Disclaimer: All Twilight characters and settings were created by Stephenie Meyer.
A/N: I know this story has gone on quite awhile … what can I say? It's still in my head. I'm really going to try to kick it out, and hopefully you'll see some more regular updates. Yaayy! We're coming up on one of the moments you've all been waiting for, so stick with me here! And as always, remember: reviews are to authors as food is to … well, everyone. Please feed me.
Listen To: Unsaid by The Fray, Never Say Never by The Fray
February 10, 2007
"Come on man, rip 'em open. Just like a bandaid, get it over with quick."
I glanced at my brother quickly before returning my gaze to the pile of unopened envelopes sitting in front of me. Rosalie, Emmett's girlfriend since New Year's Eve, was perched on his lap in their seat across the table. Bella sat next to me, smiling supportively. I sighed, running my hand through my hair. If only it were like the old days, when you could tell whether or not you got accepted to a school from the size of the envelope. But no, everything was online these days, so the envelopes are the same size whether they're accepting or rejecting you.
"This is what you've been waiting for," Bella encouraged. "Do you want me to open them?"
I nodded. She reached for the first envelope and I closed my eyes and took a deep breath as I heard the paper tearing open. I heard crinkling sounds as she opened the letter, and then several moments of silence stretched. "What, what is it?" I demanded impatiently.
I opened my eyes and saw her smiling and my heartbeat picked up in anticipation. "Mr. Cullen," she read, grinning from ear to ear. "We are pleased to offer you acceptance-"
She was cut off by Emmett's boisterous "Whoo-hoo! Hell yeah, man!"
I smiled and breathed a sigh of relief. At least I knew I had somewhere to go after graduation in 3 months. "Where?" I asked, holding out my hand for the letter.
Bella handed it to me, grinning, as she answered. "University of Washington!"
I stared at the paper, not quite believing it. After three years of hard work, late nights, and missing my girlfriend… all the long hours of studying had finally paid off. The University of Washington's medical studies was a great program, and it meant I could stay in Seattle with my family, with Bella…
"Congratulations," Rosalie added enthusiastically once Emmett had released her from a display of affection that was, in my opinion, a little too much considering their current company.
"Open the rest!" Emmett cried, grabbing another envelope and ripping into it. I stared at him in dismay as his expression fell.
"What? Where is that from?"
"Sorry, bro," he sighed, shaking his head. "It looks like you're going to have some tough decisions to make, because you're wanted everywhere!" he shouted, now laughing. "University of Pennsylvania, bitches!" he wooped, throwing the letter down on the table.
Bella jumped out of her seat and pulled me up with her, hugging me tightly and laughing uncontrollably. She grabbed another envelope and tore into it. "Mr. Cullen, we are pleased to welcome you…" She let out a wordless shriek of excitement. "Duke University!"
Before she'd even finished, Emmett had grabbed another envelope and handed one to Rosalie while he opened his. "Harvard! Harvard, Edward, holy shit!" I laughed and held my hand out for the letter, not believing my ears.
At the same time, Rosalie was reading the letter she'd opened. "University of California at San Francisco wants you, my friend!" she exclaimed. Bella had run around the table to read over her shoulder and hugged her, both of them squealing for joy.
I just couldn't believe this. I stared at the one envelope left lying on the table, knowing the one name I hadn't heard yet and the last place I'd applied. I grabbed it and carefully slid my finger along the envelope. I unfolded the letter and Bella stared at me as I scanned the page. I looked up and met her eyes, grinning. "Johns Hopkins…"
She screamed, her eyes sparkling, and ran towards me. I caught her in a hug and she wrapped her legs around me as we clung to each other and laughed. "Oh my gosh!" she cried. "Congratulations, I'm so proud of you!"
When I replaced her on her feet, Emmett slapped me on the back. "I'm proud of you, little bro. Graduating in three years, accepted to the top med schools in the country..." He pretended to consider for a moment. "Hey dial it back a bit, will you, because you're making me look bad. It took me the full four years. Assuming I even graduate this year." Rosalie swatted his arm.
I grinned. "Yeah, sure Emmett. Thanks."
Rosalie hugged me. "Congratulations again, Edward."
Bella insisted I call my parents right away, and I complied while she took turns smiling happily by my side and dancing around the room with Rose and Emmett. I listened to Esme's praise and had to pull the phone away from my ear while she yelled for Carlisle. They put the phone on speaker so they could both congratulate me.
Emmett and Rosalie disappeared to his room, and Bella pressed herself against me and stood on her tiptoes so she could hear my parents' congratulations. For the most part Esme and Carlisle were talking excitedly amongst themselves, and I took the opportunity to kiss Bella full on the mouth. I'd meant it to be quick and chaste, but she pulled me back and kissed me properly before pulling away. She looked up and grinned wickedly at me, pressed against me in such a way that she could no doubt feel the reaction she was causing.
She took pleasure in distracting me for the rest of the conversation, sneaking kisses that required me to hold the phone away at arm's length while my parents talked. I was happy to play along until it escalated to the point that I had to grab her wrists to keep her from rubbing me through my jeans. I raised my eyebrows at her in warning, then realized that the jabbering from the phone had quieted. I cleared my throat and put the phone back to my ear to mumble an affirmative to whatever question they must've asked while Bella walked away laughing.
Emmett and Rosalie left soon after to make their dinner reservation. When the front door closed I turned back to Bella, who was sitting on the couch with her chin in her hand, smiling up at me. I chuckled and shook my head in disbelief.
"You've got some decisions to make, Mr. Cullen." She walked over to where I was still standing and wrapped her arms around my shoulders while I automatically placed my hands on her hips. "The world is your oyster." She grinned.
I laughed at her cheesiness. "I still can't believe this. UW, yes, and even Duke, sure. But Harvard? Johns Hopkins?"
"I knew you would do it."
I closed my eyes and rested my lips against her hair, inhaling the scent of her. My heart was still beating faster than normal from all the excitement.
"What are you going to do?" she asked softly.
Truthfully, I had no idea. I had hoped, but I'd never actually expected to gain acceptance everywhere I applied. I didn't know what I was going to do, but I knew what I wanted right then. Instead of answering, I hooked my fingers under Bella's chin and tilted her head toward me for a scorching kiss. I pulled her closer and could feel her heartbeat echoing mine.
She broke away so we could catch our breath and frantically pulled up the hem of my tshirt. She couldn't get it past my arms since my hands were busy trying to remove her own clothing. I gripped my tshirt at the neckline and pulled it up over my head and tossed it behind me. Bella's shirt had joined mine on the floor and she was shimmying out of her jeans. She grinned up at me and impatiently kicked them off her legs before capturing my lips with hers once more.
With one hand tangled in her hair and the other rising up to massage her breast, I elicited a small moan by biting her lower lip. She pulled back, breathing heavily and gazing up at me through her eyelashes. Her eyes were dark with arousal. She started placing kisses down my chest, but I had other plans. Without warning I threw her over my shoulder in a fireman's carry and she yelped in surprise. I smacked her ass as I turned and carried her towards the bedroom while she laughed.
May 19, 2007
"Edward Anthony Cullen." I walked across the stage to accept my diploma, shaking hands with the Dean. At the announcement of "Emmett McCarty Cullen", my brother followed close behind, grinning. He hammed it up for the crowd, waving and giving a mock bow to the audience before turning for his handshake. Before I exited the stage, I searched the audience for my family and Bella, and shot them a grin.
When the ceremony was finished we fought our way through the mass of people. Emmett grabbed Rosalie and dipped her in a dramatic movie-moment kiss. That's newlyweds for you. They'd eloped on April 21 with family and close friends in attendance, and took a three-day weekend honeymoon to Vegas.
My eyes met Bella's, but before I could make it to her I was swept into hugs by Esme, Carlisle, and finally Alice. My family gave me their congratulations, as did Jasper, Alice's boyfriend. He was a grad student at UW studying psychotherapy who'd met Alice at a coffee house, and they'd been inseparable ever since.
As soon as I was released, Bella ran over and grabbed my graduation gown in her fists, pulling me to her. She stood on her tiptoes to whisper fiercely in my ear. "I am so proud of you."
The whole clan made our way back to our vehicles, each of us paired off. I walked hand-in-hand with Bella and watched my parents, glowing with pride. Esme leaned her head against Carlisle's shoulder in contentment. I looked down at Bella and saw her watching them also, and she smiled up at me. We were approaching my parents' car, and we paused to figure out the logistics of where and when we were meeting for dinner.
I spoke softly to Bella while Alice and Emmett bickered over whether we were going to eat Italian or Chinese. "Did you know that Esme moved to Boston to be with Carlisle while he was studying at Harvard?"
The smile fell from Bella's face as she looked up at me and I could easily read the disappointment and resignation in her eyes. She pulled her hand away from mine and went to support Alice in the fight for Italian food. I sighed, regretting that I'd brought it up on graduation day. It was such a touchy subject with us lately that I should've known better and just left it alone.
Italian food won the vote, since Emmett was outnumbered by Alice, Bella, and Rosalie. I was talking with Carlisle about the new leasers we'd found for the house in Seattle and when I turned to find Bella to head to our car, she was nowhere to be seen. I said a hasty goodbye to my parents while they climbed into their car. "See you at the restaurant."
I anxiously started out in the direction of where I'd parked the car earlier in the afternoon. The sun had set and the light was rapidly disappearing beyond the horizon, and I walked faster in an effort to catch up to Bella. When I spotted her up ahead walking down the side of the road, I broke into a light jog until I was beside her. "What are you doing?" I demanded. "It's dark out, you shouldn't be walking out here by yourself."
"And just what am I qualified to do by myself?"
I sighed, running my hand through my hair. I wished I hadn't said anything about grad school or moving. "Shit, look, I'm sorry." I grabbed her hand and pulled her to a stop beside me. "I'm sorry I said anything. Can we just drop it for tonight? It's graduation."
"You're right." She took a deep breath and wrapped her arms around my waist, resting her head against my chest. "Let's start over. Happy graduation." She kissed me, briefly, and then pulled away but kept my hand as she continued walking. "Come on, I don't want to be late for pasta carbonara."
We were almost silent on the drive to the restaurant, but I supposed that was my fault again. It had started at the beginning of April, when I'd settled on the decision to go to Johns Hopkins. When the top medical school in the United States wants you, it's tough to say no. It was a difficult decision, but with my family's and Bella's encouragement, I decided it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Looking back on that night, it was hard to see how Bella and I could have ended up so far from that excitement. I had expected that she'd be open to moving to Maryland with me, and she'd expected that I'd be fine with having a long-distance relationship, at least until she graduated next year. We'd been fighting off and on ever since. I glanced across the car at Bella, who was staring out the passenger window into the night, where it had begun to rain.
I thought it would be best for Bella to move with me. I didn't want to leave her here; I couldn't stand the thought of being without her. I'd applied at University of Maryland for her, where they had great English and Literature departments, so she could finish up the last year of her degree in Baltimore. I'd gotten the acceptance letter about a month ago, and we'd had our biggest fight yet on the night I showed it to her. She'd said I had no right, said I was being ignorant, and I'd called her selfish. We didn't talk for three days after that, which was the longest we'd ever gone without speaking.
I was due to start school at the beginning of September, so we had until then to figure things out. We'd planned a two-week trip to London starting in two days, and I just hoped we could put aside our differences long enough to enjoy ourselves. I was still hoping I'd be able to convince Bella to see my side of things and get her to move with me.
We smiled our way through dinner with everyone, losing ourselves in good food and good company. I remembered a similar dinner three years ago, on the night after the first day of classes at UW when Alice and I were freshmen and Emmett was a sophomore. It had just been the three of us, my parents, and Bella. Looking around the table now, I watched as Jasper regaled my father with stories of his case studies, while Rosalie was chatting excitedly with Alice about the shopping in Vegas. I was glad both my siblings had found people they could be with. I recalled all their jokes throughout the years about me and Bella, remarking on how we acted like an 80-year-old married couple.
I glanced across the table at Bella, who saw me looking and raised her wine glass to me in a silent toast, winking. I smiled and toasted back before draining my glass. If any of the rest of them could make it, then certainly Bella and I should be able to. …Right?
After a blur of appetizers, entrees, desserts, and five whole bottles of wine, I found myself thanking Jasper as he dropped us off at Bella and Alice's house. Alice tossed me my keys after locking my Volvo, which she'd driven home from the restaurant for me. Of course in my drunken state I couldn't be expected to catch them, and I held on to Bella's arm to steady her as she reached to pick them up off the ground. We stumbled our way to the front door while Jasper and Alice drove away, and Bella fumbled with getting the key in the lock and opening the door.
I made my way inside and groped the wall trying to find the light switch. My knees hit a table and a cascade of books fell to the floor. "Sorry," I muttered while Bella giggled. The books I'd knocked over were all of her research for our London trip, complete with hundreds of sticky notes marking important pages.
Bella was pulling on my hand and trying to drag me up the stairs to her bedroom but I pulled back, causing her to stumble against my chest, which elicited more giggles. I kissed her firmly and somewhat sloppily but effectively turned her giggles into moans. I continued to kiss her, allowing myself ample time to appreciate her familiar embrace. Her arms went around my neck as she pulled me closer and I held her tight, never wanting to let go.
"Are you excited?"
"Mmmm," she mumbled an affirmative while molding herself even closer to my body and rocking her pelvis against mine.
"Not for that," I chuckled. "For London."
"That too," she agreed, looking up at me with a radiant smile. My chest tightened as sudden fear struck me. I couldn't stand the thought of being apart from her.
Bella didn't notice my sudden mood shift and was resuming her efforts to haul me upstairs. I followed compliantly, still wrapped up in my thoughts. We both stumbled along the way and made use of the stair rail but eventually made it to our destination. I didn't want to take my hands off of her. In my drunken haze, I had the impression that as long as I was touching her, everything would be ok.
I responded eagerly as Bella kissed me passionately once more. My hand on her hip helped steady her when she would have lost her balance and I used my other hand to grab her hair and pull her to me. She fumbled with my pants but managed to get them unzipped. Removing them was a task that required my full attention, and while I stumbled out of my jeans Bella scrabbled to get her shirt off.
Once she'd effectively freed her arms from the offending garment, she collapsed onto the bed and I followed. Her eyes were closed almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.
I pulled her flush against me and wrapped my arm around her securely. "I never want to let go."
I wasn't fully aware I'd said that aloud until she responded sleepily. "Then don't."
"You're making me," I mumbled, confused.
"No I'm not, Edward. You're doing that."
I blamed my blood-alcohol level for my inability to figure out what she meant. I said nothing. The tightness in my chest was still there, and I squeezed her tighter as I closed my eyes. I was drifting halfway between sleep and consciousness when Bella's voice dragged me back.
"Please don't leave me."
"I have to."
"I know you have to leave, just please don't leave me."
"I love you. I'd never leave you like that."
I thought she'd fallen asleep before she whispered again. "Do you promise?"