{I do not own any of these characters; they all belong to Stephenie Meyer}

Thank you Mandi1! Thank you HopeStreet! Thank you getdrunkonvictory! Thank you Kismit1496!

"Thanks." I was almost proud of the fake calmness in my voice. It sounded real even to me.

I decided then I could do this. I could pretend I wasn't affected by Edward in anyway, no one will know. We could be adults about this, broken, exhausted and fed up adults. Edward and I could be strangers again. Strangers without a future, without a present and most definitely without a past; without our past.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

I was livid – absolutely and utterly livid. There was no good enough reason to be. I had no right to be, but I wanted to punch something to a bloody pulp and watch it die. As soon as she stepped out of the room and closed the door behind her, I practically threw my laptop at Mike and began to pace. My body was an atomic bomb, armed with a deadly combination of jealousy, regret and disappointment. There was a high probability of me exploding and bringing the entire building down with me. I knew from the beginning there would be a chance that Bella had moved on, a great chance that she had found someone and I was long forgotten. Still, I had hoped that there was a chance for me to make amends for my sins and at least have an opportunity to build something that could show her I had learned my lesson. Nothing is ever as easy as you think it might be.

He made her laugh, openly and freely, and he wrapped her up so tightly she couldn't see anything around her. She couldn't see me sitting there, trying to remember how to breathe, on the verge of combustion. She looked amazing, just as much as she had when she had been here last. God, she was absolutely breathtaking, and she now belonged to someone else. I felt like I was looking at her for the first time all over again, and my memory of that first time didn't do her justice.

"Don't look so gutted. You knew there was a chance this would happen," Mike spoke from his spot at the end of the bed. I wanted to strangle him. He was partly to blame. I would have given up long ago if he hadn't gone and convinced me that Bella might still feel something for me although she was declining all my calls. I felt like such an idiot. She had been declining my calls because she had someone else. God, how many times had I called and interrupted a conversation, a date, a kiss or even worse…

"Fuck! I'm so stupid! I should have stayed in Oxford. I should have taken that stupid job and–" I was quickly interrupted by Mike's angry words.

"You were offered a job in Oxford, you bloody pluke?" He was standing in front of me now, that angry face of his doing nothing to ease the anger that was already coursing through me. It wasn't a good idea to go at it with Mike right now, or ever for that matter.

"I don't fucking want to hear it, alright? It was a last minute offer. Besides, I've screwed up so badly with everyone here, making plans to come back and then to change my plans… staying… indefinitely… wouldn't really have gone that well. Besides, I was pretty sure my scholarship wasn't going… You know what? Fuck you! I don't have to explain anything to you! I don't fucking have to explain anything to anyone… It was my call and fuck it!" I sat back down on the edge of the bed and reached for the beer I had placed on my night stand. I chugged it down like it was vitamin water and I had just ran a marathon. We sat in silence. I needed the silence. We both needed the silence.

This was crazy. Just because Bella had moved on didn't mean my life was over, it didn't mean I couldn't start again. It was frustrating, though, to know that I hadn't made any future plans with Bella during our time together, that we never sat down and discussed where we would be years from now or talked about any possible involvement after we had both finished our education, but it crushed me to know she might have made plans with someone else. How stupid of me. How utterly, ridiculously stupid of me to think that leaving Bella would not alter my life in any way, that we were nothing more than friends with benefits. I should have known it from the very beginning, from that first week when I tried to stay away from her, from the time I had her in the classroom because I couldn't stand seeing her being manhandled by some horn dog.

I remembered him then; the guy Bella was dating was the guy from the library. I wondered how long after I had left she started seeing him. Did it even matter to her I was gone? It didn't. The only emotion that registered in her eyes was surprise; no sadness, no longing, not even anger. If there hadn't been any anger, then how could there possibly have been any love?

The door suddenly swung open, and the music outside was suddenly very loud. "Hey, you two. Are you going to stay in here like a bunch of anti-social pricks or are you coming outside with everyone else?" Her little voice, despite always bringing a smile to my face, angered me even further, and I spat the words out unintentionally.

"Why tha fuck didn't you tell me Bella was seeing someone, Alice?" I faced her eyes then and watched as she lowered them and took a long deep breath. She brought them back up with a steady gaze that was uncommon, which only meant she knew this was going to happen and had planned her actions carefully. She closed the door and walked toward me.

"Listen to me Edward. I knew from the very beginning this thing between you and Bella was either going to be great or awful, and I swore to myself I would not get involved in any of it. I would remain Switzerland from beginning to end. When you left, Edward, it was really hard for me not to choose sides, really freaking hard. Out of all the ways you could have ended it, what you did had to be the shittiest way. So, just like I once told Bella, this is between you and her, and I have nothing to do with it. I don't want anything to do with it." Through the entire speech, I couldn't look at her and instead looked down at my feet, nodding my head along with her words. She was right, and I couldn't argue with her, but it still didn't make the anger go away. "Whenever you feel up to it, you can join us again," she added before stepping out of the room and back to her guests. I felt disappointed in myself knowing I was just scolded like a child by my baby sister. This is what it must feel like to be on a downward spiral. The issue was: what would be my very rock bottom?

I could have been sitting on the edge of the bed for centuries for all I knew. I just sat and stared patterns into the carpet, wondering when I'd be able to build plans again, when I'd be able to rearrange my goals like I once could. Living day by day wasn't freeing, it felt like living without a purpose, a focus, just living for the purpose of breathing. I had never included Bella in the plans I had made before, and it was never an issue. Why was it so difficult now? I noticed a pair of black boots in front of me, and I looked up. It was Mike with two beers in hand. When had he left the room and come back?

"Well, you've got a couple of options here. You can cry like a sissy. You can act like an adult, which I am pretty sure you are not even capable of." Though, he meant it as a joke, I was a ticking bomb, and the comment just infuriated me further. "Alright… alright… You can always get pissing gone, eh? In which case, I can probably join you, but only as moral support... I find alcohol life consuming, and it only leads to destructive behavior." The words coming out of Mike's mouth were so absurd, I had to smile. I reached over to take a beer out of his hand.

"Ok, but if I start crying or start telling stories about my dead dog, Lightning, you lock me back up in this room and don't let me out no matter what."

"As long as I get to call you a tosser for the rest of your miserable life, we have a deal."

"You're a fucking asshole."

"Mike! You're cheating!" Rosalie yelled as she poured what had to be the tenth round of Jagger shots for the night. I had always been able to drink Rosalie under the table. I took pride in that fact, but Mike was slowly but surely knocking me out of my title.

"Rosalie, I'm English, I've been drinking since I was old enough to reach the bar. I could use Jager as mouth wash," Mike replied. The answer wasn't as funny as Rosalie's frustrated expression was.

"You're a dick!" she yelled after downing the shot.

"Don't be talking about dick with me. You'd probably lose that brawl too. I know more about dick than everyone in this room!" they all laughed. I just shook my head and downed my shot.

Midnight was approaching and everyone gathered closer to the person they wanted to ring in their New Year with. I could see them all keeping that significant other close by just to make sure they'd be there for the countdown. Alice sat in Jasper's lap next to Mike, talking into his ear; Emmet sat on a stool behind Rosalie with his hand on her shoulder; and Bella and Jacob sat on the couch watching MTV. To my utter dismay, the alcohol wasn't doing much. It wasn't blurring my vision, disconnecting me from the situation. The alcohol wasn't helping me to forget that Bella was here, cuddled up on a couch with another man. The alcohol was not killing my attention to detail, because I could still see how his hand would slip to brush over the top of her breast ever so slightly. My insides felt the way I would assume a chemical burn would feel like, slow, bubbling and irritating, all from watching them.

"So, the object of this competition is to see who passes out before midnight?" Not even the strange new voice of the person who was speaking could bring me out of my hardcore staring of Bella and her horn dog. The fact that Bella looked up to meet my eyes finally did it. The person who had spoken was Seth, a guy who apparently came with the sickening couple sitting on the couch.

"No, the object of this game is to show Rosalie and Eddy boy here the proper way to get plastered," Mike answered Seth, but his eyes were locked on me, his focus was a way of silently asking if I was ok. I wasn't ok. I was nowhere near ok. I was about to pull a Tyler Durden. How much can you know about yourself if you've never been in a fight?

"I don't know, man. I've never seen anyone drink more than Edward," Emmett added from his spot on his stool.

"Edward is cheating, too. You shouldn't be allowed in the game if you have ulterior reasons for drinking." Even with the loud music and all the extra guests at the party, the table became silent after Rosalie's obviously careless words. My stomach dropped, my chest expanded, and my grip tightened on the beer in my hand. I counted every possible reaction I could have and the consequences of each one, all of which resulted in Emmett's fist permanently glued to my jaw. I wasn't clear as to what exactly angered me the most – the fact that it was obvious I was upset about Bella's new relationship or that Rosalie had to throw it out into the open like a wet rag. I figured the best thing to do was to ignore the comment all together and enjoy the bitter taste of another Jager shot. Mike was right, the thing could be used as mouthwash for the good it was doing me.

"I have other reasons for drinking," interrupted Seth, obviously not understanding the reason why everyone quieted down suddenly, "everyone in this party is still ugly as sin." Surprisingly enough, the comment loosened the tension some and caused some laughter.

"Seth, we have to get you a girlfriend!" spoke the matchmaker from hell, also known as Alice Cullen.

"Only if she's mute and she doesn't bleed for five days straight." I laughed, thinking Seth wasn't such a bad guy.

"Alright you pussies, we are running out of Jager. Baby, go get the Patron." Rosalie was obviously on a mission.

"Rosalie," Mike interrupted suddenly, "I would like you to know that even being a blatantly obvious bender, my dick acknowledges your impressive display of knockers" it wasn't what Mike was saying that caught everyone's attention; it was the proper English voice he was using. "I can honestly say that even a bender as big as myself would still enjoy motor boating that fantastic rack." Another uncomfortable silence followed. Risking a look back at Rosalie, I was shocked to find a blush on her pale cheeks. I was even more surprised that Emmett was holding back laughter. I assumed he was a little bit more liquored up than usual because often times that kind of behavior from any person who even dares to look at Rosalie usually results in an instant knock out.

"Fuck…" Jasper cursed, hiding his face behind Alice, also trying to hold back from laughing; in fact, everyone was, including the Seth guy.

"Jesus Christ! I don't know if I should kick your ass or be complimented!" That was the cue it was good to go, and the table rumbled from all the laughter.

My amusement was cut short though, because glancing up I caught an awful sight. They were kissing, tongues tied, eyes closed, hands tangled. I wanted to look away, I wanted to look down at my beer bottle and read the ridiculous Nutrition Facts and try and memorized them so I could distract myself from the view, but it was impossible. I watched her, kissing back, no sign of discomfort or disgust, fisting her hands on his shirt and bringing her body closer to him, opening her mouth a bit more to let room for his tongue. I couldn't tell if the god awful feeling in my stomach was because of watching them or the insane amount of alcohol I had been consuming. A kick from under the table knocked me out of my daze. Looking around, everyone was still laughing, except Jasper, who stared at me accusingly.

"Shit…" I was dead man.

Everyone was counting down outside my bedroom door. I had locked myself away from the insanity about thirty minutes after Mike and I had put Rosalie to shame with our drinking. It wasn't the alcohol that was keeping me antisocial, it was what was left of my self-preservation because I still felt like I could down a couple of more bottles, still trying to rid myself of the bad taste that was stuck in my mouth, but nothing was working. Two minutes away from the New Year, I decided that even if it was easier to hide away from the worst of the consequences, there were still some mistakes I could try and amend, and the one that had the highest priority was the relationship with my sister. Opening the door suddenly, I was rewarded with a painfully desirable view – Bella's big brown eyes, shiny from the alcohol consumption. She had been walking out of the bathroom as I was walking out of my room. If I had known then what I managed to learn after all that has happened, I would have been able to acknowledge all the quiet words spoken between those very important and yet very simple moments that Bella and I shared. Like our first kiss or our first time or my less than graceful good-bye. That moment when the clock struck midnight and I found myself on yet another Thursday trying to reach out to Bella, the silent moment screamed of our regret, of my selfishness and the fading feeling of the urge to try.

"Happy New Year, Bella," I spoke in a voice that was not my own, defeated and careless.

"Happy New Year, Edward," she responded and walked off to more than likely find the person who had her heart now. I let her walk away and resolved to finally let her go.

It felt like a blaze that started in the pit of my stomach that made its way up my esophagus and reached into my brain so it could spread into an ache that covered me all the way down to my toes again. I didn't even want to breathe, the rise and fall of my chest just made the entire room spin. I wanted to vomit, but my brain was repulsed by the idea. How could that even make sense? It felt like it took an eternity to find a way to move, and all I could manage was to sit on the edge of the bed to place my head between my legs, hoping it would ease the sickening feeling somewhat, no such luck. I noticed then I'd slept in the clothes I was wearing last night and quickly worked the buttons of the black shirt and snaked away my belt. The socks were the last to go. It wasn't until I heard the faded noises outside that I decided I needed to finally do something with myself.

My movements were slow, and though the walk was a short one, it felt endless. I hadn't been this hung over in my entire life, and it was most likely because I had never drank as much as I had the night before. Bottles and drinks and beers circled my head, and I couldn't quite determine the amount I had consumed. I had gone a little overboard. I could have been seriously ill. Trying to find a good enough reason to be that completely trashed brought back the images of Bella tangled up in the arms of that prick. The kisses and caresses and laughs only fueled my headache even further, but gave the destructive behavior somewhat of a disturbing reasoning.

I couldn't tell who it was in the kitchen. I sat down at the dining table that was still overflowing with bottles and cups and reached for the bottle of Patron that greeted me. I down the shot in one quick movement. It didn't have a taste, and I looked down at the bottle wondering if maybe the liquid inside had been replaced with something else. All too soon, the bottle was taken away and was replaced with a cup of water and some white little pills. I knew with certainty then the person in the kitchen was Alice Cullen.

"What time is it?" My voice was hoarse; my throat was dry and slightly irritated after consuming the Patron.

"It's two in the afternoon. You should drink that water and wait a bit to take those pills. I am not about to clean up vomit on top of all of this." The unexpected male voice had me turning abruptly, just to regret the action as soon as it occurred. The room spun, and my stomach twisted up into a knot. It was Jasper who was in the kitchen.

"Where is Alice?" My question was almost rude.

"She went to the store to get some things to make something to eat," he answered, still not looking up at me. He seemed too concentrated on the task of dividing the empty bottles from the ones that still had some alcohol left in them. "Do you know where Mike is?"

"What?" I questioned, looking around the living room. The sofa bed was still a sofa, and Mike wasn't in my room when I woke up. "I have no idea. I can't even remember if he told me that he was going somewhere last night." In fact, I couldn't even remember how I made it to bed.

"He helped you to your room after everyone left and then disappeared." Jasper had moved and was now picking up everything from the table. "I'm sure he is fine, but Alice is worried." I realized then that there was something off in Jasper's attitude that his concentration wasn't on cleaning, but that he was focusing on something else to keep from focusing on me. His movements were sharp, and he was obviously annoyed about something. I tried one more time to remember the night before, of any actions that could have caused yet another annoyance for Jasper. I couldn't think of one thing, but I could acknowledge that I never really mended things with him after I left.

"What happened last night?" The words were out of my mouth before I could filter them correctly, before I could alter them so they weren't so nonchalant in their approach.

"What do you mean?" Answering a question with another question is a great method of avoiding an answer. The fact that he threw a towel against the counter gave me further confirmation that I was on the right track.

"Oh come on Jasper. You're pissed off at something. So what tha hell did I do now, or what happened last night that pissed you off this time. Go ahead and get it out before Alice comes back so you can take a nice shot at me, and I can go back to bed and sleep off this fucking hangover from hell." Perhaps it was the dangerous combination of the alcohol that still lingered in my system and the anger that I was trying to extinguish with the liquor, but I found myself wanting to vent in the form of an argument.

"Christ, man! You don't change do you? You're still just a prissy little asshole." He accentuated his annoyance by continuing to throw things around, this time it was some random object at the trash can.

"Calling me an asshole is getting a bit old, don't ya think?"

"Fuck you!"

"Just get it out, will ya?" I encouraged and stood up to face him with the counter working as a much needed divider.

"I will not get tired of calling you an asshole as long as you keep acting like one." He finished tying up the trash bag and turned to face me with furious eyes. "You left her. You left everybody, and now at the first sign she might be happy with someone else, you can't fucking handle it? You have to drink yourself unconscious so you don't have to deal with the truth? Edward, I'm a psychologist. I see patterns you don't know shit about, so I'm going to tell you this as a friend: You're in a downward spiral to hell. I told you…"

"I remember what you told me! That you hope I don't regret it. Well I fucking do, I really fucking do. And on that note, I don't need your fucking psychology to know where I'm headed, and I am extremely fucking offended you would think I wouldn't be able to come to terms with the situation. I can, I do, I fucking understand." I paused for a second, my mind jumbled in a mess of images and memories, and I shook remembering something very important.

"One thing though," I began again "one very important thing that I need you to fucking know and understand. As much as I regret the way I behaved toward all of you and toward Bella and as much as I hate that I might have lost any chance I had, I cannot regret that I actually had the balls to go to Oxford. I learned a shit load of things being on my own, finally having everything to lose. You and I, we never got along because you came from nothing and have everything to show for it now. You think I came from everything and have nothing to show for it because I was given everything on a silver platter. I fucking hated you for that, man. You constantly had to remind me that I have no idea what it was like to struggle. Not anymore, Jasper. I had to do this. I had to give everything up. I had to lose everything. I had to be on my fucking own. I had to see what Mike's dad did to him, and I had to lose Bella. Unfortunately, I am in this goddamn fucking position now, and I will deal with the consequences. So I don't need your speeches, and I don't need your reasoning, and I definitely don't need your fucking patronizing bullshit. I didn't drink because I couldn't deal with it, I drank because I had to get though it even if I didn't exactly want to and isn't that what being an adult is all about?"

Time seemed to stop in the room. We just stood and stared at each other, anger still crunching our foreheads and squinting our eyes, but the turning of the lock brought us back to reality, and before company could walk in, I was on my way back into my guest room.

I tried to sleep the hangover away, but the anger and the gut wrenching guilt I felt after fighting with Jasper wouldn't let me, especially after realizing that Alice and Jasper had begun to argue once I returned to the room. I wouldn't be surprised if she had heard my rant before coming in. Walking out of the bathroom after a very hot shower, I could smell the pancakes, but I couldn't face Jasper again, so I chickened out one more time and headed back into my room. The knock on the door was not a surprise. The person that came in holding a plate of food was.

"Hey." He stood at the door, cautious on his approach. I sighed and greeted him from my spot on the bed. "I'm here for a couple of reasons. The most important one being that Alice threaten to not have sex with me ever again if I didn't come talk to you." I chuckled, still staring at my computer screen. "The second being," he paused and placed the plate and a can of something by the dresser, "I'm sorry. I was really fucking mad about the way you left, that you couldn't trust me or any of us, to be honest. I was angry because Alice was sad, and I was angry because Bella was extremely upset. I didn't really consider how you felt, or how you could be feeling about everything now, even if yesterday it was pretty obvious that you aren't doing too great. I'm sorry, alright? I never really meant to make you feel…" He seemed to struggle to find the correct word.

"Like a cunt nugget," I offered. He laughed comfortably.

"Like a cunt nugget," he repeated. "I didn't know. I honestly had no idea that…"

"That's fine," I cut him off abruptly. He had absolutely nothing to apologize about. He had every right to treat me the way he did despite how I was feeling. What I did deserved the severe consequences that I was already expecting and willing to handle.

"It really isn't," he laughed again, shaking his head and resting against the desk by the door.

"You're such shrink!" He hated that line, I knew he did, but I smiled to let him know I meant no harm by it. It was our cue, a way of letting him know that he was trying to turn us all into his patients, trying to let us know of our issues so we could solve them. He hated that his job affected his life constantly, but sometimes it was the very thing we needed.

"Fuck!" He fisted his fingers in his hair "I know, I fucking know! I'm so fucking sorry, I really… I need to figure out…" The fact that he had begun to be even harder on himself made me give in, and I had to confess the worst of my sins. It was better that I acknowledge my own issues.

"I turned down a job in Oxford." I spoke fast and careless. I couldn't understand why it mattered to me that he knew. The plan had been so unimportant that I wasn't going to let anyone know, but after blurting it out to Mike the night before, I thought it best to tell Jasper. "I knew that I would probably lose my scholarship and had to deal with a shit load of paper work and residency issues and all that shit, and I could sit here and argue about all the reasons why I couldn't take that job, but none of those things were the real reasons I turned it down. I didn't because I wanted to come back home, because I wanted to come back to friends and family and… shit…" I paused to take a breath and pinch the nerve that was throbbing between my eyebrows, "even back to Bella," I continued. "I didn't even give it a second thought. It wasn't even a small debate; it was a hands down, extreme and definite, no."

I took a chance to glance up from my laptop at Jasper, to find him wide eyed and dumfounded.

"So really," I continued, hoping to fill the empty silence, "I should be apologizing to you. I gave you so much bullshit about choosing to stay here and not giving it much thought, but I guess now that I was in the position, I understand why there was no competition." So, I ended my argument with a deep sigh, feeling like some of the burden had been lifted off my shoulders.

"Well shit…" were his only words, and the silence lingered on, but I didn't look up to meet his eyes; however, I looked over at the plate of pancakes and put my laptop down to reach for it. I sat at the edge of the bed and began eating quietly.

After half of my food was gone, the silence was starting to get to me, so I snapped. "Jesus, Jasper, say something… for the love of…" I was interrupted by his sudden movement. He walked toward the bed and sat next to me.

"She's not happy," he confessed quietly. I stared at him, watched him carefully as he stared at nothing in particular. I was dumbfounded.

"Alice?" I asked, because I needed to make sure he was talking about my sister. She's never seemed anything less than ecstatic about her life here with Jasper. I was even more surprised when he chuckled.

"I'm not talking about Alice! That woman better be happy. I give her everything her little heart desires and more… shit."

"Jasper what tha hell are you talking about?" I wouldn't have been surprised if it was the hangover was making me slow.

"Bella," he finally met my eyes, and the name and realization of his words almost caused my stomach to return the food I had eaten back to the plate I was still holding. "I know I said that you couldn't handle that she might be happy now, but I honestly don't think she's happy. Jacob is a cool dude, but there is just something there that's missing."

Perhaps it was the way Jasper so casually spoke the prick's name, or the reminder that there was someone else in Bella's life, but I was suddenly angry, losing my appetite almost immediately. I knew rationally I shouldn't have been that angry, and for split seconds, I would forget the reasons why it was best that she moved on. Quietly, to myself, I could admit that it hurt, and I resented the fact she had found somebody else, and I was still so hung up on her.

"It doesn't matter," I admitted out loud, "that's who she wants to be with. So there has to be a reason for it right?" I asked, cutting another piece of pancake on my plate just to give myself something to do. "I fucked up. She deserves better, and that's the end of that."

"Edward…" Jasper begun, but the door abruptly swung open by Mike, who looked showered and bright eyed and bushy tale.

"Edward, you wanker, I go away for a day, and you're already in bed with some other fluke!"

"Where the fuck have you been?" I demanded.

"Well since you're not giving me a romp, I had to go find it somewhere else," he explained as he walked behind me and Jasper to lay back on the bed. "If I had known American boys were so good at giving head, I would have come sooner, though," he spoke with a smile.

"Woah! I don't want to know! I definitely don't want to know!" I laughed at Jasper's outburst and was immediately joined by Mike. "I mean no offence to the gay man. I'm all about equality, but I really don't want to know about your sex life, Mike, or Edward's or Emmett's for that matter. I'm out." Alice had joined our laughter from the door and sent me a wink as she walked after Jasper.

"How you feeling, blotto?" asked Mike after everyone had left and he had picked up my computer.

"Do I want to know what that word means?"

"Nope," he answered without looking up at me.

"Do I want to know who you left with last night?"

He laughed. "I'll tell you if you want me to."

"No I definitely don't," I answered, going back to my food.

Friday, January 15, 2010
(about two weeks later)

I wasn't exactly hiding, but I was definitely avoiding; on occasion it would make me feel bad, but then I would remember the reasons why I was doing it, and it all made sense. This was the second Friday I had come over to my parents to sit in front of my computer in my father's library to study. To be honest, it was a lot easier than having to deal with all the couples around me, including Mike who apparently was seeing someone I have yet to meet. I was aggravated by the constant phone calls, the kisses, the kind words, and the happy stories around me. I was miserable, and I wanted everyone else to be miserable with me. So in order to avoid spreading my depression, I hid away from everyone… not hiding… avoiding…

"Honey, you want anything to eat?" My mother asked for the fourth time since I had arrived. The pounds I had lost over my stay in Oxford were a crime to dear Mrs. Cullen, and she had made it a goal to fatten me up to her liking. I absolutely love my mother.

"No thanks. I'll just wait for lunch and head over there with you, ok?" I answered with a smile.

"Ok honey." Though she knew nothing of the real reason behind my visits, it pleased my mother to no end to have me around. I sucked all the attention up, like a child.

A bit after my mother had come around, my father walked into the room. He never interrupted me. He sat behind his own computer and went over some paper work and books. It was almost silly how much we looked alike and acted alike. It was quite evident I was almost an identical replica of Dr. Cullen.

"I'm worried about you." The disruption startled me, and I looked up from my laptop to my father and met the look of concern in his eyes.


"I don't know. Studying on a Friday night? Not even I was doing that at your age. You should be out with your friends having fun, enjoying your youth. Where is Mike?" He placed his pen down and rested back on his chair. I sighed in frustration. I was expecting this speech from my mother, and I had prepared a great answer for her, but not for my father, and the truth came out carelessly.

"He's out with a new boyfriend. Alice and Jasper are meeting Rosalie and Emmett for dinner." It was the truth, but between every name was the real reason why I would rather study on a Friday night: Everyone had a partner. I had absolutely nothing and no one. It was funny how I couldn't quite remember what I would have been doing before getting involved with Bella. I was ridiculously depressing.

"What about Bella?" I wanted to scream, scream so loud that my throat could bleed and my stomach could turn. It was infuriating that I couldn't even escape her memory, even in this house where, I was sure, was void of any sort of knowledge of her. She was everywhere, in everything, in me, around me and now in this damn house that I was hoping would be my only escape. How could I have not realized that Bella would burrow herself so deeply in my life I wouldn't be able to just walk away from her? Why would I have even tried to? All the reasons I had in the beginning for not committing to Bella were suddenly insignificant. I was a different person when I had laid them down, she had changed that person, and she had changed me. I sighed and slammed my laptop closed.

"Fuck!" I stood and began to pace. Maybe I could take up running again. Maybe if I ran far enough, long enough, it would help me clear my head a bit more, try to find my way back to normal.

"Edward," called my father, who I had completely forgotten was still in the room with me.

"How'd you know about Bella, dad?"

"You asked me to help her once, remember? Besides, every time I would talk to your sister and ask for you, she would tell me that you were with Bella. I only figured you and she were involved," he explained calmly, seeming a bit worried to set me off again. I didn't blame him; I did feel like a ticking bomb.

"We're not together anymore," I explained simply. It was the truth, a much summarized truth, the censored truth, the tip of the iceberg kind of truth, but the truth none the less.

"Was it because of Oxford?" The interest my father suddenly had in my personal life was confusing me, but it was also understandable given my somewhat agitated reaction at her mention. I thought for a moment, trying to come up with the right answer. I sighed and ran my fingers through my hair.

"It wasn't Oxford. Shit… It was me, I fucked up. I really just… She's dating someone now, it doesn't really matter, It's well deserved too. I was such a… Yeah, it wasn't Oxford. Well, I guess in a way, but no, it wasn't, it was mostly me." I went over the gibberish I had spoken, wondering if there was something I wanted to add. I decided that was the best answer I had. I sat back down on the chair and rested my elbows on my knees and watched the wood floor carefully. I guess this is what a broken heart feels like. This is what all those silly romance novels are all about, the empty feeling in your gut, the frustration in your throat, the despair in your fingertips. Apparently, unconditional love makes you grow a vagina, because last time I heard, men are not the ones who usually dealt with these emotions.

"How'd you do it, dad?" I asked looking back up at him, his eyebrows crunched in confusion. "You know, school, wife, kids, your career, how'd you make all it happen? It seems almost impossible for me. I think it's only possible to have either one or the other, but you did both of them. So how?" I walked over and sat in front of my father's desk, willing to pay complete attention. He just might be holding the missing puzzle pieces, and I wasn't leaving until I had the answers. I could not fix the problem anymore, but maybe if I knew the right answers, I'll keep them for future reference.

"Son, I have no idea." He chuckled and looked down at the picture of us that rested on his desk, then back up at me. "Did I ever tell you that you're mom left me in college?"

"What?" I was dumbfounded. From what I knew, they had met and never had eyes for anyone else. I had to laugh, trying to run reasons why mom would dump dad. I pictured her going into hysterics over not placing a coaster under a sweaty drink.

"There is nothing funny about it. She tells all of you that it was love at first sight, but it wasn't really like that, not in my end anyway. I practically had to beg your mother to go out on a date with me." I laughed louder. At least the story was somewhat lightening up my mood. "Anyway. we had been dating for a while by then, and I was about to finish school. I was already working insane hours at the hospital, and I just didn't make enough time for her. I was oblivious to the state of our relationship. I was so focused on work and school that I would miss dates and calls. When I missed our anniversary, well, you can only imagine. I didn't realize until two days later that I had forgotten, and by then, it was just too late. I tried to get her to forgive me, but she was having none of it.

About two weeks later, I found her in campus having lunch with Aro. Christ, I was fuming. Aro had been after Esme long before I came around. He was a young professor in the university, and he was the biggest son of a bitch I've ever met!"

"Dad!" I threw my head back with laughter; he actually looked upset, like he'd take him on again if he could. "I am so telling mom you just cursed and using this whole Aro story against her! She'll be baking cookies for weeks!" My dad joined in my laughter, knowing how mom baked when she had a guilty conscience and was trying to get back on our good side. She especially did this after grounding us, even it hadn't been too severely.

"Oh, she'll be scheduling family dinners for the next three years if you mention Aro. Anyway, I was pretty broken up about the whole thing. Out of all the guys she could pick, it had to be Aro and so soon after! I was mess," he laughed. "I guess that's what happens when you're a love sick puppy. It took me losing her to find out that she was my life. I made her my priority after that and never took her for granted again."

I was suddenly serious. I realized then that maybe a broken heart wasn't that uncommon and that it was ok to feel this way, to be so devastated. "What did you do to fix things?" There was a hope in my voice that was unwarranted.

"Nothing." I was stunned at the answer and rested back on the chair in disappointment. He laughed. "I didn't know what to do! I knew all about heart conditions, but nothing about broken hearts! I didn't have a clue on how to fix it, and after I saw her with Aro, I just gave up. I was sure she had moved on. Of course, as it turned out, I was wrong. Two weeks later, there was a campus party which I was essentially drag to, and at that party, I a met a young lady who, to be honest, I don't even remember her name, in fact, I don't think she ever told me her name…"

"I swear to god, dad, if you tell me a story of a one night stand, I'll be scarred for life!" He laughed louder, and the sound echoed around the room softly. It's a rare occasion to hear my father laugh so freely, and it was usually Alice who was able to draw out his laughter.

"Christ, no! We danced, we talked, I told her all about Esme, and she gave me some advice, but nothing happened. That night when I got back to campus, Esme was waiting for me at the apartment and was extremely upset about seeing me at the party with someone else."

"What?" It was my turn to crack up. My sister would love this story, and I most likely would be bringing the story up very soon. It was too good to pass up.

"What's so funny?" I had laughed so loudly, my mom poked her head in. Looking back up at her, I couldn't help but laugh louder. My father joined me too.

"Nothing, darling," my dad assured her in between breaths.

"Alright." She accepted the answer and turned to walk back down the hallway. I was practically in tears from all the laughing.

"I can't believe you never told me and Alice this story before," I spoke once I had finally calmed down.

"There was no reason to. Your mom and I worked it out; there is no reason to dwell on bad memories."

"What happened with Aro?" I asked, too curious for my own good.

"Nothing. He had found her sitting by herself and had sat down to join her at lunch. She was actually furious; she couldn't stand the guy. After we got back together, I did everything I could do to make it work. I kept her in mind at all times. I didn't make a decision that didn't involve her. There were, of course, days were work was overwhelming, but I always called, always let her know in time. It wasn't easy, and we had rough times, but we loved each other, and at the end of the day, that was all that mattered to us."

"So mom never got in the way?"

"In the way? In the way of what?" my dad asked confused. I rethought my question, thinking that it could have been absurd, but it wasn't. The question was stated exactly how I had intended it to be.

"Of your career, your goals, your accomplishments," I clarified.

"Of course not! I was going to have a career, and I was going to reach my goals because I had worked hard for them from the very beginning. I was successful because I had a focus on my career and I had those high goals. Esme… she was the one I would share all those things with. She pushed me to strive to be a better doctor, achieve the career I wanted, to support her and my children, and I set more goals to be a better man and father for all of you. I am successful because I have all those things. Edward, that is the biggest accomplishment of all – I have a wife, a family and a career that I love dearly! I honestly don't think I could have had any of them without the support of your mother." My father's words moved me, and I looked down at my lap for a while running the words in my head. I was so stupid, so selfish. If I knew ten months ago what I know now, I would have done things differently.

"So you never had to give up anything?" I asked mostly to myself, but loud enough at least my father could hear.

"Yes I did, son." I looked up suddenly. "I gave up my pride. I put my needs aside and realized that it wasn't about my needs, it was our needs that I needed to focus on, and it fell into place the right way like that." I stared at my father's last words and thought how funny it was that I had made the same mistakes he had made in his youth. The difference between him and me was that I couldn't fix my mistake, and he had been lucky that his mistake was making an incorrect assumption.

"You really like this girl," he stated. Of course, I was sure that by the look on my face and the way I had reacted that I was obviously upset about how things ended with Bella, and there was only one real reason someone would be that upset about a break up.

"Yeah, I messed up real bad. I left to go to Oxford and didn't tell her about it till practically the day before and then I didn't man up and tell her face-to-face. I, umm… left her a letter," I confessed to him, unable to hide my embarrassment and discomfort. "We never really spoke of our relationship, and I used that as an… excuse, I guess." My father sighed and rubbed his forehead softly. I knew he was aware how immature, hurtful, and awful what I had done was, and there was no way to defend myself, so I didn't. "I don't know what I was thinking. Once I got to England, though, it really hit me. I tried to talk to her, but she wouldn't answer my calls. She doesn't talk to me, hardly looks at me. It's pretty bad. There is nothing I can do to fix this, and she's going to be in the picture for a while. She's Alice best friend, so it's not like I can avoid her. I was such an ass, even before I left, I was behaving so poorly. God, I'm really awful."

"So you're not going to try to amend things with her now that you're back?"

"It's too late. Like I said she found someone. No one told me about it. Instead, I had to witness it for myself on New Year's eve," I sighed, regretting the reminder. "It was a wakeup call really, but I'll be fine, I guess. I made a mistake; I will just have to suffer the consequences."

"Son, as your father, I probably should tell you that sometimes you have to move on and accept the consequences of your actions. That would be the appropriate thing to do. As a man who was in a somewhat similar situation as you find yourself, I'm going to tell you something else. Even if your mother turned out to be with Aro and I didn't have a chance, I am certain I would have woken up one morning with the realization that I had to keep trying. I know I would have done anything and everything in my power to get your mother back, even if I had to beat down a professor and get expelled from school."

"Dad!" I was absolutely dumbstruck.

"I know it's horrible, but your mother is the world to me, and back then she already was, I just had to figure it out for myself. I am pretty sure I know the reasons why you left to go to Oxford, and I don't fault you for any of them. We are a lot alike, Edward, and I probably would have done the same thing. I probably would have made the same mistakes you've made, but after all you been through, to just throw in the towel and concede defeat? How thick headed you are? That is not the Edward I know."

"Dad, she is dating someone else! She wasn't sitting having lunch with him. She was sitting on a couch with her tongue halfway down his throat! It's different now. I'm too late. It's over!" I yelled in frustration. My father was the person I least expected to tell me to steal someone's girlfriend away. I felt like hell was about to freeze over.

"At least talk to her, let her know the truth, Edward. What you did was an awful thing, but there were reasons for doing what you did. You have to tell her why you handled things the way you did because you owe her that much at the very least. You can't let her go on thinking that you didn't care for her or that she was not enough. Whether you are able to get back together with Bella or not, I'm sure if you don't talk to her, you will be doing a disservice to both yourself and Bella, and you'll probably regret it for a very long time. In my own situation, I am sure if I was not able to resolve my differences with Esme and get her back, I'd still be kicking my own ass."

I thought then for sure hell had officially frozen over, my father had just said ass.

I left my parents house with my heart weighing twice as much as it had when I first arrived. During the drive to the library, I tried to determine if the extra weight was from the disappointment or from the knowledge that it had been so long, if ever, that I have sat and spoken to my father so openly. Still, even with how much I enjoyed sitting and talking to my father, the conversation had scrambled my brain and had reminded me how I still hoped that Bella and I could rekindle our friendship at the least considering what I had done. It's all very cliché, but the truth was if I really cared for her, I would let her be happy with someone who would probably not screw it up as badly as I had. However, my father did have something right – I should at least let her know the truth.

I left after my mother started throwing tiny hints that she wanted to be clued into me the conversation I'd had with my father. As much as I loved my mother, she was not the person I particularly wanted to talk about my relationships with. My mother would find reasons why it wasn't my fault, and I was too guilt ridden to hear all those reasons. I still needed to study, and more importantly ,I still needed to stay away from the apartment in my quest for avoiding all the annoyingly happy couples. The next best thing was the campus library, and because it was a Friday night, it was more than likely going to be a peaceful hideaway.

I found a nice little spot by the history section. For some reason, history majors were out an about, except for an older gentleman who sat in one of the chairs in the far corner reading a book. I watched him for a while, wondering if that would be me one day, an old man sitting alone at a campus library reading a book that was too big to even carry, perhaps a dictionary that would make the whole scenario even sadder. I spread all my books for easy access and to avoid any strangers wanting to sit too close, my laptop securely in the middle and after checking my email, though I knew there wouldn't be anything new, I opened the file with the paper I was working on.

I had been sitting there for almost forty five minutes when I spotted her at the other end of the hall, reaching her tiny fingers upward to grab a book that was just out of her reach. It was Bella. I knew it without a doubt; the length of her hair, her height, her long wavy hair and the way my stomach dropped, it couldn't be anyone else. I guess I had been staring for too long because suddenly she looked over at me. Even after all the pep talks trying to convince myself it was time to let go, I still wanted an excuse to reach out to her. We both were frozen in our respective areas, staring for what seemed way too long. I knew she recognized me. There was no way she didn't since she was still looking my way, so I waved and sighed when she waved back, gracing me with a soft little smile.

That was it; I couldn't do this. I couldn't just pretend to be nice, pretend like nothing had ever happened between us. Until I could get over Bella or even finally get the balls to talk to her, I needed to stay the hell away from her, and it had to start as soon as possible. So I packed up all my things and was out of there like a bat out of hell. The drive was awful. The shower did nothing to soothe the mess that was my head, and I couldn't focus back on school work. I had decided I needed a beer when there was a knock at the door. I looked over at the clock and thought eleven pm was too early for Mike to be getting home from his date. I was of course right because the person standing in the hallway was no other than Bella Swan. She was fidgeting, holding something tightly against her chest. She looked up at me with wide eyes before speaking.

"You left your book behind on the table at the library."

This had bad news written all over it….


Thank you so much for your kind word last chapter. I love all your reviews and as you can see I haven't given up and I won't no matter how long I take sometimes. I know some of you want a summary of what's been going and I might do it eventually, but I rather focus on writing on the story than sitting down for each chapter to summarize. I'm sure you'll appreciate that more.

Anyway, the next chapter is the one that actually helped to turned this one shot into a long story so I pretty much had it all laid out before hand. I'm really excited about it. After that chapter the smut might just come back *evil smile*

Ps. you should put me on Author Alert also, I have some projects I'm working on as well. Thank you so much for hanging on guys!

Review and let me know what you think.