Title: Wait for You
Disclaimers: The characters are not mine, any and all music is not mine, only the plot and my words belong to me.
Notes: I am so sorry this took so long and I also apologize for the length (seriously, it's twice the length of the one-shot that spawned it). I guess I had a lot more to say than I realized. This is for my beta and the best editor/shrink/pep talker/angst goddess out there, goo82. I may just be lucky enough to help out on her amazing fic "Love Is" and I'm so excited! Also, for my personal cheerleader, lakers0604. You are so awesome, girl, and I can't wait to start our fic together!
Special Note: Thanks to everyone who has read, reviewed, favorited, or alerted. You all are so amazing and you've made my first experience with a multi-part fic just awesome. Thank you twilight-is-lovee, Shdwcat27, sweetswirlypop, Blue-Eyed Chica, EC4me, efromhawaii, pippapear, graciousplum, TopazHeart, Sheeijan, HopelessRomantic, Sweetdreams82, TwiDi, krissf, GiulyRoberts, madisonbelle and everyone else who has been so awesome. I know I'm leaving people out and please don't think that means I've forgotten you. I appreciate everyone so much – this chapter is just so long already! So big hugs and thank yous to everyone!
Music Note: I've included all of the songs used in this story in my profile including links to some. While I always recommend listening to the music, please listen to "Your Face" when it comes up in the story if you can. I think it definitely adds to the overall mood.
"What kind of juice did Alice say she wanted?" Emmett asked, stepping back from the shelves and looking at the numerous bottles on the shelves in front of him. The two boys were standing in the middle of the juice aisle at the local Thriftway having been sent out early that afternoon by Alice with instructions to pick up enough food to last them until Esme and Carlisle returned home from their vacation.
Jasper reached past Emmett and grabbed a bottle of Santa Cruz Raspberry Lemonade, dropping it into the nearly overflowing shopping cart in front of him. "On second thought, better grab a couple," Jasper said, pulling two more bottles off of the shelf. "Alice does like to drown her sorrows."
He and Emmett exchanged a look. "This sucks," Emmett muttered. "I really thought Alice had it all figured out last night. I mean, I'd have put money on her – we both know how stupid it is to bet against Alice." Jasper nodded silently in agreement as both boys recalled the events of the night before.
When Alice, Emmett, and Edward returned home, Edward silently exited the car and walked into the house. Alice and Emmett followed closely behind him, concerned by the zombie like state their brother had been in since they had left the party. Edward's silence continued as he walked through the house and he did not give any indication that he knew his siblings were behind him until they reached his room on the third floor.
At the door to his bedroom, Edward stopped and turned to face Emmett and Alice. "Looks like you were wrong, Alice," he said sadly. "Looks like it was something I did after all." Without another word, he walked into his bedroom, shutting the door firmly behind him. Moments later, Alice and Emmett heard music coming from the stereo in his room.
Emmett refrained from making a crack about how at least Edward hadn't had time to change his playlist as Alice turned to her big brother, her eyes filled with tears. Emmett didn't say a word, lifting his tiny sister easily into his arms and walking down toward Alice's room, the mournful music from Edward's room following them down the stairs.
"I just wanted you to love me
I just wanted you to love me
Touch, feel and lose
And cry, cry, cry Cry, cry, cry"
Cry, cry, cry"
Jasper met them at the door to Alice's room where Emmett set Alice back on her feet. She turned and hugged Emmett fiercely before turning to Jasper. He took her in his arms and the two boys exchanged a look over her head before Jasper led Alice into her bedroom and Emmett continued down the hall to his own room.
As he got ready for bed, Emmett could hear Rose in her own bedroom next to his. She loudly slammed drawers and doors in her room while an angry sounding bass thumped from her stereo speakers. Emmett was torn. He wanted to go to Rose and comfort her, but he also knew her well enough to know that she needed to release her frustrations before she would be in any kind of mood to talk or be soothed.
He left the door to his bedroom ajar before turning off his light and climbing into bed. He tried to clear his thoughts so he could sleep, but the anguished face of his younger brother dominated his thoughts. What had happened tonight? Bella hadn't looked angry or even very upset when he and Rose had left the guest bedroom earlier that evening. How, then, had the evening ended with Bella and Edward still apart and his brother practically broken in the bedroom above him?
Bella was a sweet girl, of that Emmett was certain. It was one of the things that he liked most about the shy girl. He knew that she would not have done anything to intentionally harm Edward. He also knew that the two had been extremely happy together – there was no way that had been an act on either one of their parts. So what had gone wrong?
Emmett groaned in frustration, punching his pillow as he rolled over onto his side, his troubled thoughts making sleep nearly impossible. He had no idea how long he had been lying there when he heard his door creak slightly and then click shut. The mattress sagged ever so slightly as Rose lay down next to Emmett. She pressed her back against his chest, Emmett's arms automatically wrapping around her waist and holding her close.
"Love you, Em," Rose whispered, resting her hands on top of his as they lay draped across her stomach.
"I love you, too, Rosie," Emmett told her, pressing a kiss to her shoulder as he squeezed her hands gently.
They lay there silently awhile longer before the combination of exhaustion and the comfort of their bodies pressed together finally allowed the two to find refuge from their discontented states in sleep. Around them, the Cullen household settled in for the night, the house dark, the thoughts of its inhabitants somber.
"I'm gonna go get some Pop Tarts," Emmett told Jasper. "I doubt they're on Alice's list, but I want some."
Jasper nodded distractedly, pushing the cart up the aisle behind Emmett as he dug in the back pocket of his jeans for Alice's shopping list. The two boys turned left and walked to the next aisle, stopping for a moment at the head of the cereal aisle as Jasper pulled the list from his pocket.
Jasper was busy surveying the list Alice had carefully written out for them when he felt Emmett's elbow dig into his side. He glanced up, mildly annoyed, but saw that Emmett's attention was focused elsewhere. "Bella," Emmett said quietly.
Jasper followed Emmett's gaze and saw that his friend was indeed correct. Bella stood halfway down the aisle with a mostly empty shopping cart next to her. She was staring at a box of Special K in her hand but her eyes looked unfocused and Jasper would have bet she couldn't have told him anything that was written on the box.
"Maybe she can tell us what happened last night."
Jasper groaned silently. He knew that Emmett wanted to get Bella and Edward back together – probably as badly as Alice did, in fact. He also knew, however, that Emmett could sometimes be about as subtle as a brick to the head. The way Bella looked right now, Jasper didn't really think she was in any shape to handle Emmett's blunt nature. "Emmett," Jasper began, trying to drag his friend from the aisle before he could alert Bella to their presence.
Bella started, the box of cereal falling from her hand as she turned toward the sound of the familiar voice.
"Gotta be more careful, Bella Marie," Emmett said, grabbing the box of cereal from the ground and depositing it in her cart as he reached her side.
Bella nodded weakly. "Hi," she said, her voice barely above a whisper.
Jasper took in her appearance as he quickly joined Emmett. Her eyes looked bloodshot, as if she had been crying, and there were faint circles beneath her eyes. "Hi, Bella," he said gently. He noticed Bella's eyes dart nervously over his shoulder and he quickly tried to ease her mind. "Alice put me and Emmett on grocery duty since Esme and Carlisle are out of town. The two of us are supposed to figure out what we're all going to eat for dinner until they get back from Mexico." He put emphasis on the words "two of us," letting Bella know that Edward was not with them.
Jasper saw Bella's tense posture relax ever so slightly as she swallowed and nodded. "Me, too," she mumbled. "I mean, I'm getting food for me and Charlie. To eat."
Jasper nodded, his expression kind. Emmett, however, was ready for some answers. "So what happened last night, Bella?" he asked conversationally.
The color drained from Bella's face and Jasper closed his eyes briefly, swearing under his breath.
"I, um, what do you mean?" Bella stuttered.
"Well, thanks to Alice and Rose, we know that Lauren was behind all this crap in the first place and Edward didn't do anything wrong, right?" Bella nodded, not meeting Emmett's gaze. "So how come you dumped him again anyway?"
Bella swallowed convulsively. "Please don't do this, Emmett," she whispered.
"Bella, I want to understand," Emmett pleaded. "Do you have any idea how much you mean to him? What this is doing to him?"
"That's why, don't you see?" Bella shook her head. "I know he was hurt. I also know that things like what Lauren did would keep happening if we stayed together. It's too much to go through again."
"So it gets too hard and suddenly it's not worth it? Suddenly Edward's not worth it?"
"That's not fair, Emmett," Bella said quietly. "That's not why I'm doing this."
"Then why, Bella?" Emmett asked. "Because right now, Edward thinks it's because you don't want him anymore. He thinks it's because of something he did."
"That's not-" Bella cut herself off, a pained expression on her face. "That's not it at all. You don't understand."
"Then explain it to me," Emmett challenged. His voice softened. "Please."
"I saw how awful Edward looked last night. That was all because of me. Because I was so ready to believe Lauren's lies without even talking to him. And he deserves so much more than that, than me. He deserves someone who trusts him and is willing to talk about things instead of just overreacting and hurting him." Bella shook her head. "Don't you see? This is all so that Edward won't get hurt again."
Emmett regarded her silently a moment before speaking. "I thought you were supposed to be smart, Bella."
"Emmett!" Jasper said sharply. Bella gaped at Emmett, speechless.
Emmett shook his head. "Listen to yourself. You're telling me that the best way to keep Edward from getting hurt again is by breaking his heart first? That makes no sense."
Bella's eyes were sad as she met Emmett's gaze. "He's not heartbroken," she insisted. "He'll be fine in a few days, he'll get over it and move on and I won't be able to hurt him anymore. And that's the best thing for him."
"I think you're the one who doesn't understand, Bella," Emmett told her. "Edward never wanted to date any of those girls at school, even though they were always throwing themselves at him. He said he never saw the point of dating in high school. But when you came to Forks, all that changed. It was like he was waiting for you or something.
"I've never seen him happier than he was when he was with you, Bella. Never. Did you know that even before you two got together, he was dreaming about you? Yeah, I heard him say your name in his sleep."
Bella swallowed hard and bowed her head, unable to look at Emmett as the same feelings of guilt and pain she had experienced the night before upon seeing Edward's distraught face washed over her once again.
"And when all that shit went down with Lauren, he was completely wrecked," Emmett continued, refusing to let up. He loved Bella like a sister, honestly he did, and the last thing he wanted to do was hurt her. However, at the moment, he almost wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake her, make her listen to him and realize that what he was saying was true. He could see how miserable both she and Edward were when they were apart, so if he had to be a little tough on Bella right now to get her to listen and get the two of them back together, then he would do whatever it took.
"Last night was the first night he's really been out of his room since you first told him to get lost. Hell, it was the first time he's showed any signs of being human since then. I saw how happy he was just to see you again. And after you walked away from him again, Alice and I practically had to carry him out of there. Now he's back in his room with Ryan Adams and Damien Rice on repeat and he won't talk to any of us because the only person he wants, the only person he needs, is you, Bella. So tell me, you really think that you're doing what's best for Edward? That you're going to keep him from getting hurt by doing this?"
Jasper put a hand on Emmett's arm to calm him and stepped closer to Bella. "What Emmett is saying is that Edward is hurting, Bella. A lot. I've known him a long time and I've never seen him like this. I know in reality it's none of our business, but we all care about the two of you and we don't want to see either of you hurting like this. I know you're afraid of being hurt again, but don't you think you could at least talk to him?"
Bella shook her head, not looking at either of them. "I can't," she whispered, her voice shaking.
"But, Bella-" Emmett began, his voice calm once more, his tone almost pleading.
"Guys, please, I know you mean well, but please don't make this harder than it already is." Bella glanced up at Emmett and Jasper quickly. "It's for the best," she told them, her voice choked. "I have to go." Leaving her shopping cart where it was, she quickly walked down the aisle and out of the store.
Emmett let out a low whistle. "Woah," he muttered.
Jasper agreed. He, too, had seen the tears in Bella's eyes right before she'd walked away from them. "Looks like this isn't any easier on Bella than it is on Edward, no matter who did the breaking up."
While Emmett and Jasper were finishing up their grocery shopping expedition, Angela was ringing the doorbell at the Cullens' house. Alice had been pacing the living room waiting for Angela and she flung the door open before the sound of the doorbell had completely faded.
"Did you see her? Is she mad? Does she hate us?"
Rose appeared behind Alice and gently pulled her out of the doorway. "Alice, let Angela come in first before you start haranguing her."
Angela shot Rose a grateful look as she stepped inside, shutting the front door behind her. "Let's go in there and talk," Rose suggested, gesturing toward the living room. The other two nodded and followed Rose into the living room.
Alice dropped onto the couch while Rose and Angela sat in armchairs across from her. Once everyone was seated, Alice turned to Angela, impatience radiating from her tiny body.
"I went to Bella's this morning to talk to her about last night and to see how she was doing with everything," Angela began.
"Does she hate us now?" Alice asked worriedly.
Angela shook her head. "She doesn't hate anyone," she assured the two girls. "Including Edward."
Angela rang the doorbell, twisting her hands nervously while she waited for Bella to answer the door. When she had driven her friend home from the party the night before, Bella hadn't said much. Angela had no idea if Bella was okay or if she was even speaking to her after the previous night's events. Moments later, the door swung open to reveal Bella. The two girls stared at each other silently for a moment before Angela spoke. "Hi, Bella. Um, can I come in?" Angela asked cautiously.
"Sure," Bella said, stepping aside to let Angela inside. She shut the door behind her friend and led her into the living room. Angela followed, silently taking in Bella's appearance as the two sat down. Bella's eyes were puffy and bloodshot, hinting at the tears she had recently shed, and there were faint shadows beneath her eyes leaving Angela to wonder if the other girl had gotten any sleep the night before.
Once the two girls were settled, Angela wasted no time in apologizing. "I'm so sorry, Bella. I shouldn't have lied to you. I knew what Lauren had told you couldn't be true, but I'm sorry I went behind your back like that."
"It's okay, Ang," Bella said. "I'm not mad at you or Alice or anyone else who was involved last night. Really," she added, seeing the look on Angela's face. "I know you all were just trying to help. And I'm glad that I know the truth now."
Angela nodded. "Thank you. I'm still sorry, though." Bella nodded in acknowledgement and the two girls were quiet for a few moments. Finally, Angela spoke up again. "How are you doing with everything?" she asked gently. "I mean, a lot happened last night. Are you okay?"
"It was a pretty eventful night, wasn't it?" Bella asked rhetorically. She shrugged. "I don't know. I mean, I'm okay, I guess. Like I said, I am glad that I know what really happened."
"So you forgive Edward, then?"
"There's nothing to forgive, Ang. He didn't do anything wrong."
"Then why did you leave the party with me and not him?" Angela asked gently.
Bella was silent for a few moments before she finally spoke. "Did you see Edward last night?"
Angela looked at her strangely. "Of course I did, Bella. We were all in the same room together. I even talked to him, if you recall."
Bella shook her head. "No, I mean did you really see him? He looked terrible, like he hadn't slept or eaten in a week. And that was my fault – I did that, I hurt him. And maybe it's selfish, but I just can't risk doing that to him again."
"But Bella," Angela began. "That was all because of Lauren – she's the one to blame for all of this, not you. None of it was your fault."
"Wasn't it, though? I mean, first of all, I'm the one who was stupid enough to talk about such a personal thing in a public place. And then when Lauren lied to me, I listened to her. I believed her without even giving Edward a chance to say anything. I didn't think, hey, maybe someone heard me when I was talking about having sex with Edward in the hallway of the school. No, I immediately thought the worst of him. And he had never given me any reason to think he would do something like that, never. He was never anything but sweet and wonderful and caring and I discounted everything I knew about him in a heartbeat because of a few words from Lauren. Lauren Mallory, of all people. I-"
Bella's voice had been rising in intensity as she spoke and she cut herself off, looking down at her lap. She took a shuddering breath and when she looked up, Angela could see a sheen of tears in her eyes. "I'll only end up hurting him again and I can't do that," she continued softly. "He deserves so much better than that."
Bella paused to take another shaky breath before she continued. "He may be upset for a few days, but he'll get over it and be able to get back to his regular life. He really is a wonderful guy," Bella whispered, her voice catching slightly, "and he deserves what's best for him. So that's what I'm doing."
Angela shook her head. "She doesn't hate him, not even close," she told the others. "She's doing this because she thinks it's what's best for Edward. She's doing this to protect him from getting hurt again."
"That's pretty much what she told us, too." The three girls looked up to see Jasper and Emmett standing in the doorway, each carrying several grocery bags.
"What are you talking about?" Rose asked.
"We just saw her at Thriftway," Emmett responded.
"What? What did she say? How did she look?" Alice demanded.
"Let us put these up and we'll tell you everything," Jasper said, gesturing to the bags they held.
"Do you guys need any help?" Angela offered.
Jasper smiled. "No, but thanks, Angela. This is all of it. We'll just put them away and be back. Anyone want anything to drink?" Alice began to speak and Jasper smiled at her. "Santa Cruz for Alice. Anyone else?" Rose and Angela shook their heads and the boys headed to the kitchen with their bags.
A few moments later, they returned to the living room, Jasper handing Alice a large glass of raspberry lemonade before he settled next to her on the couch. He and Emmett recounted their run in with Bella at the supermarket and Angela filled the boys in on her earlier conversation with Bella.
"I say we lock them in a room and leave them until they sort this out," Emmett said, only half joking.
"Yeah, 'cause that couldn't possibly backfire," Rose said, rolling her eyes.
"It might be a stupid idea, but it's no dumber than the way they're acting," Emmett defended. "I mean, they both know the truth of what really happened, but Edward's still acting like it was all his fault and Bella, I don't know, she has some crazy idea about this being the best way to not hurt Edward."
"And she kind of blames herself, too, for anything happening in the first place," Angela added.
"What do you mean?" Emmett asked. "Lauren's the one who started all this shit."
"Yeah, but Bella thinks she's partly to blame for talking about it where she could be overheard. She's got some serious guilt over this big mouth she thinks she has."
"Bella thinks she has a big mouth? Seriously?" Emmett was astounded. Before Edward and Bella had gotten together, Emmett wasn't altogether sure he had ever heard Bella speak before.
"Like I said," Angela replied, "she feels guilty. Guilt's not always rational. She's beating herself up over not realizing that that was how Lauren knew anything and just believing her and blaming Edward. She thinks she should have known better and she hates that she believed Lauren over Edward and hurt him. She doesn't really seem to trust herself not to hurt him again."
"Well the whole situation was so fantastic anyway," Jasper said. "It was like something in a movie. Who really would have thought something like that could happen? Besides, I get the feeling that Bella's just so innocent that she would never think someone could be as scheming and nasty as Lauren."
Rose shrugged. "I don't even think it's that. I think it's like Angela said. She still cares about Edward and she feels so awful about how badly she hurt him that she thinks the only way she can protect him is to stay away from. Not to mention her totally messed up notion that she's not good enough for him."
"So Edward thinks it's his fault they broke up while Bella not only thinks it's her fault, but also that she doesn't deserve Edward," Jasper summarized, shaking his head. "What a mess."
"We can't let them both be so miserable," Alice said. "We have to do something."
"I think it's my turn to come up with the plan," a familiar voice said from the doorway.
"Edward!" Alice jumped up and ran to Edward, throwing her arms around his neck.
Edward hugged his sister back and then walked into the living room with her. They joined Jasper on the couch and Edward looked around at his friends. "I appreciate everything you guys have done for me," he told them earnestly. "But I think if I want to prove myself to Bella, I have to be the one to try to get her back." He paused. "Of course, I'll need all of your help to do that," he admitted.
"I'm in," Emmett said immediately.
"Me, too," Angela said, the others nodding and adding their support as well.
"Thanks," Edward said, a small smile on his face. "Okay, first and most importantly," he said, turning to Angela. "Angela, you know Bella best." He paused a moment and then got right to the point. "Do you think she still cares about me?"
"Absolutely," Angela said without hesitation. "That's not even the issue here."
"You think it's because she somehow blames herself and thinks she's protecting me by doing this."
Angela looked at him strangely. "How did you…?"
Edward flushed slightly. "I've kind of been sitting at the top of the stairs listening since you got here," he admitted.
Angela smiled. "Well, yes," she replied. "Bella said you were a 'wonderful guy' who deserves better than her. She thinks it's her fault for trusting Lauren so readily."
Edward shook his head. "I don't blame her, not in the slightest," he assured Angela. "And better than her? I can't even imagine someone better than Bella. She's everything I have ever wanted. If anything, she's far more than I deserve, not the other way around."
"Okay, that's touching and all," Emmett said, breaking up the intense atmosphere of the room. "But what are we going to do about it?"
Edward was silent for a few moments, deep in thought. "So Bella thinks this is what's best for me, right?" he said finally. "That this is what she needs to do to keep me from getting hurt again? That means I have to convince her that she is what's best for me, that she is the one I've been waiting for for so long."
Jasper hesitated a moment before he spoke. "Edward, did you ever, um, did you ever actually tell Bella how you feel about her?" he asked tentatively.
"You mean that I love her?" Edward asked.
Angela beamed and Alice fell back against Jasper with a happy sigh. Jasper smiled gently. "Yeah, that."
Edward shook his head. "But I do. I love her," Edward said, a determined expression on his face. "And now I need to let her know that."
Later that afternoon, Bella was in her bedroom trying to focus on the book she held in her hands. After being on the same page for over fifteen minutes, however, she finally gave up and dropped the book to the floor. Snatches of her meeting with Jasper and Emmett kept running through her mind, making it impossible for her to concentrate. She knew they had both only been trying to help and that they were honestly concerned about her, but they just didn't understand. Edward would be far better off without her.
As she lay there, she finally allowed herself to admit another reason this was for the best, a reason she had not even been able to say to Angela. She never would have been enough for Edward. She realized that now and knew that someday, Edward, too, would also see that. It was better, she told herself, to take the out she had been given and walk away now. Besides, it wasn't like Edward felt the way about her that she did about him. It wasn't like he was in love with her. He would get over this, just like she had told Angela and Emmett, and his life would go back to normal.
And it had been her fault in the first place, anyway. She had hurt him, she owed him this, she owed him his real life back. She cringed as she thought of Emmett's words about Edward blaming himself for her actions at the party. Contacting him to reassure him was out of the question. She only hoped that in time, he would realize that this had been her fault, not his. There was no apology in the world good enough for what she had put him through; staying away from him to protect him was the best she could do. Yes, it hurt, it hurt so badly it was almost a physical pain in her chest. But she deserved the pain. Edward didn't.
She had been right, this was the right decision. Nodding to herself, she reached over to her small stereo and turned on the radio.
"Oh, lord, what can I say?
I'm so sad since you went away
Time, time ticking on me
Alone is the last place I wanted to be"
Bella practically dove at the CD player and quickly shut it off. For a fleeting second, she wondered irrationally if her radio was possessed. She rolled her eyes at herself as she sat back on the bed. Okay, so maybe listening to the radio right now was out. Maybe it was time for her to get caught up on some of her chores. She had been neglecting a lot of things since Edward had first come into her life – it seemed now was as good a time as any to get caught up.
She stood up and surveyed her room. It was a little messier than usual, but nothing to be too concerned about. She grabbed a pair of sneakers lying on the floor next to her bed and carried them over to her closet. When she opened the door to her closet, she saw her laundry basket and realized she had almost two weeks' worth of dirty clothes sitting there. "Time to get to that before I run out of underwear," she muttered to herself, tossing the shoes into the closet and pulling out the basket.
Bella began to sort through the basket, tossing things into one of two piles on her bedroom floor. Towels, sheets, and the like went in one pile while everything else went in the other. She was nearly at the bottom of the basket when she pulled out a folded white square. She took it in two hands and shook it out, expecting to see a familiar shirt or pillowcase.
But as the item unfurled before her, she stopped short, a soft gasp escaping her lips. In her hands was a white button down shirt. It was the very same shirt she herself had been wearing when she had returned to her house after her night trapped in the Biology closet. It was familiar. It also wasn't hers.
Bella stood frozen, staring at Edward's shirt as several different images invaded her mind at once. Her own fumbling as she tried to undo the buttons and get the shirt off of Edward in the Biology closet. Edward buttoning the shirt for her after she had pulled it on by mistake and telling her it looked better on her than it did on him. Edward laying it out on the floor so that she would not have to be cold lying on the bare floor the first time they had made love. Love.
She sat down heavily on her bed, the shirt still clutched in her hands. Almost without realizing what she was doing, Bella slowly raised the shirt up to her face and inhaled deeply. Edward's scent surrounded her, opening the floodgates on her memories of their brief time together.
The conversations they had had about their families, their plans for the future, the way they could talk about any and everything that came to mind. Taking a nap in her bed, wrapped in his arms that first day they were together. Their day in the meadow just talking and lying together in each other's arms. Edward kissing her on the swings at the park before his brothers had shown up to pick him up. Edward meeting her after every single class to walk her to her next one. Dancing with Edward in his bedroom, feeling accepted by his family while they ate dinner together or watched a movie. The feelings of safety and belonging she had felt waking up in Edward's arms. The incredible feeling of completion she had felt with their bodies joined together as they made love.
Bella hadn't even realized she was crying until she saw the tears splashing off of her hands and onto the shirt that she still held. This time, Bella didn't try to fight her emotions. As the bittersweet memories continued playing in her head, she allowed the tears to continue. As the tears turned into full blown sobs, she pulled the shirt to her, holding it tightly against her chest as she curled up on her bed. Eventually the tears stopped, leaving Bella both physically and emotionally spent. With Edward's shirt tucked under her cheek, she closed her eyes and fell into an exhausted, dreamless sleep.
A few hours later, Bella was jerked from sleep by a sharp knock at her door. "Bells? Are you in there? Can I come in?" Charlie called through the door.
Bella was slightly disoriented for a moment, Edward's comforting scent still surrounding her and Charlie's voice sounding very far away. Seconds later, awareness set in and she hurriedly stuffed Edward's shirt under her pillow and sat up, running her hands down her face. "Yeah, come in," she called.
Charlie opened the door part way and poked his head in. "Hey," he said. "I was just gonna fix some dinner. Did you want anything?"
Dinner. Food. The grocery store. Shit. "Sorry, I didn't get to the store today," Bella mumbled, staring at her comforter while the lie slipped out. "I can make you something quick," she added, starting to get out of bed.
Charlie held up a hand. "Don't worry about it, Bells," he told her. "I'm just gonna heat up some soup and maybe make a sandwich. I'm beat and the Ms had an afternoon game in Texas so I think I'm just gonna turn in early." He looked at Bella closely. "Want me to bring you anything?"
Bella shook her head. "No, thanks. I just, um, I kinda have a headache. I think I'm just gonna try to get some sleep."
"Okay, if you're sure."
"Yeah, no, I'm fine, dad. Just need to get some sleep, I'm sure it'll be gone when I wake up."
Charlie didn't look entirely convinced but he didn't push. "Okay, get some rest. I'll see you tomorrow, sweetheart. Goodnight."
"Night, dad," Bella said, sliding back down on her bed as Charlie closed the door. When she heard his steps heading down the stairs, she sat back up in bed and pulled Edward's shirt from under her pillow.
As she looked down at it, Bella realized she didn't know what she should do with it. Should she wash it as she had originally promised and give it to Alice to give back to Edward? Or would he think she was a freak for still having it? Should she just get rid of it and hope Edward forgot that she ever had it in the first place? Maybe that was the best idea – just throw it out and hope everyone concerned forgot about it.
But as she stared at the shirt in her hands, Bella knew she would never be able to just throw it in the garbage.
Sighing heavily, she tucked the shirt under her bed before sagging back against her pillow once more. As a result of his shirt being pressed up against it, Edward's scent lingered on her pillow. Tired, upset, and still drained from the emotional nature of her day, Bella let the scent envelop her, allowing it to comfort her. Telling the logical part of her brain to leave her alone until tomorrow, Bella pulled her comforter up over herself and buried her face in the pillow, soon drifting off into the most peaceful slumber she'd had in over a week.
Late Thursday afternoon, Bella was up in her room working on an assignment for her Spanish class. She had had a decidedly more successful trip to the grocery store earlier that afternoon and was preparing to fix chicken enchiladas for dinner once she finished up the short essay Ms. Goff had given the class to write over the break.
Bella was writing the last paragraph of her paper when the phone next to her bed rang. After hesitating for a second, she leaned over and picked it up. "Hello?"
"Hey, Bella." Angela's familiar voice came over the line. "What are you up to?"
"Hey, Ang. I'm just finishing a paper for Ms. Goff."
"Ugh," Angela said. "I still have stuff I need to do but I've really been putting it off. I hate to think of break being over already, you know?"
Bella agreed. "So, quick question," Angela continued. "You're still going to the show on Saturday night, too, right?"
"The Frames concert in Port Angeles," Angela said patiently.
Bella was startled. "Oh. Well, um, I hadn't actually thought about it," she admitted. "Probably not." Then what Angela had said twigged. "Too? What do you mean? Are you going?" Bella was surprised – she hadn't realized Angela had known anything about the band beyond what Bella herself had told her. Besides, she knew the show was sold out. How had Angela gotten a ticket at the last minute like this? Unless…
"Alice asked me to come. She said they have an extra ticket now because Edward's not coming," Angela explained.
"Edward's not going?" Bella was surprised. "But, he loves The Frames."
"Yeah, but Alice said he's not really up for it or something so there's an extra ticket."
Bella sat back against her headboard as a rush of guilt almost overwhelmed her. She knew very well that she was the reason Edward wasn't up for attending a concert by his favorite band. She shut her eyes tightly and pinched the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger, unconsciously mimicking Edward's expression of stress. She should be the one missing the concert, not Edward. Dimly, she realized Angela was still talking and she forced herself to focus on her friend's words.
"I don't actually know anything about this band," Angela was saying, "but I know you like them and I think it would be fun for all of us to hang out together."
"Oh." Bella hesitated. "I don't know. I mean, I really think Edward should be going. I don't want to ruin this for him, too."
"Alice said he already made other plans for that night," Angela replied, mentally crossing her fingers.
"Oh," Bella repeated hollowly.
"Bella, I know you've had a rough time lately. You told me you love this band and it'll be good to go out with your friends and just forget everything for a little while. Please?" Bella was silent.
"Come on, Alice has it all planned as a girls' night out," Angela persisted. "The four of us will drive to the concert together and then after it's over we'll all go back and spend the night at my house. Come on, Bella. It'll be fun."
"I'll think about it, okay, Ang?"
"Okay." Angela could tell that Bella was close to giving in and she left it there. "I need to go get to some of those readings I've been putting off. I'll call you later."
"Okay. Bye, Ang."
"Bye, Bella." Angela disconnected the call and then quickly punched in Alice's number. Time to let the plotting pixie know that her particular phase of the plan had been successfully completed.
"So?" demanded Alice, not even bothering to say hello.
"She said she'd think about it," Angela told her. "Knowing Bella, that means it won't take much more to convince her. You should have an easy time tomorrow."
"Excellent," Alice said, and Angela suddenly had a vision of Alice tapping her fingers together like Mr. Burns on The Simpsons.
"So, how is this going to work, exactly?" Angela asked, quickly pushing the strangely disturbing image from her mind. She had left the Cullens' house before Edward and his siblings had fully developed the plan and was still hazy on the details. "I mean, this concert is sold out, right? How did you guys suddenly get an extra ticket?"
"Ah, that's the beauty of it," Alice told her. "That part didn't even take any extra work. See, we originally got seven tickets for the show. Our parents love The Frames, too, so they were going to come. But then Edward and Bella got together and our mom was just so over the moon about it that she insisted Edward take her ticket and bring Bella instead."
"That's so nice of her."
"Yeah, my parents are awesome," Alice replied. "Plus, Bella doesn't know that there's an extra ticket because she never knew that she was taking mom's ticket in the first place. Edward never told her because he knew she'd feel bad about it and come up with an excuse not to come."
"Yeah, she probably would have," Angela agreed, a little surprised that Edward had known Bella so well so quickly. "I know she feels terrible about Edward supposedly not going to the concert because of her. She thinks she should skip it so that he can go."
Alice sighed dramatically. "She's really trying to make this hard, isn't she? Don't worry, I'll convince her tomorrow."
After getting to know the pixie over the past week, Angela had confidence in Alice's abilities and moved on to another topic. "So what is the plan for getting Bella there and getting her to talk to him and all that?"
Angela could hear the smile in Alice's voice. "Trust me, it's all figured out." Angela settled back on her bed as Alice launched into a lengthy detailed description of what she was calling "Operation Anti-Emo." It was nearly an hour later when the two finally got off the phone. Alice's confidence was contagious and Angela found she could hardly wait for Saturday to put the plan into full gear.
The chicken enchiladas and rice were a few minutes from being done when Charlie arrived home that evening. "Smells good in here, Bells," he called into the kitchen as he hung up his coat and gunbelt.
"Chicken enchiladas," Bella responded as Charlie walked into the kitchen with a curious look on his face.
"Sounds good," Charlie said happily. He opened the refrigerator and pulled out a beer, popping open the can and leaning against the counter across from the stove. "So, it looks like you might finally get some nice weather this weekend," he told her. "According to the news, it's supposed to be 'unseasonably warm.'"
"So we're talking double digits, then," Bella said.
Charlie could hear the faint undertone of teasing in her voice and he grinned, glad to hear his daughter sounding more like herself. "Something like that," he agreed.
"So what are your plans for this weekend heatwave?" Bella asked as she took a glass out of the cabinet.
"Well, Billy asked me to come out fishing this weekend," Charlie said.
"Sounds like fun," Bella said distractedly, pouring herself a glass of water.
"Yeah, but, well, I feel like I leave you alone too much, Bells," Charlie admitted. "I mean, that's, like, the third weekend in a row I'll have left you on your own."
Bella smiled half-heartedly at Charlie. "Ang just called and asked me to go to a concert with her in Port Angeles on Saturday night," she told him. "We're just gonna spend the night at her house after anyway, so I won't be alone all that much." Bella still wasn't entirely sure whether or not she wanted to go to the concert, but she certainly didn't want Charlie to stay home on her account. She also held back on mentioning Alice or Rose. She knew she was putting off the inevitable, but she'd still rather avoid telling Charlie about Edward for as long as possible and not have to deal with the awkwardness that would be sure to follow that news.
"Oh." Charlie visibly brightened.
"Yeah," Bella agreed, pulling out plates and silverware. "So don't worry about me, dad. Really. Go have fun with Billy. You never know when you'll get nice weather around here, you should take advantage of it," she added, scooping rice onto the plates.
"Okay, if you're sure," Charlie said.
"Absolutely," Bella said, pulling the enchiladas out of the oven and depositing two on each plate. Charlie grabbed some napkins and the two sat down for dinner. Dinner was a far more verbose affair than usual with Charlie telling Bella about a new fishing spot Billy had found while Bella found herself only half listening. The fact that he didn't even ask her what band was playing or remind her to bring her pepper spray was a testament to just how excited Charlie was about the weekend and Bella was glad she had convinced him she would be fine on her own. At least I won't ruin his weekend.
The next morning, Bella was pulled from sleep by the sound of the doorbell. She had just decided to ignore it and hope the person went away when it rang again. And again. And again. And again. "All right!" she growled, throwing back the covers. "I'm coming."
Running a hand through her hair, she stumbled down the stairs, still half-asleep, and threw open the front door. "What do you- Alice?"
The pixie stood on Bella's front steps smiling up at her. "Hi, Bella," she said. "Can I come in?" Without waiting for an answer, she slipped past Bella and made her way into the kitchen.
Bella blinked in confusion a moment before shutting the door and following Alice into the kitchen. Alice was pouring herself a glass of orange juice when Bella entered the room and she looked up. "Want some?" she asked.
Bella nodded dazedly, wondering if she might possibly still be asleep and dreaming this whole odd scenario.
Alice handed Bella a glass of juice and took a seat at the kitchen table. Bella took a long swallow of juice, her mind finally clearing enough to form a full sentence. "Alice, what are you doing here?" She looked at the clock above the oven. "And why is it so early?"
Alice smiled. "Oh, Bella, it's not early," she said. "The sun's up, people are at work. If it wasn't for vacation, we'd all be in class right now. But anyway, the reason I'm here." She put down her glass and looked straight at Bella. "I wanted to apologize for the other night at the party," she said sincerely. "I didn't mean to cause any trouble or hurt anyone, I just wanted you guys to know the truth. And please don't be mad at Edward for it, either. He didn't know what I was planning. If you're mad at anyone, it should be me, and I'm really sorry-"
"Alice." Alice looked dangerously close to babbling and Bella cut her off. "I'm not mad at anyone, really," she said. "I appreciate you apologizing, but it's okay."
Alice smiled. "Thanks, Bella. And now, the other reason I'm here. I wanted to make sure you're still coming to the concert with us tomorrow night."
"Oh, Alice, I don't know," Bella began. "It doesn't feel right. I mean, I know how much Edward loves The Frames. He should be the one going, not me. I don't want to make him miss out just because I'm going."
Alice waved a dismissive hand. "Don't worry about Edward," she told Bella firmly. "He already has something else planned that night. If you don't come, it's just going to waste a ticket."
"Oh, you have to come!" Alice exclaimed as Bella opened her mouth to object. "Angela already agreed to take Edward's ticket and then you and Rose and Angela and I can all go together and have a girls' night. We can get ready here and have dinner before the show and then go back to Angela's and spend the night there. It'll be so much fun!"
"What about Jasper and Emmett?" Bella asked, stalling.
"Oh, they're just going to take Emmett's jeep up. We'll probably see them there but they have strict instructions not to interrupt girls' night. Besides, it's not like we don't see them every day anyway. A few hours apart isn't going to hurt anyone."
Bella grimaced. "I'm not sure Emmett and Jasper would want me around anyway," she told Alice. "I wasn't the nicest person in the world yesterday when I ran into them at the store."
"Don't worry about it," Alice said. "Jasper told me about that. They're just worried, Bella, about you and Edward. And Emmett's not always the best at expressing his concerns like a normal person. But they both care about you, no matter how clumsily Emmett might show it. Trust me."
Alice could see Bella was beginning to cave and she went in for the kill. "Please, Bella," she said. "It'll be so much fun just the four of us. And you don't want a ticket to a sold out show to go to waste, do you?" She turned pleading eyes on Bella and Bella felt her resolve crumble.
"Can I think about it at least?" she asked.
Alice smiled. "Of course." She returned her attention to her orange juice leaving Bella to her thoughts.
"I hope Emmett didn't offend you yesterday," Alice said a few minutes later, pulling Bella out of her reverie.
"What? Oh, no, of course not," Bella responded. "I know he's just worried about everyone." She paused a moment, biting her lip before she spoke again. "Alice, um," Bella stopped, unsure if this was a question she really had any business asking. Or even if it was a question she really should be asking, but it had been bothering her since her conversation with Emmett and Jasper.
"Bella, you can ask me anything," Alice said, seemingly reading Bella's mind. "Anything at all, I promise."
Bella hesitated again before speaking. "Um, when I ran into Emmett and Jasper yesterday, Emmett said something about how the girls at school used to throw themselves at Edward but he wasn't interested in them and he didn't date anyone before me. I mean, that can't possibly be true…" She trailed off, blushing bright red as the words tumbled quickly from her mouth and she looked down at her feet, waiting for Alice to tell her it was none of her damn business.
But Alice only nodded. "Oh yeah," she said. "Rose and I used to worry a little about it, I'm not going to lie. All those girls used to throw themselves at Edward practically begging him to date them, no doubt promising all sorts of sexual favors. That skanky Lauren Mallory was the worst." She wrinkled her nose. "Fortunately, Edward's not like that. Rose and I were totally thrilled when you two finally got together. I mean, the guys were happy, too, don't get me wrong. But finally, Rose and I weren't outnumbered by the boys – we had a sister who we liked having around and who we were really looking forward to getting to know."
Bella cringed as the guilt consumed her once again. When would she stop hurting the people who cared about her? Looking back up at Alice, Bella quickly tried to change the subject. "Alice, I'm pretty sure Rose doesn't think of me like her sister," Bella said. "She only put up with me as a favor to you guys."
Alice smiled. "Oh, Bella. Of course she does," she told her. "We all do – me, Rose, Jasper, and Emmett." She paused a moment and Bella could almost see Alice's internal struggle before she spoke again.
"It may not be any of my business to tell you this, but I don't want you or Rose to lose out on each other's friendship here so I think you need to know this to understand where she's coming from. Rose is…complicated," she said slowly. "Believe it or not, she has not always had the easiest life. Her home life isn't all that great, which is one of the reasons she's always at my house.
"Rose grew up in California. When she was eight, her dad left her mom for a younger woman and her mom moved them up here into those McMansions over off of Seville in the same neighborhood where Jasper's family later bought a house. Her mom got a ton of money in the divorce and Rose's dad gave her an allowance until she turned 18 and could access her trust fund."
Alice paused a moment, taking a deep breath before she continued. "Rose's relationship with her mom sucks," she said flatly. "Her mom has never stopped blaming her for her dad leaving them – she says having Rose aged her, Rose was a difficult child and that drove her dad into the arms of another woman, blah blah blah. She's on about 20 different medications for her various 'ailments' and I know she drinks a whole lot."
"Rose has never really told us much beyond that and she's never given our parents any details whatsoever. In the beginning, they tried to ask her questions and offer help, but she would just shut down and shut us all out. It was so hard for her to trust us when we first met her," Alice continued. "Even as young as she was, she already had issues with trusting people and letting them in. Eventually, she became close to all of us, but it took awhile. It took even longer for her to trust my mom and dad but I could always tell how much she wanted to trust them. She's been like a second daughter to them for years now and I know how much that means to her. All Rose ever wanted was a family, people who love her for who she is and her mom has never once given her that.
"She's never stopped trying with her mom, though; she's always trying to give her another chance to be the mother she never was to her. Regardless of how badly her mom has treated her over the years, Rose has this deep seated sense of loyalty to her family and she goes back to her house every few months or so to try again with her mom.
"Emmett went with her on one of these visits once, about two years ago. He was obviously upset when they came back, but neither one of them would talk about it. That night, I went to his room to see if he wanted to talk. He was sitting in his room crying about what had happened."
"God," Bella breathed. She felt her breath catch at the thought of what could be horrible enough to reduce the big, perpetually goofy Emmett to tears.
"Yeah. He was really upset. He said Rose's mom had been civil for about the first two minutes they were there before she started in on her. She called Rose all sorts of awful names and told her she would end up alone. She told Emmett that the divorce was Rose's fault and that Rose would eventually drive Emmett away because she was a heartless bitch who was incapable of loving or being loved. She told Rose that Emmett would leave her the second something better came along and that it would be all Rose's fault once again. And Emmett said the worst thing was that Rose just stood there and took it. She didn't fight back and he could see that on some level she was listening to her mom and believing the things she said. He dragged her out of there as soon as he could.
"I think Emmett was in shock, honestly. We all knew that Rose and her mom had a bad relationship, but no one knew it was like this. He couldn't believe anyone could treat Rose so badly or that Rose would take it over and over again. Emmett just wants to protect the people he loves and I know he would do absolutely anything in the world for Rose. But here, he felt like there was nothing he could do to help her. He felt totally helpless and that's not something Emmett's used to feeling."
Alice paused again and sighed. "I know it's not really my place to tell you all of this, but I thought you should know. I want you to understand why Rose is the way she is. She's been hurt and she's terrified of being hurt again. That's why she's always so careful about who she lets get close to her.
"Like I said, though, she is also fiercely loyal to the people she cares about, the people she considers her family. And whether you realize it or not, Rose considers you among that group. She was the first person to offer her help when I told the rest of them I was going to get to the bottom of the whole Lauren thing. And just because she didn't show it the way Emmett and I did, she was very happy for you and Edward."
Both girls were silent for a few moments while Bella processed what Alice had just told her.
"Anyway, the point of my whole long story is that Rose does like you, Bella, and she really wants you to come with us tomorrow night. I know things didn't work out the way they could have, but that's no reason we can't all be friends. You, Angela, Rose, and I could have a great time together. In fact, I think we should all hang out today. Let's go see a movie or rent one at someone's house. Oooh!" Alice stopped, clapping her hands. "We should go shopping! It'll be fun – a small scale event get us ready for tomorrow night and the amazing time we're going to have at the concert!"
Edward had been right, Bella realized with a pang of melancholy. Alice really was a force of nature sometimes and her head was spinning slightly from the way Alice bounced from one subject to another without taking a breath. Despite herself, however, Bella found that the pixie girl's enthusiasm was infectious and she couldn't help smiling at her friend. "You're right, Alice," she said. "There's no reason we shouldn't all hang out together. I'm in for something today and the concert tomorrow, too."
Alice squealed and threw her arms around Bella. "Oh, we are going to have such a good time tomorrow night! And I know that the four of us together are going to be a force to be reckoned with in this little town."
Bella giggled. "Forks never had a chance," she said solemnly.
"Exactly! Okay, you go shower and get dressed. I'm going to run home and get Rose. I'll call Angela and pick her up on my way back here and we can go." She kissed Bella on the cheek and then practically danced out of the house. "See you later, Bella!" she called over her shoulder as the door closed behind her.
Three hours later, Bella was feeling lucky to be alive. Alice had dragged them across the Canadian border into Victoria to go shopping at the Victoria Mall. Bella wasn't entirely sure how long the drive was normally supposed to take, but she was pretty sure it wasn't as quickly as Alice had gotten them there. The only time she hadn't had to studiously avoid looking at the speedometer or out the window had been when they were on the ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria. It seemed talking wasn't the only thing the pixie girl liked to do fast.
Now she stood in the middle of Le Chateau while Alice bounced around the store, picking up shirts, skirts, and other clothing seemingly at random. "Does she even know what she's holding?" Bella asked Rose.
Rose grinned. "It doesn't look like it, does it? But she always manages to grab the right size and put together these incredible outfits."
"I know, it's amazing," Angela said from the other side of Rose. "That outfit she found me in the last store we were in? I would have sworn she found it with her eyes closed. But then I put it on and not only is it the right size, but it looks terrific."
Bella agreed, thinking back to the clothes Alice had practically been throwing at them all since they had first arrived at the mall. Alice danced back over to where the girls were standing, her arms loaded down with clothes of various sizes and colors.
"Oooh, Bella, how about this shirt?" Alice said, pointing at a deep blue sleeveless top on a mannequin. "Edward always said you looked great in blue."
Bella felt a pang as she remembered Edward kissing her in her kitchen and telling her the color looked wonderful on her. She smiled wistfully, her expression suddenly far away.
The three girls exchanged a look and Alice winked before they quickly turned their attention to another shirt that Rose had found for herself. "Edward always said you looked great in blue?" Rose murmured skeptically to Alice. "Really? That was the best you could come up with?"
"Hey, I'm trying," Alice said defensively. "Besides, look at her. We all know who she's thinking about right now with that smile on her face."
The three glanced back at Bella who was still staring at the shirt with a small smile on her face. "All right, fine," Rose said. "But can we at least try to be a little more subtle with this? I don't want to start laughing and ruin the whole thing."
"All right, we'll try for more subtle from now on," Alice agreed. "Happy?"
Rose nodded shortly before she turned back to Bella. "Hey, Bella," she called to her. "We're gonna go try stuff on. You coming?"
Bella pulled herself from her daze and nodded, quickly finding her size in the blue shirt on a rack next to the mannequin and following after the girls to the fitting rooms.
After the girls had purchased their selected clothing, Alice led the way to another store nearby. Bella gulped when Alice stopped in front of the lingerie store La Senza. "Um, Alice, I don't really need anything in here," Bella said. "I think I'll just go over to HMV and look around while you guys are in there."
"Silly Bella," Alice said, looping her arm through Bella's. "You always need cute underwear," she insisted, dragging Bella into the store with her, Rose and Angela following behind.
Alice dragged Bella over to a display that showed a matching bra and boy short set made from a delicate lace. With a little gasp of excitement, she picked up a deep blue bra and matching panties and turned to Bella. "Bella, you need to get this!" the small girl said excitedly. "It's so cute and this blue is totally your color."
Bella looked at the underwear set in Alice's hand doubtfully. "Um, it's not really something I would normally wear, Alice," she began, thinking of her far more comfortable looking and less matching bras and panties at home.
Alice waved a hand dismissively. "They're totally comfortable," she assured Bella. "And sexy underwear always tends to make you feel sexy. I have it in black, Rose has it in red."
Blushing, Bella looked over to Angela for help, but her friend only shrugged. "I have it in purple," she admitted.
"Come on," Alice insisted. "You can wear it tomorrow night!"
Bella shot a desperate look at the other two as Alice practically skipped toward the dressing room and Rose grinned at her. "I'd advise wearing it," she told Bella. "Alice has been known to check." Resigned to her fate, Bella followed after the excited pixie, wondering briefly just how her friend had known her bra size.
After La Senza, the girls decided to take a break and get lunch at the food court. They found a table in the middle and dove into their food, each one having worked up quite an appetite on their shopping excursion thus far.
When Alice was finished, she leaned back and began to critique the outfits she saw on people walking by. "That guy's kind of cute," she said, gesturing with her head toward a blond on the other side of the food court. "I really like his shirt, too."
The other girls giggled. It seemed Alice's fashion obsession knew no bounds. "Why Alice Cullen," Angela said, pretending to be shocked. "What if Jasper heard you say that?"
Alice waved her hand dismissively. "Jazz has nothing to worry about and he knows it," she responded. "As far as I'm concerned, there is no more perfect man on earth."
"Really?" Rose raised an eyebrow. "Are we talking looks or overall?"
"Well, of course I think he's the most perfect man on the planet overall," Alice said. "But we were just talking about looks, right? I don't know, maybe it's just something about being in love. When you're in love with someone, to you they are the most gorgeous person in the world. Even if he was the world's worst dresser, it still wouldn't matter to me because I love him."
Rose and Angela pretended to gasp in shock. "You wouldn't care what he wore? I'd love to see him test that theory," Rose said.
"It's true," Alice said, pausing briefly to make a face at Rose. "And it doesn't matter if Christian Bale or Jensen Ackles was standing in front of me – I'd never pick them over Jasper because to me, he is the most gorgeous man in the world, no matter what anyone else says."
"Well, it doesn't hurt that he's not exactly hard on the eyes," Rose teased.
Alice smiled. "No. But even if didn't look the way he does, I'd still know there was no one more beautiful out there because I love him and in my eyes, that makes him perfect. And I know that despite my faults and flaws, even if I'm feeling down on myself, he feels the same way about me."
Angela smiled while Bella once again seemed to be on another planet entirely. The other girls exchanged a look, hoping that their once again not so subtle message had gotten across.
"Okay, you guys ready to continue?" Alice asked, standing up and picking up her tray from the table.
Rose rolled her eyes. "I don't know where you get all of this energy, Alice, but if I could bottle it, we'd all be rich."
Alice stuck her tongue out at Rose and turned to Bella. "Bella? Ready to go?"
Bella looked up from her tray. "Um, yeah, sure," she said, standing and following Alice to the garbage with her own empty tray.
"So what are you wearing tomorrow night, Bella?" Alice asked as the girls threw out the remains of their lunches.
Bella shrugged. "I don't know. I haven't really thought about it," she admitted.
"Well, what do you normally wear to a concert?" Alice asked.
"Normally? Jeans, chucks, a t-shirt and a hoodie," Bella replied.
Alice looked horrified a moment before she smiled innocently up at Bella. "Bel-la," she said, her tone cajoling.
Bella was instantly on her guard. "Yes?" she replied cautiously.
"Will you let me pick your clothes for the concert? Please please please!" Alice begged, giving Bella her patented puppy dog eyes when Bella opened her mouth to object.
Bella looked over at Rose and Angela but they just smiled, nodding at Bella encouragingly. Bella sighed, knowing she had no chance of winning this discussion. "All right," Bella finally said. "But, on three conditions," she added, holding up a hand as Alice clapped her hands excitedly. "One, no heels of any kind. I am clumsy enough in bare feet and if I'm going to be standing for a few hours, I want to be focusing on the band, not on keeping from killing myself. Two, nothing too revealing. I am not going to be one of those skanky girls at concerts who looks like she's there only to attempt to get with the band after the show. And three, I want to be in pants, not a skirt. I hate it when girls wear skirts to concerts and I want to be comfortable."
Alice nodded solemnly. "I accept your conditions," she told Bella. Then her face broke out in an enormous grin. "Come on, let's go! There are so many stores we haven't even been to yet!"
As Alice grabbed Bella's arm and practically dragged her off, Bella wondered fleetingly if she hadn't just made the biggest mistake of her life.
"Bella, wake up." Bella heard a voice softly calling her name and she struggled to open her eyes.
"What's going on?" she mumbled as her eyes opened.
Angela smiled at her from her seat next to her in the back of Alice's car. "We're home, Bella," she said gently. "You fell asleep."
Bella sat up fully and looked around to see Rose and Alice smiling at her from the front seat. "Oh. Sorry about that," she mumbled. Her head cleared and she froze, remembering what she had been dreaming about. Edward. "I didn't, um, I didn't say anything while I was asleep, did I?" she asked nervously.
The other girls shook their head. "What do you mean?" Alice asked innocently. She and the other girls had in fact heard Bella say Edward's name several times while she was asleep but she decided that if Bella's subconscious was already working in their favor, they didn't need to push it any further.
"Nothing," Bella muttered, unbuckling her seatbelt.
Alice climbed out of the car with Bella after popping the trunk. "Don't forget your stuff, Bella," she said brightly, handing Bella several bags stuffed with clothing. Bella was pretty sure she hadn't bought that much but she was too tired to argue.
"Thanks, Alice," she said tiredly. "I'll see you tomorrow." She said goodnight to the other girls and then made her way into her house.
Bella dropped her armload of bags on the couch in the living room before stumbling into the kitchen to grab something for dinner. Halfway there, she decided she was just too tired to even think about fixing something for dinner. Turning to the stairs instead, she dragged herself upstairs, washing her face and brushing her teeth in the bathroom before trudging into her own room.
Edward wasn't kidding about Alice's marathon shopping trips, Bella thought to herself as she collapsed on her bed. Edward. She felt the familiar pang in her chest as she recalled her dreams of him on the drive home. Dreams where everything was different and they were happy together. Sighing sadly, she reached a hand under the bed, reaching around until she found his shirt where she had left it on Wednesday night. She brought it back up to the bed and held it to her chest, allowing Edward's comforting scent to surround her. Moments later, she was sound asleep.
Bella was pulled from sleep the next day by the phone next to her bed ringing. Reaching one hand over, she fumbled around until she grasped the phone and pulled it to her ear. "Hello?" she mumbled.
"Hey, Bella," Angela said. "Did I wake you up?"
"Yeah, but it's okay. What time is it anyway?" Bella said, pulling her face from her pillow and sitting up. "12:30!" she exclaimed.
Angela giggled. "Sounds like Alice's shopping trip took it out of you, too," she responded. "I only got up about an hour ago. I think my mom was starting to worry."
Bella smiled, leaning back against her pillows. "I don't know where she gets her energy," she said, echoing Rose's words from the day before.
Angela agreed. "That's why I'm calling. I figured you were too out of it last night to remember the plan for today. Rose and Alice are going to pick me up and bring me to your house to get ready for tonight. Alice said they'll pick me up at 2:00."
Bella rolled her eyes. "I'm not even going to ask why we need over four hours to get ready. I have a really bad feeling it has something to do with me."
Angela giggled again. "Well, I think it's for all of us, really. But Alice did say that you should wait to shower until she got there so Rose can do your hair or dry your hair or something."
Bella groaned. "All right. Thanks, Ang. I think I'm gonna go eat something. I was too tired when I got home last night. You guys can just let yourselves in when you get here, okay?"
"Okay. See you soon."
Bella headed downstairs to the kitchen to make herself some lunch. After retrieving the newspaper from the front step, she settled down at the kitchen table with her grilled cheese and soup, thumbing idly through the paper while she ate. When she finished, it was already after 1:00 so she washed her dishes and headed upstairs to get dressed before her friends arrived.
Bella looked around her room as she pulled on jeans and an old t-shirt and realized that she should probably clean it up a little bit before anyone other than her father saw it. She dumped her laundry in the basket in the closet, cleaned up her papers and books for school, and made her bed, tucking Edward's shirt beneath her pillows where she figured it had the least chance of being seen by anyone else.
She was just finishing straightening up her room when she heard voices downstairs. "Bella!" Alice called out. "We're here!"
"I'm up here," Bella called back.
Three sets of footsteps made their way up the stairs and seconds later Alice, Rose, and Angela were in her bedroom. The three girls were laden down with bags and Bella belatedly remembered that she had left everything from the shopping trip the day before on the couch downstairs.
"Bella, what is this?" Alice said. "You left these downstairs? They could be a million wrinkles by now!" She grabbed the bags from the other girls and began pulling out the clothing, laying it out on Bella's bed. When she was satisfied that nothing had suffered irreparable damage, she turned back to Bella with an accusing look on her face.
"Sorry, Alice," Bella said. "I was kind of on autopilot when I got home last night. I guess I just kind of left them where I dropped them."
"Give her a break, Alice," Rose said, "She's a first timer to the Alice world of shopping. Not all of us have the stamina that you do."
Alice pursed her lips but acquiesced with a short nod. "All right, well, time to get to work, then," she said briskly. She picked up the lacy blue bra and boy short set from La Senza and handed it to Bella. "Bella, you go shower. Rose, Angela, and I will figure out hair, outfit, and makeup. Then Angela can shower and Rose and I will do your hair and makeup. Rose and I showered before we came," she said, anticipating the question that was about to come from Bella.
Bella looked over to Rose and the blonde shrugged. "We've been up for a couple hours. I've had several years to get used to Alice shopping trips so it doesn't take it out of me as much."
Bella gave a long suffering sigh before turning and walking down the hall to the bathroom. "Ooh, Bella, wait," Alice called, coming up behind Bella in the hall.
"What's up, Alice?" Bella said, turning to face the pixie.
Alice shoved Bella's shower caddy at her. "Don't forget to shave."
The pixie put her hands on her hips. "Bella, the underwear can only do so much," she said seriously. "It's very difficult to feel sexy with hairy legs."
Bella could only stare while her friend talked as if she was making a completely normal statement. With a nod, Alice turned and walked back into Bella's bedroom, leaving Bella gaping after her. After a moment, Bella shook herself and continued into the bathroom. She momentarily considered ignoring Alice's last instruction, but decided it was probably in her best interest to listen to her, especially considering Rosalie's warning the day before about Alice checking to make sure her instructions were followed. Shuddering, Bella turned on the shower and climbed in.
While Bella showered, the other girls hung out in her bedroom. Rose pulled out her blow dryer and curling iron and then she and Angela turned their attention to Alice's enormous makeup kit. Alice had already picked out Bella's outfit for the concert the day before so she set about putting away all of the rest of Bella's new clothes, leaving her new outfit hidden in a bag for the moment.
When all the clothes had been hung up or folded, Alice dropped back onto Bella's bed. She sighed and stretched, trying to picture in her mind the look she wanted to give Bella for that night. Her hand brushed something underneath Bella's pillow and, curious, she pulled out the fabric to see what it was. At first glance, it appeared to be a completely innocent white button down shirt. Then Alice looked at the label.
"Oh my God!" she gasped.
"What, what's wrong?" Angela asked worriedly.
"Do you know what this is?" Alice asked the other girls, holding it out for their observation. "This is Edward's shirt!"
"Are you sure?" Rose asked skeptically. "It looks like a regular white button down shirt. Maybe her dad's laundry got mixed in with hers."
Alice shook her head. "No, I'm absolutely positive. Look at the label. This is one of those shirts I bought for Edward last summer when Jazz and I were in Paris."
"Must've been laundry day," Rose cracked.
Angela looked slightly lost and Alice explained. "Edward likes to torment me by refusing to wear a lot of the stuff I buy him. He's my brother, I want him to look good. But he takes one look at a designer tag and tosses it on the floor of his closet!"
Rose laughed. "I don't think he actually does it to torment you, Alice," she told her friend. "I think he honestly either just doesn't think about it or doesn't care. Edward's always been more of a comfort first guy."
"Another reason he's perfect for Bella," Angela said.
"Yes, but would it kill either one of them to take my advice every once in awhile?" Alice wailed. "I'm only trying to do what's best for the people I love." She looked honestly pained and Rose and Angela couldn't help bursting into giggles.
Alice made a face at them and pulled out her phone. "I need to let Edward know about this," she said, sending off a quick text message to her brother.
"Shh, you guys, I think the shower's off," Angela whispered suddenly. The other girls listened and realized that they, too, could no longer hear the running water.
"Quick, get rid of the shirt!" Rose hissed.
Alice shoved Edward's shirt back under Bella's pillow and bounced over to Bella's closet. When Bella entered the room in her robe, Alice was pawing through her closet while Rose and Angela continued to look through Alice's makeup kit, Rose telling Angela what colors she thought would look best on her.
"Hey, Bella," Rose said casually.
Angela looked up. "Okay, well I know you guys want to work your magic on Bella," she said with a grin. "So I'm just going to take my shower now if that's okay."
Alice nodded. "But we will definitely need your opinion on the final hair and makeup and Rose wants to do your makeup, too, so don't be too long," she instructed. Angela saluted with a giggle and made her way down the hall to the bathroom.
Alice bounded over to Bella and took her by the hand, leading her over to her desk chair. "Sit," she told her. Bella obediently sat, hoping that if she just played along, the torture would be over faster. "Rose is going to do your hair and after she is done with that, I am going to do your makeup. Then we're all going to finish getting ready while you get dressed. But you are not allowed to look until everything is finished, understood?"
Bella nodded in defeat and Rose giggled. "Bella, you look like you're on your way to a funeral, not a concert. I promise it won't be that bad, okay?" Bella nodded but she still didn't look convinced and Rose smiled, turning on the hairdryer. "Trust me."
What seemed like hours later to Bella, Alice finally announced that she was done. In between drying and curling Bella's hair and doing her makeup, Alice and Rose had done their own hair and makeup as well as Angela's, and the three girls had also already gotten dressed. Alice laid Bella's concert outfit out on the bed and the girls left Bella in her room to get changed while they waited outside.
Bella had to admit she was a little apprehensive about seeing what Alice had chosen for her to wear to the concert. She knew she wouldn't be allowed to wear her normal concert attire and she just hoped Alice hadn't gone too overboard. She looked at the outfit laid out on the bed and let out a small sigh of relief before pulling on the clothing. Alice had chosen a deep blue short sleeved shirt with a scoop neck and fluttery cap sleeves that just covered her shoulders. She had combined that with a pair of dark skinny jeans and ballet flats that matched the shirt perfectly.
Bella put on a pair of hoop earrings and then took a deep breath before stepping up to the mirror on the back of her door. She couldn't help the soft gasp that escaped her lips at the sight that met her eyes. The clothes fit like they were made for her, the jeans hugging her curves in all the right places and the color of the shirt setting off her skin. Rose had curled Bella's hair loosely and it hung in soft waves around her face and past her shoulders. The makeup Alice had so carefully applied was perfect – the eye make up made her brown eyes look enormous, her eyelashes were thick and long, and her porcelain skin appeared almost luminescent.
Bella was pulled from her self-appraisal by a knock on the door. "Bella? Are you dressed?" Alice called.
"Yeah, I'm ready, Alice. You guys can come in."
Alice opened the door and she, Rose, and Angela walked into the room. "Oh Bella," Alice squealed, clapping her hands. "You look gorgeous!"
Bella blushed and looked to Rose and Angela who were smiling broadly at her. "You look beautiful, Bella," Angela said sincerely.
"Definitely hot," Rose agreed. "You'll be fighting the boys off with a stick at the concert."
Bella's face fell momentarily as she thought of the only guy she wanted to share this concert with. Alice saw the expression on her friend's face and she spoke up quickly. "I think this means we're all ready to go, right?" Alice said.
"I'm set," Angela agreed.
"Me, too," Rose said.
Bella pulled herself from her pensive thoughts and forced a smile back to her face. "Yep, I am, too," she said, picking up the overnight bag sitting on her bed.
"Then I think we should get going," Alice said. "This way we can take our time at dinner before the show."
The girls grabbed jackets and purses and headed downstairs where they exited the house, Bella at the back of the group so she could lock up behind them. She swung her bag up on her shoulder and turned around, stopping dead in her tracks. "What is that?" she said, staring at the gorgeous shiny red convertible sitting in her driveway.
"My M3," Rosalie said casually.
Bella looked at her blankly and Alice giggled. "It's a BMW and it's Rosalie's baby," she informed Bella. "It's also very fast – we'll be in Port Angeles in no time."
Shaking her head in amazement, Bella walked over to the car where Rose took her overnight bag from her and tossed it in the trunk. She unlocked the doors and the four girls climbed into the car.
"All right, top up," Alice announced as the girls buckled their seatbelts. Rose gave her a look but Alice was firm. "You spent all that time on Bella's hair," she replied. "I am not going to let your good work go to waste." Rose grudgingly agreed and pressed a button on the console, automatically putting the top up.
"Everyone ready?" Rose asked. When the other girls answered in the affirmative, Rose peeled out of Bella's driveway. "Port Angeles, here we come."
"That guy is totally checking you out, Bella," Alice said, not looking up from the slice of pizza she was currently eating. The girls were sitting at a table in Michael's sharing three large pizzas among the four of them. Bella had been surprised when Alice had ordered the food, wondering if Emmett and Jasper would be joining them after all. However, to the surprise of both Angela and Bella, Alice had devoured three pieces almost immediately.
"Playing Barbie takes a lot of energy," Rose had teased by way of explanation.
Bella rolled her eyes even as she blushed at Alice's words. "Sure, Alice," she said, taking a long drink of her soda.
"It's like Rose said," Alice continued, undeterred. "Beating them off with a stick."
Only Angela caught the sadness in Bella's eyes and she quickly changed the subject. "How are we doing on time?"
Rose glanced at her watch. "We're good. Probably want to leave in the next fifteen minutes or so, but no rush – the venue's right up the street."
The girls lingered over their food a little while longer before finally signaling the waiter for their check. Alice insisted on paying, telling Bella she could buy her a soda at the concert if she wanted to pay her back. Muttering something about stubborn, evil pixies, Bella stood with the others and collected her jacket and bag before they all headed outside. The girls decided to leave their jackets and bags in Rose's car during the show and made a quick detour to the M3 before finally making their way to the club.
The girls gave the bouncer in the lobby their tickets and entered the crowded venue. "Perfect timing," Alice said, her eyes quickly scanning the crowd. "The other band just finished so people will be going for drinks and bathroom breaks. Now we can get a really good spot up close to the stage." She grabbed Bella by the hand and began dragging her through the oncoming crowd, gracefully dodging drunk concert goers and guys whose looks were just a little too friendly for Bella's taste.
Alice finally found a spot to her liking right in front of the stage, slightly left of center. "Perfect," she said happily as Angela and Rose joined them. The four girls talked about the upcoming concert and past Frames shows Alice and Rose had been to while around them the crowd began to grow. Alice was in the middle of a sentence when her attention suddenly shifted to a spot over Bella's shoulder and she smiled, waving her hand furiously.
Moments later, Jasper and Emmett had joined the girls. After saying their hellos to everyone, Alice engaged Jasper, Rose, and Angela in conversation and Emmett turned to Bella, his expression contrite.
"Bella, I'm sorry about what I said at the store the other day. I didn't mean to be such an ass. I know it's none of my business, I was just worried about both of you."
"It's okay, Emmett," Bella said honestly. "I understand."
Bella smiled. "Of course, Emmett." Emmett smiled back and gave her a quick hug.
"Okay, time for you guys to go," Alice announced. "Show's about to start."
"Aw, Alice," Emmett whined.
"No," Alice said firmly. "You know this is girls' night. We will see you guys later, okay?" She leaned up and kissed Jasper. "Bye, Jazz."
"Fine," Emmett pouted. He kissed Rosalie then he and Jasper said goodbye to the other girls before they turned and made their way back the way they had originally come through the crowd.
Just as the boys had disappeared from sight, the lights went down and Alice squealed, bouncing up and down. Despite her reservations about Edward, Bella felt an excited tingling in her stomach as the crowd began roaring and the band took the stage. They immediately launched into "Pavement," one of Bella's favorite faster songs by them, and within seconds she, too, was screaming and singing along with the rest of the crowd. Next to her, Alice grabbed her hand and squeezed and the two girls shared a smile.
"Thanks for talking me into it," Bella screamed into Alice's ear. Alice grinned back and nodded before turning her attention back to the stage.
The band members introduced themselves after the first song and between songs the lead singer told stories about the songs they were playing or just generally interacted with the audience. They had performed six or seven songs in this manner when the mood onstage seemed to shift slightly. The lights dimmed and the lead singer changed up his electric guitar for an acoustic before stepping up to the mic again.
"This next song is for a mate of mine who's lost his girl. He doesn't want to embarrass her but he needs her to know how much he cares." The drummer counted off and Bella gasped audibly as she recognized the opening notes of "Your Face," goosebumps rising on her bare arms.
"I was thinking about your face
Rolling up the river
I was worried what you thought
And I'm sorry if I can't remember
But there's no time for crying
Only time for trying now
I remember your name
'Cause you sang it to me often
I was lying down beside
The river where we met
And now your face is hiding something
Something, it's burning
And I'm gonna wait for you
I've got to send this tape to you
And I'm gonna wait for you
'Cause I know something about you
Something about the things you do
Something about your voice
That reams in the big stars
It reams in the big stars"
Bella felt Alice's hands on her shoulders gently turning her around. Tears filled her eyes when she saw Edward standing in front of her, holding a hand out to her. "May I have this dance?" She nodded wordlessly, taking his hand. Edward's arms wrapped around her, holding her close, and Bella allowed herself to relax into his embrace, reveling in the feeling of belonging that enveloped her.
"There's a road that follows everywhere you go
I stole your golden chaser
But I never meant to steal
It's not in my nature
But if you try again I'll fall
And if you want to save it all
Then all you have to do is give
Give me that look again
Give me that look"
Bella could hear Edward whispering the words along with the lead singer, his head resting lightly on hers, and in that moment she lost the struggle against the tears in her eyes.
"'Cause I'm gonna wait for you
Got to send this tape to you
And I'm gonna wait for you
And I'm gonna wait for you"
She was only vaguely aware of the fact that Jasper and Emmett had rejoined the group and their five friends had formed a small protective circle around them so they would be able to dance uninterrupted. As the last sweet notes faded away and the audience clapped and cheered, Edward pulled back slightly and took Bella's hands in his. "Can we talk?" he asked her quietly. Unable to trust her voice, Bella nodded silently and fell into step beside Edward as he led her from the main room.
They entered a small hallway on one side of the building and Edward opened a door and turned on the light, gesturing for Bella to enter before him. "Don't worry, it's okay that we're in here," he reassured her, seeing the uncertain look on her face. "I checked ahead of time. One of the owners is a friend of my mom's."Bella couldn't help the small smile that quickly crossed her face and she entered the room, Edward following and shutting the door behind them.
Edward turned to face Bella, his posture tense and his expression slightly apprehensive. He opened his mouth to speak, but Bella beat him to it.
"I can't believe you would even want to talk to me," she said quietly. "After everything I said and did to you, after how much I hurt you…"
She trailed off and Edward smiled gently at her. "None of that was your fault, Bella. I know you were just trying to do what you thought was best. I don't blame you for anything that's happened."
"But you should," Bella surprised herself by saying. "You should blame me and never want to see me again. Don't you see? It will make it so much easier to go back to your life the way it was before I showed up and screwed everything up."
Edward's expression became troubled. "Bella, I don't want to go back to my life the way it was, my life without you." He shook his head. "And you certainly didn't screw anything up."
He paused a moment and took a deep breath. "If you want me to, I will go away and never bother you again after this. But will you please allow me to say something first?" Bella nodded and Edward smiled briefly before continuing.
"The truth is, before you, Bella, there was never anyone for me. Friends wanted to set me up, girls asked me to dances, but I don't know, I just wasn't interested. I mean, sure, I saw how happy Emmett and Rose and Jasper and Alice were together, but I just never saw the point. None of the girls at school ever had the affect on me that those guys had on each other. I really didn't understand how they could all feel so completed by this one other person. But when you came to Forks, Bella, I think I started to understand. And after we were trapped in the closet and started spending time together, everything changed for me.
"I finally understood. Why Rosalie puts up with Emmett when he's being gross or making stupid jokes, why Emmett gets that look on his face sometimes when he sees Rose like he can't quite believe she chose him. Why Alice will suddenly start giggling for no reason, why Jasper gets this little smile on his face even when Alice isn't around. Why my parents always have to be touching, even if it's totally unconscious on their part."
"I got it because suddenly, for the first time in my life, I was right there with them. That time that I spent with you was the best time of my life, Bella. I've never been as happy as I was when I was with you. And I don't give a damn what anybody else thinks or says," Edward said passionately. "All that matters to me is being with you. I love you, Bella."
Bella gasped, her hand flying to her mouth as tears began streaming down her cheeks. "Bella." Edward moved toward her but she stepped back, holding up a hand to keep him back. Edward froze, bowing his head. It seemed Angela and his family had been wrong about Bella's feelings for him after all. "I'm sorry," he said miserably. "I just, I wanted you to know. It was selfish and all I've done is hurt you again. God, I am so sorry, Bella. I'll go get Alice to take you home." His tone, so full of self-loathing, snapped Bella back to reality, stopping her tears instantly.
"No, Edward, please wait," she said even as he turned toward the door. He slowly turned back to face her, the faintest light of hope beginning to shine in his eyes.
"Edward, I am so sorry for everything that I have done to you," Bella began. "I shouldn't have believed Lauren in the first place, especially when you had never given me any reason to doubt you. It's no excuse, but I think it was really me I was doubting, not you." Edward looked slightly puzzled and Bella sighed. "It never made any sense to me – or probably anyone else who saw us together," she added with a grimace, "why someone like you would want to be with someone like me. As happy as I was with you, I still couldn't understand why you chose me."
"Bella, I wish I could make you see yourself the way I see you," Edward said, his face troubled once more. "The way most of the male population of Forks sees you. Trust me, I was on the receiving end of quite a bit of male jealousy the week we were together. Guys may express it differently than girls, but it was certainly there.
"But that's not what's important anyway," he continued impatiently. "Like I said, I could care less what anyone else thinks or says or does. What is important is you and how I feel about you. Bella, like I said that first day, you are the smartest, most beautiful and amazing girl I have ever known. I feel like I can talk to you about anything and everything and I love that you're not afraid to be silly and be yourself with me. You're funny and compassionate and more than I deserve and I feel like a piece of me is missing when you're not around. And I know I'm the luckiest guy in the world because, for a little while at least, I had you in my life."
Bella's eyes were pained and had begun to fill with tears again. "I think I'm the lucky, undeserving one," she said quietly. "I was just trying to do what I thought was best for you and I made a huge mess of it. As far as I'm concerned, there is no apology in the world good enough for what I've put you through. I don't know how you can possibly forgive me when I don't know if I can forgive myself."
Edward smiled gently. "Because that's what you do when you love someone."
A choked sob escaped from Bella's throat and Edward touched her arm. "Bella?" he asked worriedly.
"You are the most wonderful person I have ever known, Edward Cullen," Bella said, tears once again sliding down her cheeks. "You're sweet and smart and funny. You take care of me, which no one has ever done before, and I'm miserable when you're not around." She stopped and shook her head. "I spent so much time convincing myself that it wouldn't work, that we weren't right for each other and it was better for everyone if we were apart, that I didn't even stop to consider the most important thing in this whole equation." She looked up at him, smiling brilliantly. "I love you, Edward. So much. And I don't want to go back to my life before you either."
"Really?" Edward choked out.
"Really. I love you," she repeated. "More than anything."
"I love you, too," Edward said, sweeping her into his arms and holding her close. "And I'm never going to stop," he murmured into her hair.
Bella pulled back slightly to look up into his eyes. "Good," she said simply before leaning up to meet his lips with her own. The kiss was tender, their lips moving softly together even as they held onto the other tightly, never wanting to let go again.
Eventually they parted, their hands immediately clasping together. "Maybe we should get back," Edward suggested. "We'll have plenty of time later – I think the girls' night sleepover has officially been moved to my house."
Bella stared at him. "You mean you-"
"Planned this? Yes. Though I did have some help," Edward admitted.
Bella smiled, leaning her head against Edward's shoulder for a moment. "I'm glad."
Alice was the first to see them walking back toward the group hand in hand and she launched herself at Bella, wrapping her arms and legs around her as she squealed excitedly. Only Edward's steadying hand at Bella's back kept the two girls from ending up flat on the floor.
"I'm never going to trust you again, Alice Cullen," Bella teased, beaming.
"I know!" Alice replied joyfully. "And I'm not sorry one bit!"
The two girls hugged each other tightly before Alice finally set her feet back on the floor. Bella turned back to Edward, but before she could take his hand once more, Emmett had scooped her up in his arms. "You're back for real, right, little sis?" he asked.
Bella turned to Edward and the two smiled happily at each other. "I'm back for good, Emmett," Bella confirmed. Emmett whooped and swung Bella in a small circle, narrowly avoiding other concert goers, before he set her down to be hugged by Rose, Jasper, and Angela.
Edward finally stepped forward and took Bella's hand, pulling her free from the others. She smiled at him and they slipped forward through the crowd to get back to the girls' original spot by the front.
As they reached the front of the crowd again, the lead singer looked down from the stage at Edward and Bella's joined hands. "Fair play to you," he said, winking at them. Bella giggled and leaned against Edward's shoulder as he squeezed her hand gently.
The band played two more songs before announcing their last song of the night and thanking the audience for coming. The opening notes of "Revelate" filled the air and Bella couldn't help the Alice-like squeal that slipped past her lips. Edward grinned, chuckling at Bella's enthusiasm as she swung their hands to the music.
Bella felt as if her heart would burst from her chest. Edward loved her! He loved her and they were together, watching The Frames, surrounded by their friends and family. Her face hurt from smiling so hard but she didn't care. She turned to Edward to find him watching her, his eyes gentle, her favorite crooked grin on his face.
Bella couldn't contain the adrenaline and pure joy surging through her and she threw her arms around Edward's neck, drawing his lips to hers. When she drew back, Edward was gasping for breath, his eyes glazed. "What was that for?" he finally managed to ask, hoping Bella would be able to read his lips in the noisy venue.
Bella laughed giddily. "Because I love you!" she yelled.
Edward beamed back at her, and grabbed Bella's hand in his. Their hands joined firmly together, they belted out the final lyrics of the song together.
Edward picked Bella up and swung her around as the violin played furiously again in the background, bringing the song to a close. He pulled her to him as the song ended. "I love you," he whispered in her ear.
"I love you, too," Bella replied in his ear, leaning forward to kiss him again while around them the audience cheered and the band thanked them all for coming and bid them goodnight.
As the lights came up and people began filing out, Bella and Edward were suddenly surrounded by their friends. Alice pulled Bella away from Edward and dragged her over to the other two girls. "So?" Alice demanded, her eyes shining as she bounced up and down in excitement.
"So what?" Bella teased.
"Bella Swan! You know exactly what!" Alice shrieked. "Is everything okay with you guys now?"
Bella shrugged, trying to sound nonchalant. "You could say that," she replied. "He loves me and I love him." An enormous smile split her face as she finished and this time all three of the girls shrieked as they threw their arms around her in a massive group hug.
Edward appeared behind Bella moments later as the girls drew apart. "Do you guys mind if I steal my girlfriend?" he asked, a ridiculous smile crossing his face at the use of the word "girlfriend."
Alice sighed dramatically. "I guess so."
Angela smiled at them. "If you must."
Rose rolled her eyes. "Take her, please! You guys are too annoying when you're apart." She tried to look irritated but she, too, couldn't help smiling widely at the couple.
Edward laughed as he pulled Bella to his side. "Thanks, Rosie," he said. "And thank you guys for everything you did to help."
"I'll second that," Bella said, sliding her arm around Edward's waist.
"All right, go on, get out of here," Rose said, still smiling as she waved the couple toward the door. "We'll see you guys at home, okay?"
The pair said their goodbyes to the girls and Emmett and Jasper who had come up to join the group before walking out of the club hand in hand.
A few minutes later, they were at Edward's car and Bella couldn't help the happy thrill that ran through her at the sight of the familiar silver Volvo. Edward opened Bella's door for her but turned, blocking her entrance into the car. "Have I told you how incredibly beautiful you are tonight, Bella?"
Bella blushed. "That would be a Rose and Alice double team on clothes, hair, and makeup."
Edward shook his head. "That has nothing to do with any of it," he said seriously. "It's you." He reached up a hand to gently stroke her cheek. "My beautiful Bella," he murmured as he leaned down to kiss her gently. Bella responded readily, wrapping her arms around his neck as their lips moved together in a passionate kiss.
Reluctantly, Edward pulled himself back after a moment. "Come on," he said, taking her hand. "I want to beat the others home so we can have at least five minutes of privacy."
"No chance of that," Bella muttered as Edward helped her into the car and closed her door behind her.
Edward climbed into the car and turned to her as they were putting on their seatbelts. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that in the past 48 hours, I have feared for my life twice because I have been in cars driven by your sisters. Lead foot doesn't even begin to cover it."
Edward chuckled. "Family trait. Don't worry, I'll try to keep it below 20 miles over the speed limit," he teased. Bella stuck her tongue out at him and he laughed again. "Bella, I promise you that I would never put you in any danger," he said, his tone suddenly completely serious.
Bella looked up at him with a smile. "I know," she said. "I trust you."
Edward smiled at her before leaning forward to kiss her gently. "And I'll never give you reason to doubt that," he promised. He started the car and then took her hand in his, resting their joined hands on his lap and thinking that never before had he been so thankful to have a car with automatic drive.
The ride back to Forks was mostly silent, both just content to be in the other's presence again and reveling in their recently confessed feelings for each other. About halfway through the drive, something occurred to Bella and she turned to face Edward.
"So, I'm just curious about something."
"I know you guys have some connections and all, but how did you get an extra ticket to a sold out show at the last minute?"
Edward smiled. "Because there was no extra ticket." At Bella's puzzled look, he continued. "When we first found out about the concert, we got seven tickets – one for everyone in my family. But when my mom met you, well, she kind of insisted that you have her ticket instead. Don't feel too bad," he said, anticipating Bella's words as she opened her mouth. "My mom and dad ended up going to Mexico for ten days. Much as they both like The Frames, I don't think they feel they've missed out."
Bella nodded, taking in what Edward had told her. At least now she knew where the rumor about the Cullens going to Mexico had come from. "Did they have fun?" she asked.
Edward grinned. "They're having fun. They won't be back until Monday night."
"So no one's home?"
"No one over the age of 18, no," Edward responded, the look on his face making Bella flush.
Soon after, they arrived at the Cullens' house. "Well, at least we beat them home," Edward said as he pulled his car into the garage, Rose's car nowhere to be seen. He helped Bella out of the car and they entered the silent house together. Edward turned to Bella and pulled her into his arms. "Now, what to do with our time alone before everyone gets home."
He pressed his lips to Bella's throat and began trailing soft kisses down her neck, his arms holding her tightly to his chest. Bella sighed and leaned into Edward, weaving her fingers through his hair. A moment later, she jumped back as she felt something buzzing against her thigh.
Edward groaned and pulled back from Bella, pulling his cell phone from his pocket. "Really? They have to talk to me right now?" he muttered, flipping the phone open to find a new text message. As Bella watched, a smile spread across Edward's face. Edward met Bella's questioning gaze and his smile grew. "That was Alice," he told her. "Turns out they just had to go bowling in Port Angeles after the show so they're going to be gone awhile." Bella blushed but couldn't keep an answering smile off her face.
"I'm sorry, I didn't even ask," Edward said. "Did you want to go back and join them?"
His expression was innocent but his eyes twinkled mischievously at her and Bella smacked him gently in the shoulder. "Not a chance," she told him honestly.
Edward captured the hand that still rested on his chest and pulled her to him again. "I was hoping you'd say that," he murmured, bending down to kiss her sweetly.
The kiss quickly deepened and Edward forced himself to pull away after a moment. "There's something I want to show you," he told her. He took her hand and led her up the stairs. They passed by his siblings' rooms and ascended the short staircase to the third floor.
Bella thought they were heading to Edward's room and was a little surprised when he stopped her in front of the closed door to the spare bedroom next to his. She gave him a puzzled look but he only smiled, releasing her hand as he stepped forward to open the door and flip the light switch right inside the doorway.
The switch was connected to two lamps in the room, one tall freestanding lamp and a smaller one on a side table. There was a cherry wood sleigh bed in the center of the room that was covered in a blue and chocolate colored comforter and piled with pillows that matched the blue and brown color scheme. The scheme continued in the soft chocolate rug on the floor and the blue walls of the bedroom. A desk and dresser that matched the cherry wood of the bed were also in the room along with a large bookshelf stuffed with books and a wide blue chair that was set near one of the windows.
"It's beautiful, Edward," Bella said. "But why are we in here instead of your room?"
"It's yours," Edward replied. "Do you like it?"
Bella's eyes went wide. "What?"
Edward smiled. "You can blame Alice for this one." He took Bella by the hand and led her over to the bed. "She even made sure you had reading material," he told her, gesturing to the bedside table.
Bella leaned over and smiled at the stack of books sitting there. Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Sense and Sensibility. She sat back and looked at Edward. "But, I don't understand. When did she do all of this? Why?"
Edward gently ran the back of his hand down the side of her face. "After Angela told them all the truth about Lauren's lies," he told her. "Alice decided then and there that we would all be getting you back – one of her 'feelings,' I guess, and she immediately started on making this into your room. I didn't even know about it until Wednesday, honestly. They did a lot of it without me, but Alice did let me pick the color scheme and stock your bookshelf." He ran a gentle hand through her hair. "I went with my favorite color on you and the color of those beautiful eyes." Bella blushed and looked down at her lap.
"As for the why," Edward continued, "well, as Alice put it, you're family. And every family member should have her own room." Bella was still staring at her lap and he looked at her worriedly. "Is it okay? I mean, is it too weird? Is it all wrong?"
Bella looked up, smiling happily. "Are you crazy? It's perfect," she told him, throwing her arms around him and burying her head against his shoulder. "And it means a lot that you guys did this for me. Thank you," she whispered.
Edward wrapped his arms around her with a contented smile, resting his head on top of hers. "You're very welcome."
The pair sat there for awhile, just enjoying the feel of being in each other's arms once again. "So would you prefer to stay in here rather than my room?" Edward asked eventually, pressing a kiss to the top of Bella's head.
Bella pulled back and looked up at him. "I love this room, I honestly do," she told him. "But I kind of miss your room."
Edward kissed her nose and stood up, pulling Bella with him. "You'll have plenty of time to enjoy your room. If I ever let you out of mine, of course," he finished with a wicked grin.
Bella didn't even blush this time. "Works for me," she said, returning Edward's look.
They crossed the hall and had just entered Edward's room when Bella suddenly stopped in her tracks. "Crap."
"I left my overnight bag in Rosalie's car," Bella explained.
"That's all right, I have stuff you can wear. Though I don't think I should give you another white button down," he teased. "I might start to run out."
This time, Bella blushed. "Um, about that."
"Like I said, I think it looks better on you than it does on me," Edward said with a grin. He shut the door to his room behind him and stepped toward her. "I've missed that blush," he murmured, gently running his hand down the side of her face.
Bella swore she could feel her skin get even redder but she looked Edward straight in the eye. "What else did you miss?" she asked boldly.
Edward smiled again. "Would you like me to show you?" Bella felt her breath catch and she nodded wordlessly.
Edward ran his hands gently through Bella's hair. "Your soft hair that always smells of strawberries," he murmured, pressing a kiss to her hair. "Your beautiful brown eyes that are always so open and honest." He dropped gentle kisses on each closed eyelid. "I missed your hand in mine and your fingers in my hair." He lifted one of her hands to his mouth and pressed gentle kisses to the tip of each finger before placing a kiss on the palm of her hand.
"I missed that brilliant mind and all its thoughts, deep or otherwise." Bella smiled as Edward's lips gently brushed her forehead. "I missed that spot where your neck connects to your shoulder." He kissed and gently sucked at the spot making Bella moan softly. "And I definitely missed that sound."
He straightened and met her eyes. "And I missed that gorgeous mouth and the words and sounds that come out of it." His eyes twinkled wickedly. "Not to mention the numerous other things that mouth is good at."
Bella could feel herself blush once more but her embarrassment was short lived. "I missed you, too," she murmured, leaning up to meet his lips with her own. Everything they had felt over the past week – the pain, anger, anxiety, heartbreak, and current euphoria that now flooded them both – went into that kiss. Edward's lips left Bella's, traveling down her neck and across her collarbone making Bella sigh softly as she wove her fingers through his hair.
Bella slipped her ballet flats off, kicking them behind her as Edward's lips returned to hers. The kiss was heated, almost desperate as if to make up for the time they had been apart, and Bella moaned into Edward's mouth. Edward's hands slid down to the hem of her shirt and Bella reluctantly pulled away for a moment so that he could pull the shirt over her head. She quickly removed Edward's shirt as well, tossing it impatiently aside.
Edward moved them backwards until Bella felt the back of her knees hit the bed and she sat, pulling Edward down with her. His weight pushed her onto her back and he held himself above her, their lips still joined. Her hands slipped between them to undo the button on his jeans and she then tried, unsuccessfully, to push his jeans down his legs. Edward sat up, pulling his jeans all the way off before removing Bella's as well.
Bella suddenly thought of Alice's insistence that she shave her legs and she couldn't stop the giggle that escaped her. "What's so funny?" Edward asked, tossing her jeans aside.
Bella bit her lip, wondering if talking about shaving her legs would be a bit of a mood killer. "I was just thinking about how Alice pretty much had to force me to buy this," she improvised, gesturing at her underwear.
Edward's eyes traveled slowly up her body. "Remind me to thank Alice," he muttered, returning to the bed. He attacked her lips hungrily and Bella readily met his assault, their tongues battling fiercely. With one hand tangled in Edward's hair, Bella reached down between them once more and ran her hand over his erection. Edward groaned in pleasure and Bella repeated the motion, bringing her feet up on the bed so that her knees were bent, her feet on either side of Edward's thighs.
Edward growled, feeling himself get impossibly harder as Bella's gentle strokes turned more forceful and his lips once again left hers, traveling down her throat to the swell of her breasts. He pressed a kiss to the top of each breast before sliding a hand under her and unclasping her bra, tossing it toward the foot of the bed. He cupped her breasts gently, enjoying the weight of them in his hands before brushing his thumbs across her nipples. Edward felt his cock twitch as Bella mewled in pleasure at the sound and he lowered his head to her right breast, licking and sucking at her nipple causing Bella to moan once more. He repeated his ministrations on her other breast before he pressed a kiss to the valley between them and then began to place light kisses down her stomach. His movements were slow and deliberate as he took time to thoroughly worship her body.
When he reached the top of her panties, he paused, reaching down to lightly trace her slit through the lacy material. Bella whimpered, her hips jerking forward as Edward continued to tease her. "Edward, please," she managed to gasp.
Unable to deny her anything, Edward growled low in his throat as his fingers hooked beneath the waistband of her boy shorts, practically tearing them off of her in his haste. Watching Bella's face, he slid a finger easily into her wet core. "So beautiful," he murmured, sliding in another finger to join the first. Bella gasped, her hips moving in rhythm with the thrusts of Edward's fingers.
Without warning, he dipped his head, suddenly replacing his fingers with his tongue, and Bella whimpered, bringing her legs up behind his back, her heels pressing into his shoulders. He sucked harshly on her clit and Bella cried out, her hips bucking forward of their own accord. She knew she was close to her release and she tugged frantically at Edward's hair. "Edward, Edward, please. Stop! Please, stop!"
Edward instantly stopped, looking up to meet Bella's gaze. "Bella?" His expression was concerned and Bella smiled down at him.
"I want all of you. I need all of you," she corrected, hoping that Edward would understand what she meant.
Edward smiled gently at her and he moved to hover over her, his weight resting on his forearms. "My Bella."
"Yours," Bella whispered, tears in her eyes.
"As I am yours," Edward said softly, cupping the side of her face with one hand and looking her directly in the eye before leaning down to kiss her. The kiss was tender, reverent, and Bella slowly ran her hands up Edward's arms before loosely wrapping her arms around his neck and running her fingers through the hair at the nape of his neck.
Edward pressed his tip to her entrance, pulling back to look down at Bella as he slowly entered her. Bella sighed happily at the feeling of completeness that flowed through her as Edward filled her, hooking her heels behind his thighs as her arms wrapped around his back.
Edward groaned as her warmth enveloped him completely. His dreams had not come close to doing this incredible feeling justice. He felt whole again.
They remained still a moment, both taking a moment to relish in the feeling of their bodies being joined once more. Finally, Bella slid her hands gently down Edward's back and he began to move, his thrusts slow and deep. Bella moved with him, their bodies meeting thrust for thrust.
Bella could feel her release approaching once more and this time she urged Edward on. "Faster, Edward. Please. Oh, God. Harder!" Her nails scraped down his back and Edward growled, his thrusts increasing in force and speed. He slipped a hand between their bodies and found her clit, roughly brushing his thumb over the sensitive bundle of nerves again and again.
"Edward! Oh my God! Unh! Edward!" Bella cried. Her back arched off of the bed, her walls clenching tightly around Edward as she came, her body trembling from the tremendous force of her orgasm.
"Bella! Fuck!" The sight of Bella coming undone beneath him was the most arousing thing Edward had ever seen. Burying his face against her neck, he thrust once more before he joined her in release, groaning her name as he spilled into her.
They lay there, still joined, as their breathing slowed and returned to normal. Edward shifted to lie beside Bella, reluctantly disconnecting their bodies. Remembering how self-conscious Bella had been the last time they had woken up together without any clothes on, Edward reached over the side of the bed and fumbled around a moment before his hands found his t-shirt. "Thought you might want this," Edward said, handing her the shirt. Bella pulled it on and Edward made a sound low in his throat. "I also missed how incredibly sexy you look in my clothes," he murmured, kissing her softly.
This kiss was slow and searching without the urgency of their previous actions and Bella sighed happily into Edward's mouth. When they separated, Edward reached over the side of the bed again, grabbing his boxers from the floor and pulling them on. He then lay down on his back, holding his arms out to Bella.
Bella snuggled up to Edward's side, pressing a gentle kiss to his bare chest as Edward wrapped an arm around her, holding her close. She breathed in Edward's scent, deciding instantly that it was infinitely better when it was coming from Edward himself rather than his shirt or her pillow. Edward stroked Bella's hair gently and Bella felt her eyelids droop at the comforting sensation.
"I love you, Edward," Bella murmured sleepily.
"I love you, my Bella," Edward whispered, pressing a kiss to her temple.
Soon after, they drifted off to sleep together, the awful events of the previous week behind them, forgotten in the comfort of each other's arms.