Clutching the metal railing with one hand and burying my chin in my heavy scarf, I take a long pull of my beer.
Who even does that? Drink an ice cold beer in the middle of January, outside?
Edward laughs his silky chuckle beside me, making me remember. We do.
"We're getting married!" I laugh back, but the sound dies abruptly, hangs sadly in the air between us, stretching, painful.
We're staring straight ahead, not looking at each other, preferring to observe the ferry boats currently crossing the freezing waters of Seattle.
"How did that happen?" he murmurs, something I'm not quite sure I'm supposed to hear.
And I know exactly how it happened.
When I first moved to Forks, there was an instant bond between us, something neither could deny. I never did get him to confess it to me, but I suspected that, at that time, he'd tried to put some distance between us, unsuccessfully.
He was the most coveted guy in High School, and the pretty girls were always slipping him phone numbers and asking him out. He was already dating someone when we met, and I couldn't help but feel the pain that came with unrequited love.
Because I knew I loved him from day one. I'd just hoped it wasn't so. I waited for it to ebb, for it to stop mattering so damn much, but it never had.
And then there was Jacob.
He was radiant, funny, and understood me very well. It was impossible not to feel attracted to him and, even if what I felt for him couldn't compare with my feelings towards Edward, he was still there for me.
By the time Edward broke up with Lauren, I'd already been out with Jacob a couple of times.
We moved past it, enjoying our time together in school. With Jacob in La Push and his next girlfriend being from Port Angeles, we had time for each other. Time during which I always felt guilty for not missing my boyfriend.
Graduation came and went, and we both moved to Seattle to attend College; not together, never together, but close enough to never lose touch.
And there was a Kate and a Felix in the mix, at first. Then there was Jane - a sadistic bitch, if you ask me - who introduced me to her brother, Alec, gallant but cold. More came and went, never leaving a dent. Not in our hearts, not in our relationship.
And certainly not in the way I felt about him.
There were small or longer periods during which one of us was single, but never at the same time.
Even if that had been the case, I probably would have never said anything. I probably would have never acted on my feelings. Just the thought of becoming just another name on his contact list, just another woman he wants nothing to do with ever again, was enough to stun me into cowardice.
The doubles were the worst, because we'd instinctively ignore our dates for the night as much as possible. And, as the evening drew to a close, I regretted only one thing: that it was the closest I'd ever be to dating Edward.
The coup de grâce waltzed in our lives in the form of Tanya. Strawberry blond, all legs, intelligent above average Tanya. And I knew right then and there that the window of opportunity had finally closed. I finally stopped answering Edward's calls, and refused to meet the two of them. I didn't want to see what his eyes would look like, locked on her.
A couple of weeks later, Mike showed up at my workplace, representing one of the writers my editor was interested in, and we went out for coffee, a stroll, and, finally, lunch. Being with him was effortless, and his worshiping nature didn't hurt any. I wasn't head over heels in love, I wasn't insanely happy, but I was content. He was a good man, and his love was solid and comforting.
Six months later, Edward called, and a four minute long talk had brought us here at two in the morning.
"I can't believe you're marrying Newton."
I just nod. After years spent dodging him in High School, it certainly seems like an interesting story to tell my children.
"Does he still have that scar?" Edward insists, and I can just see the cocky smile that's gracing his face.
"Yep, the one on his brow. I still think you were just exaggerating."
"He was practically mauling you against the lockers, Bella…" he cuts in, and I have to laugh. It's as if we never lost touch.
"I'm not. Surprised, I mean," I add, seeing his face turn to me in my peripheral vision. "I knew Tanya was the girl you were going to marry the first time I saw her. She's just… perfect for you," I say, hoping he doesn't hear the dripping sadness. The envy. The regret.
"I'm supposed to be having a bachelor's party," he states, after taking another pull from the beer. "When it came to actually making a list… I gave up pretty quickly. The only one I wanted to talk to, the only one I wanted to celebrate this with - was you."
"Just so we're clear, I'm not taking you to a strip club," I rasp out, fighting off emotion, and hear him choke on his beer. "And you better get your ass back to Seattle in time to come to my wedding."
"I wouldn't miss it," he whispers, and I can feel the hurt coming off of him in waves. Even if he hadn't contacted me first, I would have still sent him an invitation. He doesn't know that though.
"So, what is it you want to do?" I ask, after clearing my throat.
"I'll leave my best woman in charge of that."
I feel the hot stinging tears fill my eyes, and bite back a sob. That's exactly what I am, what I'll always be.
His best woman.
"How about a mani and a pedi?" I throw out there, getting a hold of myself, just for the sake of seeing him grimace.
"How about a DVD and a bucket of popcorn? You have a decent sized couch yet, Swan?"
I chuckle, remembering us crammed together on my tiny scuffed couch. It stayed with me all the way through High School and College.
"Actually, I do. C'mon, let's hurry up or the groom won't get his beauty sleep."
We walk the distance back to my house, empty chatter filling the steps between us. I can't put my heart into it, and maybe he's still hurt that I vanished, because he's not quite there either.
The apartment is empty, and I bless my good decision of keeping it until the wedding. At the moment, I want nothing to do with Mike.
I shrug off my coat and receive his compliments about the space I call home. He makes no move to approach my rack of DVDs, standing before me instead.
"I missed you."
I can't divert my eyes here, and taking him in hurts. He's still the same - crazy hair, depthless green eyes, skin that begs to be touched, the chest I want to rest my head on.
"I missed you, too."
I start crying silently, because I can't stop it, and his strong arms encompass me, soothing me.
"Why did you shut me out, Bella?" he whispers in my ear, and I break through the steel bars of my own prison - my common sense, my self-doubt, my certainties about our friendship.
"I shut myself out. Have you ever thought about how much it hurt me, seeing you be happy with another woman? Have you ever thought about how my stomach churned each time I wanted to tell you… To tell you…"
I break off, because the nerves are getting to me. I'm too emotional. And because I'm marrying another man in less than four weeks. And he's marrying another woman in less than twenty-four hours.
"Don't say it," he whispers, and I cry more freely. His thoughts replicate mine. "Do you have any regrets, Bella?"
"I regret so, so many things. Do you?"
His body stiffens against mine for a moment, but then he steps forward minutely. His chest comes to rest closely again my own, and his presence is heavier. My mind falters.
Edward steps forward yet again, and I keep walking back, in small, unsteady paces, trying to put some distance between us.
The armrest of my couch comes in contact with the back of my knees, and I gulp loudly, trapped between all I want and the certainty that I'll never have it. Him.
But he pushes forward still, making me fall onto the couch. In shock, my breathing picks up, as I see him strip his grey wool sweater and t-shirt in one move.
His eyes are blazing, dark as charcoal, and he opens his mouth to ask a question I don't need to hear.
"Don't say it," I answer, reaching forward to grab onto his hips, pulling him to crash above me.
I don't think about it and I don't analyze it, because I don't care.
My body is stripped naked and inched up to occupy the full extent of the couch, and I don't care that I'm exposed, on display.
I hear the distant sound of cars passing my apartment building, and I know the door isn't locked. A platinum ring, having always been too big, slides off my finger and falls onto the cushy floor, silently. I don't care that I might lose it.
I close my eyes and feel Edward pull away. I know he's watching me, but, if I'm not to care, I can't do the same.
A searing kiss on my calve makes me squirm, only seconds before the sensitive skin behind the knee receives the same treatment.
Eager hands scorch the skin of my legs, my thighs, my hips, my stomach, and I keep my eyes closed, incoherent fragments of whispers tumbling from my lips.
He's everywhere all at once, dragging me with him.
I suck and bite at his neck, causing him to moan, the reverberating sound seeping into my own chest and burning me.
One of his hands inches up to touch my breast and I suck a breath, arching, wanting more. Edward nuzzles my other peak, slowly, deliberately driving me to insanity. His long, thin fingers travel the extent of my hipbone and nudge my legs apart, as he kneels.
The second I feel them tracing me, discovering me, all the memories push violently against the barrier I put firmly in place. I fight it so that it doesn't rupture, and concentrate on the feel of his skin, suddenly clawing at his back when a single fingers enters me, a silent moan of pleasure leaving me opened mouthed.
His lips touch mine for the first time ever, and I lose the battle, because it's wrong.
My world ruptures, and I do care.
My minds drifts away to everything - and everyone - I don't want to have in that room with us.
It's still worth it. Or so I try to convince myself.
His motions gain speed and strength, his own body taught in his need to feel and let go. I unravel in his arms, shuddering, trying to soothe the skin my nails scraped.
His own languid, soft movements are now meant to lull me, but I'll have none of it.
For years, I felt the same pull.
For years, he had over me the type of control that led me to forsake everything else for him. That still leads me to it.
But, if for tonight, I want a taste of control.
I push on his chest, getting him to sit back, and stand, finally opening my eyes. Disheveled, flushed, panting, needing me - the sight of him almost breaks me.
I touch him, slowly, watching him bite his lip until the flesh turns white, before taking it between my own.
I move to straddle him, expecting no resistance, but he still stiffens in surprise. I take him in just as my heart had - all at once, blurring the line between pleasure and pain.
His hands come to rest on my hips, holding them in place with sufficient force to bruise, and I shudder again, the cold air hitting the moist skin of my back.
When I finally move against him, I know this is what my body was made for. Again and again, we crash and pull away from each other, unable to hold back, to fight off the escalating aggression and pleasure. We're drowning, and it's too late to turn back.
And it's my lips he's kissing as he lets go, just seconds after me. But he's still clinging to my body.
We don't say anything as he keeps me crushed against his chest, lowering us both onto the sizeable couch.
Less than four hours later, I wake up in an uncomfortable mess of tangled limbs and sticky skin. The sun is already coming up, and I take a quick shower after making sure he's tucked in. I find him dressed when I step back into the living room, and silently hand him a cup of decaf.
He starts, and I wait, but nothing else comes out. I decide to cut in and save him.
"I've known you for ten years, Edward. I know exactly what last night meant. And I know what you'll do next; it's who you are. I could never resent that."
"We shouldn't have," he whispers, and I nod.
"It was wrong, and unfair to ourselves and two other people, on so many levels."
He nods. It felt wrong for him, too.
"I waited for years."
His admission throws me off, and I hide my face behind my steaming mug of tea, if for a couple of seconds.
"Since when?" I have to ask.
"Senior year. The first time I realized we were going to have to part ways, eventually. It physically hurt," he paused, sitting down on the couch and checking his watch. I knew he had little time. "When was it, for you?"
"Are you kidding me, Edward?" I ask, crying copiously. "The first time I saw you from across the cafeteria, the day I set foot in Forks High. You've owned me ever since."
He sets down the cup of decaf, and comes up to me, kissing me on the forehead.
"How long will it take you to get ready?"