AN: Yes, here we are, just like I promised. . .the Putting Lessons Prequel. There's going to be a total of five chapters.
A HUGE thank you to Mommyofboth, for whom this fic was written. She bought me in the Support Stacie Auction this year after narrowly losing me last year and was so awesome to let me do exactly what I wanted. Also, she caught a few mistakes that I made in the initial draft. THANKS!!!!!
I couldn't even remember a time when I didn't know Edward Cullen.
Eighteen years ago, my parents, newly married, moved into a white house with blue trim. The house next door was sage green, and in it lived another set of newlyweds: Carlisle and Esme Cullen. The friendship started with a chat between my dad, Charlie, and Carlisle Cullen as they exited their houses to grope around in the dew-covered grass for their respective newspapers. That afternoon my mom Renee went to the green house next door with a plate of cookies and a plea for coffee (as she had mysteriously lost her own in the move).
The newspaper and the plate of cookies were famous and much-discussed items in a friendship that had already spanned eighteen years. The Swans and the Cullens had dinners together, played poker, hosted barbeques and when, a year later, Renee tearfully announced that she was pregnant, Esme's hug was loving yet envious. Two months later, before Renee had even begun to show, Esme became pregnant with her own bundle of joy.
When we were little, I used to tease Edward that he'd been born because of me. He'd scoff, naturally, but I'd smugly argue that without seeing how happy my own parents were, his own wouldn't have had him at all.
Of course, my parents stopped having children after I was born. I never understood if it was because they choose not to or because they couldn't. Whatever the reason, they had an additional extended family to love, so while I might have been an only child, I was never alone.
A year after Edward came the twins, Rosalie and Alice, who looked so totally different that nobody in their right minds would have ever thought they were even sisters. Rosalie took after Esme—she was tall and elegant and had hair just a few shades lighter than Esme's caramel color. Alice, everyone decided, was a throwback, because her tiny frame and dark hair and eyes were totally foreign to the Cullen family.
I never felt a conscious difference between me and the other Cullen children. We were like one family, merged. When I told the teachers at school that Esme was my Aunt Esme, they'd politely correct me, and deep down, I knew they were right. Of course Esme wasn't my aunt, she was my mother. Duh.
Just as Esme was my other mother, Rosalie and Alice were my sisters. But though we were close, they always had each other. My mom would always tell me when I felt excluded that it was because they were twins and in their own special world. Edward, however, was different.
Maybe it was because we were the same age. Maybe it was because we'd been placed together in the same crib while our mothers visited nearly from birth. Maybe it was because we were around each other constantly, whether we liked it or not, but Edward and I were inseparable.
Childhood passed in a warm, naïve cocoon of innocence and love and happiness. There isn't a single memory of those halcyon days that doesn't have Edward in it.
But like all good things, childhood came to an end.
Sixth grade was my first hint that some things truly were too good to last. Edward wanted to make other friends—friends who were boys. Friends who would say gross things and make fart noises out of their armpits and throw snakes and worms and spiders at us girls, who would run away screaming.
I remember the first time Edward participated and my own confused reaction. Why was he behaving just like the stupid boys he'd always made fun of? Couldn't he see, I thought with great big tears welling up inside of me, that he was better than those boys? Special? Different? Why would he want to be like them when he could be fifty times better than them just by being himself?
These were deep questions for me. I'd never wondered why people did what they did, or why kids longed so much to fit in with other kids. Not once in my life had I ever felt left behind or rejected because all I'd ever wanted was just to be with Edward, or with Alice and Rosalie.
That day, like every other day, I waited for Edward to meet me at the end of the schoolyard so we could walk home. Swinging my backpack, I still thought about what had happened that day at recess, but it never occurred to me that Edward wouldn't show and when he didn't, I was devastated.
I walked home alone, the tears I'd held in from recess, falling slowly down my cheeks in big wet drops. I'd poured out my heart to my mom, who had sat and held me and tried to explain that we were growing up and Edward and I might not always be best friends.
I couldn't understand. Renee was patient and explained as best she could to a brokenhearted girl that the boy she adored more than anyone else on earth might be more interested right now in mud pies and illegal fireworks than in playing pretend or talking with the girl he'd known all his life. When my dad got home, she left me with him and for the first time in as long as I could remember, she went to see Esme and she didn't take me with her.
I don't know exactly what my mom and my other mom discussed that day, but the gist of it was easy to figure out, given the subtle differences in my life after that day.
Edward no longer spent recess with me. I walked home with Alice and Rosalie instead of with Edward. He had a new group of boys he hung out with, though on the weekends, he came over at least once and at least initially, things were the same between us. We never discussed the worms he threw in my direction when we were at school or any of the ways our lives had changed, but it was there, in every word we said and in every look. Both of us knew instinctively that things were changing and that nothing would ever be the same.
I took Edward's change in alliances hard, though I tried to hide it as I hated worrying my mother and I did not want Esme to know, because there was a chance she might tell Edward and the idea of him knowing my secret pain was excruciatingly humiliating. Edward's betrayal was the first of any kind that I'd experienced and it seared and burned and twisted me until even when Edward attempted to be friendly, I'd rebuff him. As he grew more extroverted and made tons of friends, I turned towards myself, losing the pain of my reality in books and in elaborate fantasies I'd write down painstakingly. Renee called it a "creative outlet" but I heard the undertone of concern in her voice. She continued to push me towards Alice and Rosalie, but Edward had made me distrustful and I'd never been able to totally penetrate their bubble, so I resisted her transparent gestures and even most of their friendly overtures.
By the beginning of high school, our routines had solidified. After what felt like a lifetime of being loved and part of a pair, I now felt totally alone. Everyone else, it seemed, had someone. Renee had my dad, Charlie. Esme had Carlisle. Even Alice and Rosalie had each other. And Edward had the whole high school already bowing and scraping before him.
And I had no one.
As I sat in my math class and stared at the back of his head, the hair faded from the shocking red of his childhood to a dark bronze, I tried to decide if I loved him or I hated him.
How, I thought, was it even possible for me to think that I felt both at the same time? But I couldn't deny the strength of my feelings scared me sometimes. I felt something—but what that something entailed was difficult for me to understand. I did know that the resentment of middle school had grown and hardened into a hard ball lodged under my breastbone that seemed to choke off both air and words.
Edward was never rude enough to refuse to acknowledge me. Whenever we'd pass each other in the hallway, he'd smile and say "Hello, Bella," in the same god damned respectful voice he used to speak to every other in the school. He hadn't descended into calling me Isabella yet, but I supposed it was only a matter of time. And though he was politeness incarnate, I couldn't ever answer him. His appearance made me breathless and lightheaded with something that I'd finally decided must be anger, and I could never find the right thing to say. Usually I'd just give him a quick brief, totally meaningless smile and nod. No words were best, I'd finally decided. I had nothing to say to Edward Cullen in the high school hallway with everyone watching.
The girls that were invariably with Edward would all smile and giggle at my behavior and as a result, my reputation as a socially awkward, hopelessly gauche mute grew. Nobody really understood why Edward still acknowledged me when I couldn't even manage a simple hello back to the school's popular, handsome Varsity football star and truthfully, neither could I.
It was hatred, I finally decided, as Edward turned sideways in his desk to smile at some simpering blond cheerleader wearing a skirt that Esme would never have approved of. I hated him. I hated every hair on his charmed head. I hated the easy, trusting way he talked to everyone. I hated how everyone loved him. And I hated most of all that I was somehow still part of that group, except that my membership secret—sometimes even from myself.
Geometry was boring, as usual, but even more so today because we were reviewing for the final, which was in a few days. There was only a week until school let out for summer and I felt that familiar excitement followed by the inevitable knowledge that even though it was summer, nothing would change.
Summers used to mean going to the beach house that was jointly owned by the Swans and the Cullens and days filled with sandcastles and ice cream and sunburns. Charlie and Carlisle drove up from the city and took long weekends, but Esme and Renee and us kids stayed at the beach the whole summer.
Edward and I had used to love those summers and mourned their passing with a fierce intensity. We always hated packing up the house and going back to school. With each year that passed, and with each little bit of distance between Edward and I, the summers had become progressively worse. Last summer, thankfully, he hadn't come to the house at all. He'd stayed in town, obstinately to spend extra time training for the football season, and had avoided coming to the beach at all, except for the Fourth of July weekend. Even that one long weekend had felt like interminable agony for me. Our years of high school had separated us so completely that being in the place of so many of our memories, yet unable to connect in the same way, had been horrible. I'd avoided him assiduously, and had tried to ignore the concerned expression on both Renee and Esme's faces.
I had a love/hate relationship with Edward's presence now and as the summer drew closer this year, I prayed that he wouldn't come again this year. Though I missed him when he wasn't around, it was just too hard for me when he was. I wanted to wrap myself in my memories and pretend he hadn't betrayed our friendship and pretending was impossible when he was around.
All my hopes had dissolved last night when I'd overheard my mom discussing the situation with my dad.
" . . .not sure what we should do about Bells and her issue with Edward. . ."
I hadn't been able to sleep and had finally decided that I'd get a glass of water from the kitchen downstairs. I'd been walking down the flight of stairs when Renee's words had hit me and I crept back into the darkness, and sat down on the top step to listen.
"Is it really that bad?" Charlie asked, sounding unconcerned. I smiled in relief. My dad was a smart guy and he'd convince my mom that all her worries were unfounded. Edward wouldn't be coming anyway—I was sure of it. If football had been important to him last year, it was doubly so this year. There was no way he would come to the beach when he could train in the city.
Renee sighed. "Don't you remember 4th of July last year? Oh, that's right. You spent nearly the whole weekend repairing the fence with Carlisle and drinking beer on the patio."
I could almost sense my dad opening his mouth to argue but my mom continued. "Don't bother. The fence needed to be done and you needed a break. All I'm trying to say is that you didn't notice that our dear daughter spent the entire weekend hiding in her room, refusing to participate in any activities because she was clearly avoiding Edward. She wouldn't even speak to him."
If I hadn't been eavesdropping, I would have argued hotly against her. I hadn't hid in my room. I'd just preferred being in there to being with everyone else—and Edward. And as for not speaking to him, couldn't she understand that I didn't speak to him because if I ignored him, there was no way he could ignore me?
"Maybe you should talk to her." Charlie was beginning to sound more concerned and I frowned. Why was everyone so worried anyhow? The most I'd have to tolerate with Edward around was a few weekends here and there.
"I should. I have to tell her he's coming anyway.''
I couldn't help myself; I gasped. Renee looked up from the cup of tea she was holding and I dashed up the stairs as she called up them, "Bells, is that you?"
Slamming the door shut, I launched myself onto my bed and grabbed and held tight the only stuffed animal I still permitted on my bed: a fat stuffed sheep that, ironically, had once been a birthday present from Edward.
I tried to steady my heart rate by breathing in and out slowly but it was useless. This was the culmination of my worst fears. Renee and Esme wouldn't permit me to hide out this year, and I'd have to wake up every morning and face him.
And is if on cue, there was a knock on the door. "I know you're up." Renee's voice was muffled but I could hear her 'no arguments' tone through the wood of the door.
Begrudgingly, I slid off the bed and opened the door for her, not once letting go of the sheep. It had always been one of my favorites, but in the last few years, it had become more like a reassuring comfort—proof that at one time Edward had cared.
My mom looked at me with an expression that radiated resignation rather than the sympathy I usually saw on her face when the subject of Edward came up. My mood worsened, if that was even possible. I stomped over to the bed and sat down, crossing my legs under me. I scowled, daring her to make the first move, which of course she did, because she was a mother.
She sat down next to me and just like I expected, began preaching right away. "Bella, I know you're angry at Edward, but it's been years. Maybe it's time to give it a rest and make up. At least be civil to him this summer."
"I am civil to him," I insisted. Nobody could prove otherwise, since I kept all my vituperative hatred bottled up. Mostly, anyway.
She gave me the "I know you're not telling me the truth and I'm going to break you" look, but I stayed strong, meeting her eyes stubbornly.
Finally, she sighed and looked down at the sheep in my arms. "I know you don't acknowledge him at school, even when he's polite enough to say hello to you."
It didn't surprise me at all that suddenly Edward had taken on saint-like qualities whereas I was relegated to ungrateful snob. This was Golden Boy Edward we were talking about. And for the record, I wanted to flog Alice or Rosalie for telling tales out of school.
"Um. I guess that might be what people think."
"Bella," Renee said and there was a wealth of disappointment in her voice. "He used to be your best friend. You were inseparable as children. You wouldn't even go to the store with me if Edward didn't come too."
"I don't want to hear it," I told her. In reality, I wanted to cover my ears and scream "no, no, no, no," over and over so I couldn't hear her words.
"Sometimes friends grow apart," she insisted, like it was the most normal thing in the world. Nothing to take personally; nothing to get upset over. "I'm sure that whatever differences you have with Edward can be sorted out this summer. I bet it's just a lot of miscommunication."
I wanted to scream at her that Edward turning his back on me had nothing to do with miscommunication and everything to do with plain fucking betrayal, but I bit my lip and stayed silent instead. There was no use in getting into it with her when she had so clearly decided to take Edward's side. Just like everyone else.
Renee stood up and dropped a single absent-minded kiss on the top of my head. "Time to go to sleep, sweetheart. School early tomorrow."
"Oh yeah, sure. Great," I said, barely biting the sarcasm but not quite accomplishing it.
I was half-expecting Renee to stop walking and turn back and give me a lecture on my tone of voice, but she let it go and closed the door softly behind her and I was left to my own hateful thoughts.
That night I couldn't sleep, and I stayed up very late with my arms wrapped hard around the sheep, staring dry-eyed at the ceiling, trying to come to terms with the idea that I'd be around Edward all summer.