, he stuck the papers into his bag and walked across the hall to his own classroom. He could feel her creeping in although he tried to hold all but the most basic thinking at bay. Edward sat in the big, empty lecture hall; he was about thirty minutes early. Bella. He squeezed his eyes shut, as if he was hiding from the thoughts, from the misery that came with them. He opened his bag, pulled out the book his students were working on, trying to come up with a lesson plan that didn't require too much of his attention. It was real, she was there. He put on his reading glasses, opened the book. He'd read it twice before, but it would give him enough of a distraction. She was with me. He slammed the book shut and put his head in his hands; closing his eyes.
He was about to take off his glasses and walk out when he heard the door open. "Edward?"
He knew that voice.
Edward pulled off his glasses and dropped them onto the desk. He watched the door open, watched her walk in. She smiled and approached his desk, standing on the opposite side as Edward. "Hi. Do you have a minute?" She asked.
He pushed back out of his chair so fast it toppled over; he ran around to her side of the desk and threw his arms around her, pinning her arms at her side. She said nothing as he buried his face in her hair, breathing hard. Finally, he pulled back to take her face in his hands. "Bella," was all he could think of to say. He covered her mouth with his.
Edward opened his eyes; he was still alone in the empty classroom. He rubbed his hands over his face; he was about to get up and leave when a group of his students came in. They glanced his way in greeting before going to their seats. He pulled out some papers and pretended to be working until the room was full.
If you were to ask him what he did in class that day, he couldn't tell you. Everything took on a muffled, weighted down feeling. Like he was under water. After class, he gathered his things and went back home. He had work to do at the university, but it could wait.
He lay down on the couch, willing himself to sleep; hoping that when he woke up he would be with her again.
The phone woke him up for the second time that day. He debated not answering, but then picked it up out of some strange aptitude for politeness. He said a tired "hello" into the receiver.
"Edward, did I wake you?"
Edward would recognize that voice anywhere.
He stood up so fast he was dizzy; he looked around like she might appear in front of him.
"Edward?" She asked again.
"I'm here!" He didn't mean to shout.
"I wanted to talk to you today, but you must have left early or something. I got your number off the school directory thing, I hope you don't mind," she paused and he could hear noise in the background. "I wanted to tell you, I finished it!" He could hear the excitement in her voice, he could hear the static rising in his own mind; he didn't know what was going on. "Edward? My book? I finished it." She said thank you to someone off the phone.
"I…I'm so happy for you," he said it like a question. "Uh, I uh, have a stupid question," he paused, "what's the date?"
"The 24th, yeah I noticed that too, it took 5 months almost to the day longer than I thought it would." She waited for him to say something, when he didn't she continued, "so, I was wondering if maybe you'd take a look at it?"
"Uh, yeah." We're back at the beginning. She's still here. It's the 24th… "Bella, where are you?" Edward could hear the dread in his voice as he spoke.
"I'm downtown, I need to run to the post office really quick and then I was hoping we could meet up somewhere. Sorry this is all last minute, I just couldn't wait to tell you." She sounded so happy.
Edward was already out the door.
"Are you walking?" Now she could feel his urgency too; she said she was and Edward quickened his pace. He lived close enough to downtown that he didn't need his car; it would take longer with it than without it. "Ok, listen; I know how this sounds, but stay right where you are, alright? I'll meet you now."
"Um, I'm in line at the post office now, so I'll be a few. Want to meet at the coffee place over here? I think it's right across the street –"
"Just stay there! I'll come get you –"
"Wait, I'm sorry I didn't hear you, I have to get off the phone now. Did you know this place doesn't let you talk on the phone inside anymore? I'll meet you over there in a few, ok? Bye."
"Bella, no -" she had already hung up.
Edward was running. He flew past people on the street that looked at him like he was crazy. He mentally cursed himself for not being there, as if he could have divined what would happen when he woke up that morning. I should have figured it out. I should be able to protect her.
Please don't take her away from me again.
He ran faster, he was almost to the post office. He could see inside the big glass front, but he didn't see her. He went inside, trying to slow his stride, checking every face for hers. She wasn't there.
Edward spun, running outside to the angry murmurs of the passersby. He looked at everyone, trying to find her. "Bella!" He yelled for her, willing her to hear him. Then he saw her. She was crossing the street, walking toward the coffee shop. She didn't seem to hear him.
You know how they say accidents happen in slow motion? Well they're half right. You move in slow motion, everything else happens too fast. Something caught his attention on the right, he turned and saw the car. It weaved in and out of the wrong lane, catching someone's mirror. A woman had to jump out of the way, screaming obscenities at the driver. He was driving too fast. Bella was already a couple of yards off the curb, directly in the car's path.
Don't do this to me.
Let me save her.
In an instant, Edward was in the street. People in the crowd yelled to him, told him to get out of the way; he didn't care. It was as if the street had suddenly widened, or maybe his legs had turned to cement, whatever it was, he felt like he wasn't going to make it. He saw her face then as she saw the car, she was frozen in place. He would swear he could hear her heart pounding.
Edward jumped, barreling into her body as the car came crashing into them. He heard the crunch of metal, felt himself crack the windshield. And then he couldn't feel anything.
Someone was touching him. The hand was warm, gentle as if from years of practice. Edward raised his eyelids halfway; his breathing stopped. It was the woman from the cemetery. She looked at him, softness in her gaze. "You'll be alright now." She tilted her head and smiled kindly, then walked out through the curtained partition.
"Are you awake?" Bella's voice sounded like a song. Edward wasn't sure if he'd fallen asleep, but when he opened his eyes she was there, brushing his hair back from his face. Edward stared at her, not totally believing she was there. "The doctor said you're fine, they want to keep you for a little while for observation, but you can probably come home tonight." Her face looked tight with worry, despite what she said.
"Bella," he reached a hand out and touched her face. She smiled then, the stress draining from her features. "Are you ok?"
She laughed lightly, "am I ok? Yeah, thanks to you." She leaned closer and Edward sat up slightly. He kept his hand on her face and brought her closer; she looked unsure, but moved willingly. He kissed her then, feather light; she really did taste like strawberries. He pulled back to gauge her reaction; she looked happy. "I'm just glad you're ok," she took his hand, her eyes watery. He pulled her hand to his mouth.
"I'm glad you are too," he whispered against it.
They were unaware of the woman outside, listening. She smiled to herself, another job well done. She walked off silently, giving the two their privacy.
They'll be alright now.