A/N: I can't believe I've reached the last chapter. Only the epilogue left. It's kind of crazy. I'll have a longer a/n at the bottom.
Enjoy some fluff.
If this annoying little piece of shit does not stop staring at me, I'll give him something to stare at.
Some smarmy looking eight year old was kneeling on his chair in front of me, his eyes trained on me for a good ten minutes. I was ready to tip his chair over to get him to stop. But, I did what any mature person did though: I stuck my tongue out at him.
Did he just wink at me? He promptly turned back around to pay attention to the graduation ceremony going on in front of us.
"Jason Paul Steeley." Principal Greene declared in the microphone on the podium.
"Emmett Saul Swan." Emmett took his diploma booklet, pumped his fist and walked across the stage.
I cheered and whistled along with Charlie, Sue and Rosalie as we watched Emmett graduate from high school. A fog horn set off by someone in the back of the gymnasium.
"Saul?" Edward leaned in close to my ear, as Emmett stepped down from the constant precision line of kids being called by the principal.
"Renee gave birth to Emmett on the side of a road. There was a Spanish language learning tool playing in the cassette player in the background on the way to the hospital. The guy on the tapes' name was Saul. Charlie said that she wanted to name Emmett Saul instead, but they agreed to it as a middle name."
Edward's body shook with laughter. "Your mom was definitely a character."
"She was." It was still difficult to talk about my mom, but each day it became my life's mission to get to know her, even if it was post-humously. I listened to that very tape she had learned Spanish from, hoping to understand her better.
Edward's arm wrapped around me, his lips pressing to my hair.
Charlie sent a smile over to me, but caught sight of Edward's hand on my almost bare shoulder. Edward looked up at Charlie, as he slowly slinked his arm away from me.
At least Charlie held it together and allowed Edward to sit with us for the graduation.
After the impromptu opportunity Edward had a month ago, I explained to Charlie what Edward's motives were. How his family had been utter shit to him, how he needed an official way out.
He listened to me talk about Edward for a good hour before he finally said something.
"You really like this boy, don't you?" Charlie folded his arms, leaning back in his favorite armchair and stroking his stubbly chin.
"I do." Leave it at that, Bella. Don't scare him about 'moving with him after high school' ideas.
While Charlie was glad to have some light shed on Edward's motives, he still couldn't immediately forgive him for referring to my female parts the way he did. And since he couldn't punish Edward, he essentially had to punish me. This meant we had to stay downstairs during his 'visitation hours'; Edward was not allowed over the house until after dinner time and could only stay up until nine thirty.
This left me with a situation I had never encountered before: desperate horniness. We could do homework together or at most hold hands on the couch; a good night kiss on the cheek was okay with the Chief. But, holy shit, I wanted just wanted a moment alone with Edward to enjoy each others company. I think Charlie trusted me, but he didn't trust us together for the time being.
I guess I shouldn't have looked a gift horse in the mouth; Charlie did let me still see Edward outside of school after all.
"Dad, when are you going to forgive Edward?" I asked through the loud celebratory sounds.
Charlie smiled, folding his hands in his lap. "Eventually. Might not be until you move out." Figures.
Once Principal Greene reached the very last student, he announced "By the powers vested in me by the state of Washington, I now declare you high school graduates of the class of 2009. Congratulations!" More cheers proceeded; the newly minted graduates tossed their caps in the air.
After the ceremony, people were invited to enjoy some food in the cafeteria. In a town this small, it's much easier to have a joint graduation party. Everyone would've ended up inviting each other anyway, if held in their homes or if people decided to eat at The Lodge.
Emmett had to take a few pictures with some chamber of commerce people and other higher ups. Basically, they wanted to cash in on my brother's full-ride scholarship somehow.
I stood by the entrance, picking at my plate of food. I hoped to stave off any kind of attention. I wanted to just congratulate my brother, get the hell out of dodge, and call it a day. But nope, I had some sort of responsibility as the sister of the big football star. I'd always have that responsibility.
I'd always get asked what I thought of my brother and his talent. I would never say anything bad about him; instead I'd simply say that I love him and support him.
I glanced down at my feet, admiring the newly comfy heels. Alice bought me insoles to put in the bottom of them. Now, I could stand for hours and not want to chop off my own feet.
A familiar set of male shoes came into my vision. I lifted my head to an even more recognizable pair of green eyes.
"Hey." He greeted me, that shy lopsided grin turning my insides into mush.
"Hey." I bit my lower lip.
It was funny how I felt more comfortable standing nose to nose with Edward than in a spread out room full of strangers. Boundaries defied Edward and me. "Enjoying the food?" Edward's chuckle capped his sentence.
"Why yes, it's delicious, thank you." I popped a cherry tomato in my mouth. I chewed it slowly, eying the rest of the little finger foods. "It's all kind of sad you know? Pretty soon, it'll just be me and Charlie. Emmett will be off in sunny fucking California."
"Is that where you want to go?" Edward leaned against the wall next to me, having a clear view of my profile.
I shrugged. "I don't know. It's just all terrifying. I mean, despite this god awful place, it's comfortable. It's here." I picked up another cherry tomato, rolling it between my thumb and forefinger. Staring out at the small, rectangle windows that lined around the room, they made me feel like all I could've occupied was in that tiny, off white painted box. "It's a big fucking world out there."
His fingers traced up and down my upper arm, leaving trails of warmth in its path. "It is, but it's worth getting the fuck out of here for."
"What?" Edward smiled, his eye brows scrunching in bemusement.
"It's always adorable when you curse." My finger traced some of the icing off of a cupcake.
"Adorable?" His smile widened, his face inched closer to mine. "I hate to break it to you, but adorable isn't something a guy wants to hear about himself."
"Well, what do you want to hear?" I slipped the delicious frosting coated finger into my mouth.
I waited for Edward to answer, but his eyes were focused somewhere on my face; specifically, the finger in my mouth. I watched his Adam's apple bob up and down with a swallow.
After I licked the icing off, I began to remove my finger from my mouth. Edward's hand wrapped around mine, pulling it out along with me; his eyes never once left my lips.
Oh God, I know that look. I watched his lips, his tongue darting out to lick them.
My mouth felt cottony and dry, my stomach twisted and tightened into pleasurable knots. And I was sure the evidence was painted a clown nose red on my cheeks. My eyelids closed as our foreheads pressed together like two magnets. I felt his hot breath hit my face, his nose rubbing against mine.
"Bella." I heard a voice come from somewhere, knocking me from my love hazed revere. "Your family wants pictures." Sue was standing a couple feet away, holding a black, film camera between her two hands.
I smiled to her. "I'll be right there, Sue." She retreated to the other side of the room, where Charlie and Emmett were already standing in place for a photo opportunity.
"Be right back." I whispered to him, planting a kiss on his nose.
I shuffled to go complete the family portrait. Emmett still wore his graduation gown, but decided to remove the cap and put it on my head in that moment.
"Emmett! Ew, gross it's all sweaty under here!" He kept knocking the tassel in front of my face when Sue clicked the button. "Knock it off!"
"Bella, stop ruining the picture. It's my graduation day. Have some respect." Emmett had his shit eating grin in place, but his tone was serious.
That evil son of a bitch.
"Alright you two, get it together." Charlie looked uncomfortable, standing still and waiting for our shenanigans to stop. Sue finally got a decent picture of us on the next try.
Our little group broke up. I removed the cap, wiping some of the sticky sweat I'd acquired on my forehead underneath the cap.
"You know I only make fun of you cause I love you, right?" Emmett took his cap back, fitting it on an angle on his head.
I rolled my eyes. "Yeah, of course."
Emmett blinked at me a couple of times, before he pulled me into a rib crushing bear hug. "I'm gonna miss you next year, baby sis. I know this year has been weird and fucked up, but that doesn't change the fact that I love you."
I couldn't help the tears that left my eyes, the lump in my throat that would stay there for a while as I got used to my big brother not being in the same place with me for the first time ever.
I stepped back to look at him, he was on the verge of letting some of his own water works go. "Hey, don't cry. You still have a shit ton of stupid pictures to take. You can cry into your Thomas the Tank Engine pillow later on."
Emmett gave me a little shove. His arm wrapped around my shoulders, giving my arm a good squeeze. He was called away once more, as I turned to head back to where Edward was, but he wasn't in the cafeteria anymore.
After I returned to my previous spot, I chewed on some more of my food. Sometime between eating potato chips and a handful of chocolate kisses, I realized this was my first time in the cafeteria. I had long feared this place; its open, has lots of people and everyone is eating, drinking, doing various self-conscious things.
It was natural for people in rooms like these to look around and be curious about the other occupants. Either you laughed at the dumb things people did or you longed to sit with one person you watched from afar. Sitting out back behind the cafeteria still had its discomforts, but the allowance of my hobby made it better.
In the cafeteria, there was no way to escape judgment if you were the pyro freak sitting alone at a table, your peers whispering and wondering about you.
If I had sat in the cafeteria at a table by myself, I might've gone crazy or been more depressed than I had been. It scared me that I would've been the same person a year ago if not for a few events that took place in my life. How much longer would I have been able to stand it? Would a change have come eventually? Would it have been too late by the time it happened?
Swallowing some painful memories along with a cube of cheese, I refused to focus on that anymore in that moment. There was a celebration going on and someone close to me was going through a big change that was bigger and scarier than mine.
I felt someone stand next to me. I looked up and saw a head of long blonde hair. Rosalie didn't speak for a couple of seconds. "Emmett's crying." Her pointy shoes traced patterns along the linoleum floor. I heard her sniffle, her hand fiddling with a tissue. "He was asked about his opinion on the 'Governator' and had to excuse himself."
"Talking about the Governator gets him emotional." I deadpanned.
"Really?" Rosalie turned to me, her mascara a little smudgy.
"No." I replied.
Rosalie snorted into her tissue, I chuckled too. We stood in more silence, recognizing that sadness but not wanting to address it further.
"You know, Emmett is the only person who ever got to know me, or wanted to get to know me. The only one who stopped to think that I had an opinion that mattered. Without him, I'd still be masquerading around with the same people over and over again." Rosalie paused, wiping away at some snot under her nose. "Because of him, I get along with my parents better. My relationship with Jasper is a million times better."
"And a whole year without him? It's going to be unbearable." Some more tears descended from her eyes, sliding down her cheek to wet her shirt.
A year. Three hundred sixty five days. It felt astronomical and small at the same time. So much can change in that increment and yet it can feel like you've trudged through another depressing span of time.
Without people in your life, what are you? A person is only as good as the people they surround themselves with. Not just good, but those who can help you and make you realize. The past year, many of those in my life shined a fiery light on me, revealing all its chips and fragments. Some of them were like lasers punctuating my skin.
A year ago, I never would've understood Rosalie's dilemma. I wouldn't have understood the passion she had for someone. With your family, it's instilled in you; your blood is your priority. But with friends and lovers, it's learned. I'd miss my brother, but what about a boyfriend? I had no concept of what a boyfriend was. Fuck, I didn't even know what friends were. If she turned to me a year ago, I wouldn't have the slightest clue what to say to her. I wasn't sure if I could be comforting, but I could sympathize.
I offered her a teary eyed smile, because it was easier to hear silence than try to speak.
I came out of the bathroom, still waiting for this day to come to a close. I sort of dreaded and was anxious for my day to come next year. High school had to end at some point so life can begin.
Not more than two seconds out of the restroom, I felt a tug on my wrist. Stumbling slightly, Edward pulled me to him and pressed his lips to mine. He snaked his arm around my waist. Our lips relished the touching after a long absence throughout the day. Fuck, a long absent month.
Edward guided us to the lockers nearby, my back contacting them with a metallic thud. His suit clad body pressed hard into me, his leg resting in between my own legs.
My tongue entered his mouth, the feeling making me moan.
Edward grabbed my leg, hitching it over his hip. If I thought we were horny and desperate before, the evidence was right there. Right there.
The fact that I was wearing a dress completely disintegrated somewhere in my brain. It was off in a land of things you forget when you're making out with your boyfriend. Except brushing my teeth, I always remember that.
"What are you thinking about?" Edward left trails of hot, wet kisses along me neck.
I exhaled. "What?"
"I know you're thinking about something." He continued his delightful assault on my neck.
"I'm thinking about the things I forget when I'm with you."
He chuckled. "But how do you know you're forgetting them when you forget them? How do you know you thought of them if you forget them in the first place? It would mean that you---."
"Shut up and just kiss me." I pulled his face back up to mine, attacking his mouth with more vigor.
I felt his hand run along my thigh up to my butt. "We need to go somewhere else." His words came out in breathless whispers.
Oh Thank God!
We looked around us; maybe there would be an empty classroom or a tucked away corner.
Then, we both saw it at once.
My heels clicked hurriedly as Edward dragged me in quick haste to the familiar dingy grey colored, gold knobbed janitor's door.
I stepped into the closet and the door closed behind. But, there was no Edward there.
There was a knock on the door. I opened it.
"Hello." Edward greeted me with that smile of smiles. Fuck, I want to grab his hair and hear him groan.
"What the fuck is this? Invite the vampire in the house shit? Get in here right now." I didn't wait for him though, I tugged on his tie, our mouths attacked each other once again.
Edward fumbled for the door, pulling it shut.
Connected pinky to pinky, we leisurely strolled back to the cafeteria. I took a few moments to tame the hair and fix the dress, trying to get rid of the 'quickie in a closet' look.
The hallway was quiet; the fluorescent lights that would normally be on were off for the weekend. The sunlight streamed in from a pair of windows, with a view of a small courtyard students would hang out at during lunch time.
"I wish it was this quiet all the time. Just us."
Glancing up at Edward, I watched a small smile appear. "It will be soon."
"Oh really? And you know this how…?
"Well, I see us getting a really bad apartment, living off Ramen and cheap fast food. We'd have barely enough money to buy decent furniture. And we'll have hardly any free time because we're in class or working meaningless jobs."
"Wow, that's what you see? Doesn't sound very appealing."
"No," Edward faced me, wrapping his arms around my waist. "…but put you in that picture and I'm sold." His lips softly touched mine. "Any picture and I'm sold."
Our mouths met again and again, stealing a few moments away from the whole town of Forks. Edward held me firmly to him, as I tangled my fingers in his hair. At the rate we were messing around, we'd never make it back to the cafeteria…full of people…that I don't like.
My mind was in an Edward fog, otherwise I would've heard the small footsteps that came running toward me. I felt a hand slap my ass, a tiny laugh coming from somewhere.
I caught sight of who smacked my butt. It was the kid who kept staring at me before throughout some of the graduation ceremony. The kid was running down the hall, away from us. "That little twerp!"
I heard Edward laughing. "Aww, you broke his heart. I think he likes you."
"He's a little kid, he thinks girls have cooties." At least from what I remembered about Emmett. He'd give himself a daily 'cootie shot' before going to school.
"Yes, but they also know what boobs and butts are. And trust me, they love them before they're born." Edward not so subtly gave my ass a good squeeze and fussed up my hair, as he casually walked away from me.
Ugh! I just fixed that!, I flattened my hair again.
Not giving a shit, I ran up behind him and jumped on his back for a piggyback ride. He staggered a little and I kind of knocked the wind out of him, but he deserved it.
"Don't walk away from me before I can molest you." My arms draped over his shoulders. I took a little nip at his earlobe, sucking on it for good measure.
I heard a muffled grunt from deep within Edward's chest. "Don't make me walk back to the closet."
"I dare you." My lips worked their magic on his neck, my tongue licking the beauty mark near the collar of his suit jacket. "I double dare you." I took my evilness one step further, rubbing my heel along the inside of his thigh.
"Mommy, mommy those people were making weird noises in the closet." The little kid from before, shouted from the end of the hall, holding the hand of a woman I presumed to be his mom.
And my horny mood is gone.
"Joshua, don't spy on people. It is rude." The woman dragged him out of our sight.
Edward and I both chuckled as soon as they were gone. I stepped back onto the ground, opting for his hand instead of his back.
We re-entered the cafeteria, where there were close to two hundred people inside now. Everyone was practically elbow to elbow.
"Bella over here!" I saw Alice standing on one of the benches in front of a lunch table. She was waving her arms like a mad woman.
Edward and I followed the tiny human lighthouse. Jasper and her had saved a few seats for us.
"I haven't seen you all day, where have you been?" Alice dived into some pasta salad.
"Well, you weren't here for half the ceremony, so of course I haven't seen you."
"I was putting this lovely little operation together." Alice gestured like a proud parent to the décor and mass amount of food that lined the tables like a buffet. "I've been running back forth getting the damn food. And this one over here wanted veggie burgers on the menu." She nudged Jasper in the arm.
Jasper leaned in close to her ear, telling her some sort of secret. Alice squealed, as he nibbled at her neck. "You and your innuendos." She whispered to him.
I glanced around at the many occupants standing around with tiny plates of sustenance.
I didn't look for the Bitch Brigade because they were no longer together. I wasn't sure of the details, all I knew was the day after Lauren's reveal, she walked the halls alone without Jessica or Victoria flanking her. At that moment, I saw Jessica chatting with Mike and Victoria was taking a seat with what looked like her family. I scanned the room for Lauren and found her talking with Mr. Yang, one of the English teachers.
Standing near the doorway Charlie was with Sue, holding her plate as she leaned on his shoulder to fix her shoe. I was glad Charlie had someone in his life. He always seemed self-sufficient, but I liked seeing people as good as my Dad happy with someone.
Emmett and Rosalie were making their way to our table; he was carrying two plates of food with him.
Edward leaned into me, planting slow kisses. His lips massaged my bottom lip, his teeth tugged gently. "I love you." Edward cradled my cheek, his thumb caressing circles.
"You too." I whispered, twirling the stray hairs at the nape of his neck.
I loved the warm feeling that hit my belly in that moment. The feeling of hope and happiness that humans craved, the kind I never knew I needed.
I heard Emmett emit a low 'Ew', as he sat down across from me. Rosalie took the vacant spot to my right.
"He's my boyfriend, Em. We're supposed to be making out. Why don't you do that with your own girlfriend instead of eating for two?"
Jasper snorted and covered his mouth with a tissue. "Sorry."
Alice rolled her eyes. "Seriously, ignore this perv."
"Isn't he the worst?" Rosalie scoffed. "Don't worry; I still have those pictures of him in mom's dresses from when he was a younger."
Jasper went bug eyed. "You forced me to dress up in those, by the way."
"After spending the afternoon watching musicals." Rosalie picked up a piece of bread from Emmett's plate. "I think Dad was grateful once Jasper started liking Civil War things."
"We watched The Sound of Music last week at his request." Alice admitted before chugging her soda.
"The hills are alive, with Alice screaming my name." Jasper sang to Alice. She feigned offensiveness, but melted against him when he wrapped his arm around her.
I glanced at the couple hugging each other, Jasper twisting Alice's long scarf around his fingers. I traveled to Emmett holding Rosalie's hand, stroking her knuckles delicately.
Finally, I looked at Edward. His hand held mine under the table. I tipped my head to lean on his shoulder, as I popped another tomato between my lips.
Could it have always been this easy all along? Everything felt so easy with the six of us chatting, sharing seemingly meaningless conversations, but these would become things I remember all my life. I had always wanted to make them, hold onto them instead of banish them because I never felt worthy of them.
I was still learning that I was worthy of having memories. Also, I was learning that just because life is out of our hands doesn't mean it's your fault for what happens to it.
Could I have had these memories before? There was no way to know. Sometimes, its best to know that you only had one option.
Sometimes it takes burning the edges of what you do know, to expose yourself to what you don't. Because the journey of discovering yourself is a lesson, memory and reason to live all on its own.
A/N: I can't believe I am here typing my thank you a/n. I'll keep it short.
I've met many amazing people throughout writing this thing. Whether they were deeply involved with helping me write this monster or just to provide a simple 'love the story', everyone has meant something to me.
A specific thanks to my three different betas I had throughout BtE: persnickety_er, thrownxroses, and Bublichka. To Kat who did some pre-reading from time to time and listening to my grievances over writing this. To the many people I WCed with.
Helese was kind enough to purchase an EPOV BtE outtake for the Fandom Gives Back and I will hopefully be posting that soon, so put me on author alert if you want to read some of him and some other possible future outtakes.
I plan to write another story and continue with Only Little Girls, so look out for those.
Thank you once again, lovelies. I look forward to hearing from you soon.