Bella and Angela were addressing graduation invitation letters [E, pp. 134-137], Angela noticed Bella's reticence and asked her about it. Bella expressed a vague concern about her relationship with Edward since his return.

"Bella, you're so brave and strong, beautiful and kind; how could you ever doubt Edward's admiration and love for you?" Angela inquired.

"Yeah," Bella responded, and Angela noted Bella's voice was tinged with regret, "I don't doubt that he does love me. You know, he proposed to me when he came back."

"No," Angela replied, "I didn't know that ... what did you say?"

Bella paused, and Angela grimaced sympathetically. "See, that's just it. Edward does love me, perhaps he loves me too much — he left me last September because of it. Who's to say he won't come to the same conclusions and leave me again? I know first hand that marriage doesn't keep people together anymore, even if they love each other. My dad still loves my mom seventeen years after she left him, and he still misses her every single day. Love isn't enough. But ... I don't know what is enough, and I don't know if I have what's needed to be enough for him."

Angela opened her mouth, but Bella shook her head. "No, Angela, you're only seeing what you think is my bravery — and I'm not afraid of many things, of dying, of pain or censure — but they're all just a reaction to the one thing that I am afraid of, the one thing that terrifies me. And that one thing is that one day Edward will see me for what I really am, that I'm really not worth his effort, and then he'll see that he has other things to do with his time, and he'll move on."

Angela looked surprised, "What do you mean?"

Bella sighed: "I'm not smart, Angela, or beautiful, or strong. I don't make friends easily; I just don't relate well to anyone, really. All I am is a clumsy and lost body with an inscrutable head screwed on top. I entertain Edward because I always surprise him. I'm his little scientific experiment." Bella didn't spit out these last words, she said them ruefully, with a resigned sadness.

"But, Edward, he is smart — and beautiful and strong and, well, perfect — but he's really smart. And one day, maybe it will be next week, or maybe it'll be next year, or maybe it'll be fifteen years down the road, he'll have figured me out completely. Then, I won't do or say anything surprising for him any more, my clumsiness will simply annoy him, not amuse him, and he'll see my plain, boring self for what it is and call out 'next' ... the line for him does go around the block." Bella smiled here. "All I have to do is slip up once, and then it's over. But even if I don't, even if I'm very, very careful every single day for the rest of my existence, I still don't know what he thinks he sees in me, so I don't know how to keep him. I loved him, I love him, so much, and I would have given anything — my heart, which I did because he took it with him when he left me, my soul I would have gladly traded away, just so he would stay, my blood, anything, I didn't care and I don't care. But none of these things made him stay before, and, Angela, I'm so lost because I don't know what will make him stay this time. I can't live without him. I really, really tried, but I'm not strong enough to try a second time, and if he ..."

Here Bella stopped, hunched over and squeezed her eyes shut, two tears snuck out an rested on the dark circles under her eyes. Angela saw Bella swallow hard against the lump in her throat. The first two tears were quickly joined by two more that spilled out over her cheeks. Angela dropped her pen and wrapped her arms around her friend who unsuccessfully tried to suppress the sobs ripping through her body.

"It's okay, Bella," she crooned. "It's okay, sweetie. I'm here. I've got you; you can cry." Angela rocked Bella tenderly as Bella wailed pitifully into her shoulder. Time stood still as eventually Bella's cries settled to ragged breaths. After a while, the gasping calmed to sighs.

They withdrew from each other, and Bella reopened her eyes, smiled weakly, and looked down and exclaimed: "Oh, Angela, your blouse! And I didn't help very much with your invitations!"

Angela looked at the table and saw Bella's first few tears had smudged some addressed envelopes on the top of the pile. Angela chuckled, "You think I didn't prepare for this and not get spares?" Pointedly ignoring her shirt, she reached under the table and gave Bella a fistful of tissues from her stash, then she withdrew more unaddressed ones from the stack on top of the table and handed them to Bella. "Now, get back to work."

Bella smiled back: "You knew this — all this — was going to happen?" Her eyebrow lifted in disbelief as she wiped her eyes and regained composure.

"Of course," Angela stated evenly and picked up her pen. They both returned to addressing envelopes, only their pens scratching on the paper making a sound in the comfortable, and comforting, silence.

"Thanks," Bella whispered down into her fifth envelope.

Not looking up from her work, Angela touched Bella's arm gently, then continued her writing with a new address on the next envelope.