Disclaimer: Still not mine…
"When women are depressed, they eat or go shopping. Men invade another country. It's a whole different way of thinking." ~Elayne Boosler
Chapter Fifteen – Penalties for High Sticking?
I ran as fast and as hard as I could. I just had to get away. The pain of the last few weeks only turning out to be lies was tearing at my soul, breaking my heart into pieces. Part of me wanted to go back to my room and burrow under the covers while I licked my wounds, but I didn't want him showing up there.
I had to go somewhere else. Somewhere he wouldn't think to look for me. Or somewhere that he wouldn't think he'd find me. The idea struck and I slightly changed course and raced back to the library.
I dug my ID out of my bag as I ran, hoping that someone would still be there. When I rounded the last corner, I could see Mrs. Cope's car was gone, but there was a guy sitting on the front steps smoking a cigarette. He was wearing a maintenance uniform and I imagined he was on the crew fixing the water main break.
I stopped in front of him, my breath panting in and out, partially from my exertion but mostly from my crying. My hands were on my knees and my head was hanging limply in front of me. I just needed to catch my breath.
After a moment, I shakily held out my hand and showed him my ID. "I forgot something inside, may I please go in?"
He looked back and forth for a moment before shrugging his shoulders. "No skin off mine. But don't go flushing all kinds of toilets and turning on the sinks. The water's shut off in this building. If there's any funny business, I'll remember you." Then he went back to his cigarette and pretended I wasn't there.
I ran up the steps and into the only shelter I had ever known. If I was stressed out about a test, I always went to the library. When Charlie was particularly down about Renee and wanted solitude, I went to the library. And when I felt alone in the small pond of people I'd gone to school with, I went to the library.
I figured if I was going to get away with this, I would need to find somewhere to hide. I went to the second level study areas and picked the very far back cubicle. I collapsed into the chair and buried my face in my arms on the desk. The dam broke again and the tears came forward.
All that time I thought I had been special. He had actually spent time with me, talked to me, and laughed with me. I felt betrayed, and oh so broken. I briefly wondered if Edward had been sexually active with that girl. Was that the reason he was with her like that? Because I hadn't had sex with him yet?
I thought back to all of the time we had spent together. Not one of those times had Edward tried to push me further in our relationship. Anytime we were alone, he made sure we were still in a public place. That couldn't have been the reason. But who knew?
My heart was being squeezed in my chest as I sat there crying, wondering what was going on in my life. This was why I hadn't wanted to get involved with anyone. There was too much pain associated with love.
To think I actually wondered if I might be falling in love with Edward. Or imagining that I could be in love with him someday. All of that felt silly now. A pipedream thought up by a silly little girl. Lazy Sunday mornings with breakfast in bed. Candlelit dinners al fresco when it was nice. Romance at its finest.
I guess I wouldn't be getting any of that now. This is what I got for wishing. Nothing good ever came from putting all of you into another person. There really was no one out there that you could trust implicitly. You always needed to look out for you first. At least when it came to relationships.
I lost track of time while I sat there in the library and cried. No one came looking for me, no one that could find me at least. The man truly had forgotten about me and there was some relief in that. I could sit here as long as I wanted to.
Some part deep down told me that I should at least call Alice and let her know where I was, but I didn't want Edward to find out in any way. I didn't think I could face him right now. I knew I would have to at some point, but now was not the time.
I curled up as much as I could and continued to rock myself. I must have fallen asleep at some point, because the next thing I knew, Mrs. Cope was gently shaking me awake.
"Bella, dear. Is everything okay?" Her eyes were sympathetic, like she knew why I had spent the night here in the library.
I could feel my stinging eyes welling up with tears once more. It seemed I would never be finished shedding tears over the likes of Edward Cullen.
"I'm fine. Or I will be. I'm sorry for coming back here after it was closed." I didn't want to get in trouble either. I didn't know how she would react to me sleeping there.
Her motherly face settled into a soft smile. "I'm sure it was necessary. Now let's get you up so you can get back to your room. Your roommates must be beside themselves with worry." She really was fantastic. She could sense that I didn't want a fuss made and I certainly didn't want to talk about why I was here.
"Yes ma'am." I gratefully pulled myself together and made my way into the morning sunshine. I walked the few blocks back to my dorm quickly, not wanting to be stopped along the way.
I crossed my fingers when I made it to the dorm and raced up the stairs as quickly as I could. With my key in hand, I dashed down the hall and quickly darted into my room. Alice and Rosalie were huddled on the couch together, both of them asleep.
The sight of my two friends waiting for me on the couch brought the traitorous tears back. Who knew Rose cared that much? Maybe she wasn't so bad after all. At least she was opening up to me. I walked over and crouched in front of them, reaching out a hand to brush over their intertwined ones.
They both jolted at the contact with my cold hand and their eyes flew open, both gazes falling on my face. Shock ran over their faces before I was assaulted by both, the three of us landing in a heap on the floor. Rosalie clung to me while Alice chattered away.
"Bella! Oh my God, Bella! We were so worried about you. Where have you been? What's going on? No one knew where you were or how to find you. We must have scoured the entire campus before Edward would let us come back here to wait." She kept chattering away, not giving me a chance to answer any of it.
"He was devastated Bella. He's beside himself with worry and worked himself up into quite a panic. I've never seen someone lose control so completely as when we couldn't find you. He was ready to start calling the police or the hospitals. I don't think he slept all night, running up here to check if you'd come back and leaving again immediately to search the whole campus again."
I thanked whatever gods had allowed me the peace of making it home without the confrontation of Edward. I knew now that it wasn't something I was strong enough to handle right now. So I just gathered my friends to me and we held each other while I told them what happened the night before.
They both kept exchanging glances over my head while I was telling them about Tanya and neither one of them seemed to want to tell me what was going on. I couldn't find it in me to care though, all I wanted to do was go in my room and hide away from the world.
I asked them once again to bar Edward from the room. Neither of them asked questions, they both just agreed. Once that was ensured, I made my way to the bedroom and crawled under my covers. I contemplated skipping my classes for the day. Nothing new was being covered but I couldn't feel justified skipping my class.
In the end, I decided to go ahead and go to class. I couldn't hide from my problems forever. Might as well face them head on. First, I needed to take a quick nap. All of the excitement from the night before was catching up to me and I was feeling pretty worn out.
When I closed my eyes, I dreamt of Edward. He was with that girl again, but this time they were dancing and he was kissing her. Or wait… he wasn't kissing her. She was kissing him, and he was trying to push her away. My heart was racing as I saw him finally break away from her and turn to frantically search the crowd.
His eyes locked on mine and the look in them took my breath away. There was such hunger in his eyes, and it was for me. My dream Edward didn't want the pretty girl with the beautiful strawberry blonde hair. My dream Edward wanted me.
He stopped in front of me and traced his finger over my face. When I turned my face into his palm, he cupped my cheek and stroked it. He was so gentle and tender with me. He brushed my hair out of my face and stared deep into my eyes. A sad smile touched his lips before he turned and started making his way back through the crowd.
I heard his name escape through my parted lips. Why was he leaving? Was I pushing him away too? He stopped and turned back toward me. As he made his way back, I spoke his name again. Just his name. One word. "Edward." A look of determination crossed his face and then he was gone.
I ran through the crowd, searching for him everywhere. He was nowhere to be found. I woke with a start, looking around the room, seeking Edward. My dreams were traitorous now too. They were trying to convince me he wanted me. It was too bad they were wrong.
Wednesday passed in much the same fashion as it always had, with the exception of Edward not being there. When I turned my phone back on, I had missed dozens and dozens of calls from him. Actually, everyone had been trying to call me. I felt bad for making everyone worry, but there was nothing that could be done about that now.
I deleted his messages without reading them. I didn't want an explanation; I just wanted to be done with him. I was so grateful by the end of the day that other than some text messages and an ignored phone call or two, Edward was keeping his distance. But that didn't help my dreams on Wednesday night.
Once again my dream Edward would search for me. When he found me he would treat me with the most gentle affection, then he would walk away. It was driving me mad. I didn't want him, but I craved him. I hoped this too would pass.
On Thursday, I made my way to our shared class with a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. I had managed, thus far, to not have any face to face contact with him. While it had been fairly difficult to handle rejecting his calls and texts, I knew it would be nearly impossible to ignore him up close and personal. I would have to stay strong.
The classroom was nearly empty when I took my seat. With only a couple minutes before the start of class and no Edward, I thought I would get lucky. No sooner had the thought crossed my mind than a familiar head of bronze hair rushed into the room. He stopped dead in his tracks, his eyes zeroed in on mine. Neither of us moved or breathed, both of us terrified of what was to come.
He made his way across the room slowly and stopped right next to me. He stared for a moment before plopping himself down and trying to gain my attention.
"Bella…" his voice was scratchy, like he hadn't been using it much. "I really need to talk to you after…"
I didn't let him say anything else. I grabbed my book and my bag and made my way to a new seat. One closer to the door. Once I had myself resituated, I glanced over and noticed the hurt flash over his face. It made me feel petty, but I wasn't ready for this yet. I was afraid I would just jump in his arms without asking for an apology.
Thankfully, Edward kept his distance and once class was finished, I ran out of there as fast as I could. I managed to make it back to the room before I broke down once more. Why did I ever think I could get through a day seeing him without touching him? Why had I let myself get so attached?
I hurt everywhere. I was supposed to be having coffee with Edward right now. Or lunch. We were supposed to be laughing about something that had happened to us. We should be discussing the book we were reading in our class. There shouldn't be this weirdness, this isolation.
Work that night was difficult too. An hour before close I started watching the door, waiting for Edward to come in with my coffee, but he didn't show. I didn't know whether I was relieved or hurt. And then that made me feel fickle. Hadn't I said I wanted him to stay away from me? Now I wasn't so sure.
After clocking out, I gathered my things and made my way out of the building. I stopped in my tracks when I saw Edward sitting on the wall across from me. His head was down and his shoulders were slumped. The wind, which had started to pick up as the season got colder, blew his hair into a riotous disarray. I must have gasped or made some other noise because his head shot up and his eyes burned into mine.
He hopped off the wall and stalked toward me. I felt cornered and was ready to spit and claw at him when he stopped five feet in front of me. He sighed and looked down at the ground again. When his eyes met mine again, the storm in them was calming.
"I promise I won't touch you, or even talk to you if you don't want me to. I just need to make sure you get home okay. I can't handle another night like the other night."
I swallowed the lump in my throat before nodding and making my way past him. I hadn't really believed when Alice and Rose said he was frightened the other night. Didn't think he really cared, but I could see the panic and the terror in his eyes tonight. It was just a reflection of what he must have gone through and it made me feel bad that I had caused that inadvertently.
As I walked back toward my dorm, I was hyper-aware of Edward's proximity. As promised, he wasn't close enough to touch me, but he was close enough behind me that I could feel the pull of his body to mine. The current was still sparking away between us, and that terrified me.
I could feel his eyes boring into the back of my head. Watching me like a hawk. I wanted so badly to relieve the tension between us somehow, but I didn't know how to approach it. I was still deeply hurt and wasn't ready to talk to him yet. So I walked in silence.
When we got to our floor I was afraid of what was going to happen next. Was he going to walk me to my door? Was he going to try to kiss me? Would I stop him? As I started past the corner, I felt him breeze past me quickly and saw him heading down the hall toward his room. I thought I heard a faint, "I love you," but I brushed it off.
My skin was still humming from being so close to him and I just needed to escape everything. The girls had been giving me my space. Ever since we had sat down and hashed the whole night out. They told me about the piano lessons and about Royce and about everything Edward had been keeping from me.
Part of me was hurt that he hadn't told me sooner and relieved that it was all a misunderstanding. The other part of me was skeptical. I had seen the way she was leaning over him. I saw the look on his face when he was playing the piano. He had never shared that with me, and I was oddly hurt by that. Of course as her teacher, he would show her how she was supposed to play, but this piece seemed more intimate than something a teacher would normally play for a student.
I told myself I was being ridiculous, but that didn't stop it from continuing. For the rest of the weekend I locked myself in my room, away from Edward. Monday none of the three of us had classes, so we sat around talking again. They had decided that I needed to come out of my funk. It was time to stop moping in my bed.
There was some girly movie on television that I wasn't watching. Instead, I was listening intently to what Alice and Rose were telling me. I wasn't ready to talk about the situation with Edward and Tanya yet, and when I was ready, it was something I needed to discuss with him. But I did want to hear all about what the guys had to say about Royce.
They had all come clean, telling the girls of the rumors they had heard. Of course, they said there was no way to prove anything, but they wanted to pass along the warning. They also asked that Rose not mention it to Royce. It all sounded so far-fetched, like a last ditch effort to make the group whole, but it felt like the truth.
Rose was surprisingly close-mouthed about it. She promised she would be careful, but she said she had seen no indication or predilection for violence in him. It wasn't that she outright didn't believe the guys; she was just trying to be fair to Royce too. She justified that since they were rumors, they may have been blown out of proportion.
I had a bad feeling about it all, but I brushed it aside. I didn't want to dwell on what could be. If Rose said she was going to be careful, I had to believe her. That didn't mean that I wouldn't try to keep an eye open though. That's what friends did, right? And whether or not we wanted to admit it, Rose and I were slowly becoming friends.
On Tuesday morning when I woke up, I debated once more skipping class. I knew I would have to talk to Edward sooner or later; I was just opting for later. I decided that it wouldn't hurt me much to skip one class, especially since I still needed to pack for my trip home tomorrow. The cab was already scheduled; I just needed to be ready when it came to get me to take me to the airport.
Once the girls had gone to class, I pulled everything out from under my bed again. My duffel bag was way in the back and I had to partially crawl under the bed to reach it. Jake's hockey stick was poking me in the side, so I put it on top of the bed.
Once I got it out, I put it on the bed as well and started pulling out clothes that I would be taking home. Charlie was going to flip when he saw some of the things Alice had purchased for me. I wondered briefly how much I had changed since leaving Forks a few months ago.
When I was nearly done packing my duffel, I heard the outer door open and close. The voices were muffled, but I could tell one of them was Rosalie. I didn't want to get caught in the room, but at the same time I couldn't exactly leave right now, so I decided to wait it out.
After a moment I heard the voices, raised in anger.
"I said 'no' Royce." I could hear her anger. I imagined she had her hands on her hips.
"And I said I'm tired of putting forth all of this effort and getting nothing in return. Do you know how many girls would love to be wined and dined by me? Plenty. So how about a little less arguing and a lot more action?" Royce. The bastard. He was trying to coerce Rose into sleeping with him. Swine.
"You conceited asshole. I am not a fucking whore!" Rosalie was screeching now. I was wondering if I should go out there now and try to diffuse this situation. Then I heard a crashing noise and Rose was yelling 'no' over and over. I heard a muffled 'get off me' before I heard the sound of fabric ripping.
That was the last coherent thought that went through my head. Royce had Rose pinned down and was ripping her clothes off. I had heard her say no. I turned and looked around the room for anything I could use as a weapon. My eyes fell on my bed and I sent up a silent prayer that Jake would forgive me.
The hockey stick felt awkward in my hands. I had no idea how I was supposed to even hold it. I decided on holding it over my head so I could slash down for maximum damage.
I quietly opened the door and peeked out into the common area. Royce did indeed have Rose pinned on the couch and she was silently crying. I prayed that I wasn't too late and rushed the room. Of course, being me, I stumbled and alerted Royce to my presence. He jumped up off the couch and swung around toward me, ready for me. I had lost the element of surprise.
When he came toward me, I tried to swing at him, but my fear was nearly incapacitating me. All of the momentum I had worked up was gone and I was seriously afraid. Royce's eyes were wild and I knew in that moment he had no intention of leaving witnesses, at least not talking ones. He grabbed the hockey stick and tried to jerk it out of my hands and instinct took over. He was vulnerable for one brief shining moment and I took my chance. I brought my knee up as hard as I could, right between his legs.
Shock crossed his face before he let go of the stick and grabbed himself, falling to his knees in the process. He was kneeled before me, like I was his executioner and the power in that brought my courage back. I raised the stick up over my head once more, swinging down with all my might. The hockey stick hit Royce across the back of his shoulders and shattered. Royce arched back once sharply in pain before he was unconscious, falling back on top of Rose.
I threw down the hockey stick with shaking hands and grabbed the back of his shirt to roll him off of Rose. She was trembling beneath him, still silently crying. She had a dark bruise forming over the right side of her face.
I gathered Rose into my side and half dragged, half carried her away from Royce's crumpled form. I grabbed the phone from its cradle and dialed campus police while I held the shaking Rose in my arms. I quickly described the situation to the operator and hung up, waiting for them to come and take him away.
Rose's soft voice broke the silence. "They were right. They tried to warn me and I didn't believe them. I'm sorry, Bella."
"Shh, Rose. None of this is your fault. I heard you tell him no." I was rocking her back and forth, trying my best to calm her down.
I ran my hands up and down her arms. I wanted to go and get her something to cover herself back up with, but I was afraid to leave her alone there. Instead, I wrapped my arms more fully around her and held her as close to my body as I could.
Campus police came and escorted Royce away. They stayed to question Rose and myself, and the whole time I continued to hold her and rock her. Her voice sounded so tired, and while I knew she hadn't been sexually violated, she still felt unclean and unsafe.
Alice came tearing in the room shortly after Royce had been taken away. Apparently the entire campus had heard about what happened even though the details were a little fuzzy. All I knew was that my days of anonymity were over. Now everyone would know who Bella Swan was. I looked down at Rose, who was openly clinging to me, and knew that it was worth it. She was worth it. My friend, a best friend.
As soon as I made a move to go after Bella, Tanya threw herself in my direction.
"Oh! Edward, I'm so sorry! I didn't know she was out there." She was batting her eyes at me, trying her best to look innocent. I wasn't buying it. I didn't know how she did it, but somehow she had orchestrated this whole thing.
Whether or not Tanya thought she could stop me from going after Bella, she had certainly given Bella the means for escape. By the time I had shoved Tanya aside and made my way out of the building, Bella was long gone.
I ran anyway, ran to anywhere I thought I might find her. I ran to the dorm, racing up the stairs, and pounding on her door. I was desperate to see her, to explain to her. I needed to tell her everything.
A very annoyed Rose opened the door. "Can I help you?" Her perfectly sculpted brow raised into her hairline.
"I need Bella." No truer words had ever been spoken. I did need Bella. Down to my soul, I needed Bella.
"Bella's not here, loverboy. She works at the library tonight. I thought you knew that." She was trying to dismiss me, and while I knew what she was saying was true, I also knew that I had just seen Bella at the Hopkins Center when she should have been working at the library.
Either way, it was possible that Bella could have gone back to the library. Without another word, I ran back down the hallway and out into the night air. My bag slapped against my hip as I ran, but I didn't care. I just needed to get to Bella.
The library came into sight and I stopped for a moment in confusion. The normally brightly lit building only had its exterior lights on. I made my way up the path and up the few steps that led to the door. There was a note taped to the glass.
LIBRARY CLOSED DUE
TO WATER MAIN BREAK
It wasn't likely Bella was inside. The doors were locked. I gave them a quick shake anyway, hoping maybe I'd luck out. When they didn't budge, I wondered where else she might have gone.
I ran to the coffee shop, almost certain that I would walk in and see her sitting at our table. She wasn't there either. I ran through the entire campus, yelling for her, looking everywhere I could think of, just urgently trying to find my Bella.
When I had looked everywhere, I ran back to her dorm, hoping against hope that she would be safe in her room. I found Emmett and Jasper there holding a very worried looking Rose and Alice. I knew it wasn't going to be good news.
"She hasn't been back. I called the library but they're closed, Edward. Where could she be?" Alice's soft voice penetrated through the haze that was settling over my brain. Bella was missing.
The guys were shooting me worried glances, not sure how I would handle this. Honestly, I wasn't sure how I was handling it either. At this point, I was fairly numb. Nothing was getting through. My body was in shock at the fact that Bella was missing. My beautiful, innocent, sweet Bella was out there somewhere, and no one knew how to find her.
I jumped to my feet, startling everyone. "What about her cell phone? Have you tried calling her cell phone?" I was frantically trying to think of some way to get a hold of her, to make sure she was okay.
Rose's eyes met mine and I could see the panic creeping in. "We tried that Edward. For a little while it would ring before going to voicemail. Now it's going straight to voicemail."
No one wanted to voice the concern of whether she had shut her phone off on her own or not, especially not me. It was, however, in the forefront of everyone's mind. You could see it written on all of their faces. They all thought Bella might have been taken.
I paced around the room, yanking at my hair. I was trying to come up with ideas. Anything we could do to find her. At some point, I demanded everyone go out around campus in vehicles to look for any sign of Bella.
We checked in with each other at regular intervals, but no one had found anything that led to Bella. By 3 AM I was frantic. We had convened back in their room, praying she had come home while we were out, but she hadn't. There was still no sign of Bella.
I suggested calling the police, or calling the hospitals. No one thought that idea had any merit. I wasn't so sure. I'd seen Bella in action, and the girl was clumsy. I decided that I'd call them on my own when I was out driving. Maybe I'd get lucky there instead.
The girls were both on edge and getting tired, which made them bitchy. They wanted to wait at the dorm, in case Bella came home. I couldn't fault them for their logic, but I wanted to rage that Bella was out there somewhere. We needed to find her.
I still called her cell phone like clockwork, hoping she would turn it back on. So far that hadn't happened either. I made my way back outside and began my drive around the campus again. I went down every single street, not even knowing what the hell to really look for. I was praying for a miracle.
Everything was dark by now and I couldn't see anything outside of the beam of my headlight. I knew it was fruitless to continue searching, but I couldn't allow myself to stop. What if I turned the next corner and saw her on the side of the street, in need of a ride? I couldn't write off that chance. She was out here somewhere.
I tried to focus on something else other than the fear that was coursing through me. I remembered the first time I saw her, sprawled beneath me in a stairwell, her hair fanning out everywhere enveloping us both. I thought about her blush and the way it would creep along her skin and stain her features.
I thought about the way her lips moved with mine when I kissed her. The way her body felt under my hands. Everything about her was so perfect and appealing. She had no idea the draw she had. And now there was the possibility that someone out there was taking advantage of the girl I loved.
I pinched the bridge of my nose between my fingers and calmed my breathing. I focused on Bella again and let the images wash over me. Her laughter, reaching deep down into me and touching my soul. The way her eyes would light up when she really smiled. The hint of mischief that lurked there.
I closed my eyes and willed the images to come. Her glasses slipping down the bridge of her nose while she was studying. Her hair falling over her shoulder, begging for my hands to get lost in it. The little line that would appear between her eyes when she was concentrating. Image after image bombarded my brain.
The dreamy look that would come over her face when she was reading one of her favorites. The fierce look of determination she'd get when someone was teasing her. But mostly, I thought about her voice. I could hear her voice, whispering in my ear. My name, spilling from her lips over and over. Oh God, what would I do without her?
My phone chirped, alerting me to a new message. I opened my eyes and noticed that the sky had lightened. I didn't know how long I had wasted, dreaming in my car of Bella. Glancing at the clock I noticed it was 7:30. I flipped my phone open and saw a text from Alice. My heart was pounding in my ears and I was scared to open it.
Cursing myself for being ten different kinds of a fool, I pushed the button and her words popped on the screen:
She's home. ~A
And suddenly all was right in my world again. Even if she was mad at me and wouldn't talk to me, I knew my angel was okay. She was home, and that's all that mattered right now. I sent a quick thanks in reply and laid my head against my steering wheel. I felt my eyes welling up and clenched my hands into fists. I couldn't believe the girl had brought me to tears.
It wasn't that I didn't trust Alice, I did. I just wanted to see for myself that Bella was okay. I knew it was risky, but it was a chance I was willing to take. I pointed my car back in the direction of home and took off like a shot. I wanted to see Bella.
When I got to their room, both Alice and Rose looked pretty haggard, but their smiles softened when they saw me. I could see the apology on both of their faces and I knew I wasn't going to get anywhere. That didn't stop me from trying.
"I just need to see her. I just need to see that she's okay."
Rose glanced over her shoulder before he voice dropped to a whisper. "I don't know if that's such a good idea right now, Edward. She had a pretty rough night."
A million different scenarios ran through my head at that. What could she have gone through last night? I was working myself into a panic again before Rose placed a hand on my arm.
"She's not hurt, Edward. Not physically at least. She's just a little broken right now and needs some time to herself."
I knew she was being reasonable, but I didn't feel very reasonable at the moment. I needed to hit something, to punch it and pummel it. I needed to vent my useless rage against something.
"What about how I feel, Rose? Doesn't that matter? I spent all night imagining her tied up somewhere and not able to get help! Doesn't that entitle me to at least fucking see that she's unharmed?"
Both Alice and Rose gasped and stepped back from the anger that was pouring off of me.
Alice reached forward and slowly drew me into the room. "I know, Edward. But you have to think of how seeing you with Tanya might have looked to Bella. I'm not saying you were doing anything wrong, I'm just saying you have to look at her perspective."
I opened my mouth to speak again, but she bowled me over. "She's sleeping right now. I'll let you peek in on her, even though she begged us not to, just so you can see she's fine. But I swear to God, Edward, if you wake her up or do anything to upset her, I'll rip you apart myself."
I was grateful to the little pixie. More grateful than I'd ever been for anything else in my life. Without a word, I made my way over to the bedroom door and quietly let myself in. Soft sunlight filtered into the room and a few rays highlighted Bella's sleeping form. I silently made my way across the room and crouched down next to her bed, taking in her tired face.
She had dark circles under her eyes, indicating a restless night. I could sympathize with her there. Her dark lashes kissed her cheekbones and I couldn't resist reaching out to touch. She sighed when my finger made contact with her skin and she turned her face into my hand. I cupped her cheek and brushed any wayward hair out of the way.
I could feel her breath fanning across my skin and nothing had ever felt better. I wanted to gather her into my arms, but that wouldn't do. Instead, I just sat and watched her for a few minutes. When I figured I'd pushed my luck, I gained my feet and made my way back to the door. Then she spoke my name.
I turned on my heel, ready to justify being in her room, ready to beg her to take me back, but she was still sleeping. She curled up a little tighter and whimpered. I walked back over again just in time to hear it again. "Edward." Her voice was soft and my name was said on a sigh.
I couldn't stop the smile that touched my lips. Bella talked in her sleep. Bella was talking about me in her sleep. Surely that had to count for something. If she was dreaming about me, I could work with that. I just needed to give her time. As much as it killed me, I would need to do that too.
I made my way out of their room, nodded thanks to both Alice and Rose, and made my way back to my room. Exhaustion was creeping in, but I was afraid to close my eyes. Now that I knew she was safe, my imagination was going wild with what could have happened. None of it was pleasant. All of it was grim.
Restless sleep finally overtook me and I dreamed of Bella, gone. I skipped classes for the day. I couldn't handle being around people just yet; I needed to get myself in order. I had been so afraid the night before, afraid that something had happened to Bella. I knew now that I couldn't handle life without her. I would do whatever needed to be done to win her back.
Apparently she wanted her space for now. At least that's the message she was sending by not answering my calls or my text messages. I held my phone all night, willing it to ring or chirp at me. I went to bed disappointed.
Thursday, I approached our class with nervous apprehension. I knew she probably wouldn't talk to me. I wasn't delusional enough to think she was ready for that yet, but I had to see her. I needed to be near her. I stood in the hallway outside of the classroom, running my hands through my hair.
Finally, when I couldn't wait any longer, I walked in the room. My eyes immediately fell on Bella. She was watching me, a wary look in her eye. I was frozen in place. My body was craving her nearness so badly though, I couldn't hold out. I made my way over and sat next to her. Really, I was planning on giving her the distance she wanted, but my heart had other ideas.
"Bella…" my throat and mouth were dry from disuse. I hadn't had anything to say to anyone since she had come back. "I really need to talk to you after…"
Before I could finish the statement, she had gathered her things and moved across the room to sit by the door. I felt the pain of rejection wash over me. She didn't want me anymore. This was going to be harder than I thought.
I sat through the lesson and didn't bother her once, even if I did stare at her when she wasn't looking. She looked so tired, I wanted to gather her up and rock her to sleep. But she would never allow that, certainly not now.
After class I followed her back to the dorm, from a safe distance of course. I didn't want her to think I was stalking her, even if I was. As soon as she was safe in her room, I went to mine and lay on my bed, staring at the ceiling. I was missing our routine. Missing the way we would have lunch after class, sitting and talking. I wanted to go down and pound on her door and demand her presence, but that wouldn't solve anything.
I looked at the clock and realized I would have to be leaving soon for my lesson with Tanya. Suddenly, I didn't have any desire at all to play. Bella had become my muse, and without her, I had no soul. How can you put your heart into the music if you no longer have a soul? I figured it served Tanya right though. I'd be as unpleasant to her as I possibly could.
With a new determination, I made my way down to the Hopkins Center. I sat in the room, waiting for Tanya. I did not play. When she arrived, I began barking out orders and berating her for her lack of progress. Was she not practicing? Did she think this was a game? I had better things to do with my time than waste it on someone with no desire to learn.
For an hour I hounded her. I criticized her posture, I ridiculed her hands, and I overall made as big of an ass out of myself as I could. When the lesson was over, she fled from the room with tears in her eyes. Good.
Since I had no desire to play anymore, I skipped my private practice time and went down to the coffee shop. Garrett, the barista, smiled at me when I walked in.
"Ain't cha a little early, boy-o?" Since Bella and I frequented this place, Garrett had come to know our habits and coffee preferences.
"I lost my muse," I said, solemnly. His eyes scanned mine as he began preparing my drink.
"Perhaps you ain't lookin in the right place. Or maybe it ain't actually gone and you just got yer head up yer ass." He handed me my usual, with a wink, and sauntered away.
I sat in the corner and pondered what he said. Crazy old man might have a point. I'd have to let Bella know I had no intention of staying completely away from her.
At 5 til 8, I made my way over to the library. Even if she wouldn't talk to me, I had to make certain she made it back to her room okay. I couldn't handle another night with her missing. That would break me.
I sat on the wall across from the entrance and waited. I didn't have long to wait. Nearly right on the dot, Bella emerged from the library. I felt her presence as I sat there, staring at the walk in front of me. I looked up and took her in. She had a heavier jacket on and a scarf was wrapped lazily around her neck. Her messenger bag was slung across her shoulders. She was perfection.
I stood and walked toward her. I couldn't help the predatory gleam in my eye. She was mine and I had every intention of keeping her. Her back went up and I could see the claws coming out. Now wasn't the time to have her hissing and spitting at me though. Now was the time to let her know I was persistent.
I stopped a few feet away and gave her the most honest statement I had ever given anyone. "I promise I won't touch you, or even talk to you if you don't want me to. I just need to make sure you get home okay. I can't handle another night like the other night."
That seemed to do the trick. She walked past me and made her way toward the dorms. I followed right behind, staring at her the entire way. I couldn't stop myself. I was afraid she would vanish if I so much as blinked.
When we finally made it to our floor, I was almost delirious. Having her so close and not being able to touch her was wreaking havoc on my nerves. I wanted to sweep her up and confess my undying love. I wanted to lavish her with all the love and attention she deserved. But she wanted distance. I would have to suppress my emotions for a bit longer.
When she started past my turn, I nearly wept in gratitude. Holding it all in was nearly painful. I brushed by her as quickly as I could because I could feel the dam breaking. Before I could get far enough away though, a whispered 'I love you' escaped.
Every day after that was pure hell. She was avoiding me, and according to Jasper, she had moped in her room all weekend. My guilt knew no bounds. I had broken her. On Tuesday I had hoped to see her in class, but she still wasn't coming out of her room apparently.
I sat through that English class and wondered what she was doing. I wondered how long she was staying with her dad, and what time her flight was supposed to be leaving tomorrow. I had desperately wanted to talk to her about her Thanksgiving plans, but I still was ashamed to tell her about my dysfunctional life. I vowed to change that too. I would stop hiding things from Bella altogether. Honesty would be a new priority for me.
When class was dismissed, I made my way out of the building. Everyone was buzzing about some big news. I could hear snippets of conversations here and there, but tried my best to just make it through the crowd. That was until a name stopped me dead in my tracks.
"Yeah, well I heard some girl named Bella beat the hell out of him before he raped her. That Rose is lucky her roommate skipped class."
All the blood rushed from my face. What in the hell had happened? I spun around to confront the people I had just heard, but lost them in the crowd. Everything else ceased to matter. All I knew was that once again, Bella was in some kind of danger. Not that she really had been in danger last week, but we hadn't known that at the time. This time, however, she really was involved in something.
As I ran I heard more and more people talking. They were all talking about the same thing. Bella Swan. I laughed at the irony of it. The small-town girl that craved her solitude had just become a campus celebrity in mere moments.
I saw Alice with Jasper and rushed forward, pushing through the crowd around our building.
"What the hell is going on?" I shouted above the noise.
Alice was clinging to Jasper, who was methodically working his way toward the door. "We're not entirely sure," he replied. "Campus Police just left a few minutes ago with Royce. He was cuffed and looked pretty dazed."
I could feel the ice burning through my veins. If he had laid one hand on Bella, I would tear him to shreds. Jasper continued while I suffered through not knowing how she was.
"Alice called ahead, Bella and Rose are fine. Rose is a little shaken up, but overall everyone is just grateful Bella happened to be home. There was something about a hockey stick too, but the details are a little vague."
We pushed our way into the building and raced up the stairs. Alice rushed into the room, but Jasper and I were stopped. We were told that Rose needed a little space right now and we should probably leave her be for awhile. I glanced in the open door and felt everything settle once more. Bella was propped up against the opposite wall. She was looking down at Rosalie. They were holding each other. She was okay.
Tanya had been my best friend since I could remember. Our mothers were close, so we often found ourselves stuck with each other. It was plainly obvious who the prettier and more popular of the two of us was. Tanya would always win in that regard. I felt lucky to be in her shadow.
When we were in Jr. High, she gave me my first assignment. I had to make sure it looked like Felix was cheating on a test. Simple really. A planted list of the answers and a call for the teacher's assistance while I was sitting next to him… piece of cake. Tanya had been happy when Felix was suspended for cheating. I guess he shouldn't have broken her heart.
Years later it was Demetri. He said he was done fucking Tanya. She said he wasn't. He should have listened. That ended badly for him. I was always willing to sacrifice myself for Tanya. Even if it meant letting that asshole paw all over me and then screaming rape. Demetri was still in jail for that. Like I said, he should have listened.
There were a lot of people that said I was crazy. They said that Tanya used me, that she only cared about herself. They were all jealous. I was best friends with Tanya McKinley and they weren't. Smart people knew that if you pissed her off I'd come after you. Unfortunately for this new girl, she didn't know enough to be smart.
When Tanya picked Dartmouth, her daddy got a hold of the entire list of male students that would be going there, their major, and their family history. She researched for weeks, trying to find the perfect man to take care of her. She deserved it. Beautiful girls like Tanya always get what they want.
Finally, she had made her selection. Edward Cullen didn't stand a chance. When Tanya said he would be hers, he had no idea what was in store for him. She had every intention of marrying him. And like I said, she gets what she wants.
Only a week into the start of school and Tanya came home from her piano practice looking really upset. Apparently Edward didn't know he was supposed to play along. He didn't know that no one said no to Tanya. It was a shame. The poor bastard was pretty cute, and I was upset to have to mar his pretty face.
Then she threw me for a loop. She wanted me to watch the girl, this Swan girl. Just watch, and then report my findings back to Tanya. So while I wasn't doing anything else, I followed Bella. She spent a lot of free time with Edward, and it made me angry to see her kissing him. Didn't she know he belonged to Tanya?
My rage burned through me with a white hot intensity. I wanted to hurt her, to maim her. No one took things away from my best friend. No one. But Tanya didn't say to touch her. She said to watch, so I did what Tanya told me to do. Imagine my surprise when I found her heading right for the Hopkins Center during Tanya's lesson. Perhaps I could use this to my advantage.
I quickly texted Tanya and let her know that Bella was apparently coming to look for her man. If Tanya was quick, she could easily thwart the girl. It didn't take long for the plan to pay off.
I watched as the girl came running out of the building, crying. I felt oddly pleased with myself. Tanya would be proud. I had done my part. Mission Accomplished.
Author's Note: My heart breaks for both of them. Neither experienced enough with love to know how to move past this obstacle. I'm betting they'll be able to now.
An important thing to note – I went back to the prologue and changed Bella's age. When I initially started this story, I didn't realize how difficult it would be to write out six years time. Four years seemed so much more doable, so that's the reason for the change.
A big thanks goes out to the review team: Joy, Kelly, Lillie, Jessica, and Amanda. And another huge thanks to Jen for being my most wonderful beta. She rocks my socks. All of these ladies do.
Now, everyone should run off to read Maybe I'm Amazed by AliceDances01. It's amazing people. Edward and Bella work at a coffee shop together in high school. They go their separate ways, neither letting the other know how they really feel, and then they cross paths again in college. You won't be sorry, I promise.
Now, I want to apologize for not replying to reviews very quickly. I had some email fail and missed some of them, so if you left a review and I didn't reply… my sincere apologies. I read every one and appreciate all of the comments left for me. So please hit that little button down there and let me know what you thought!