Hey everyone! Thanks so much to those of you that read and reviewed last chapter. I know it was a pain with FFn being on the brink, so thank you so much for taking the time to go back and review. :]
Here's a small epi of sorts. It's just a few months skip ahead. I'm not into that whole, buying a house and settling down with a baby thing. We get some fluffy graduation instead. lol
Thank you so much to Susan and Judy as always. They are amazing and I couldn't do anything without them.
Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer owns Twilight and all its characters.
I'd just had my picture taken more times than I could count. There were spots in front of my eyes and my cheeks hurt from smiling so much, and it felt good, even if I did keep tripping over the potholes in the ground - people really needed to turn the damn flash off on their cameras. I was one shot away from face-planting the dirt.
High school was over, the graduation ceremony lasting no longer than a couple of hours. The voices were loud and the excitement high, and families and friends were gathered around in sporadic groups, sharing stories as they waved their hands about in front of each other.
It was surreal.
And on top of this, there was also a hint of melancholy in the air... or perhaps that was just me.
It was a bittersweet feeling, knowing that the very thing I moaned about each morning I got up - all the homework and classes and uniforms - was no longer going to be a part of my life.
I'd sat and watched the majority of my classmates go before me onto the stage, filing out of their seats in alphabetical order as their names were called out.
I'd hated the fact that I couldn't sit with Edward or Alice, or one of the others, cursing my last name... and the bird that represented it. Stupid thing with its weird, hook shaped neck and white feathers.
Crow would have been a lot more advantageous.
Isabella Crow... I couldn't stop the laugh that burst from my mouth.
"What's so funny?" Rose asked, her eyes darting to me before squinting back out into the crowd, her hand over her eyes, shielding them from the sun's rays.
I shook my head, pushing the hair from my face. "Nothing," I answered, feeling the heat of the sun on the back of my neck. The sky was a clear blue, free of those candy floss clouds that looked close enough to touch.
I knew who she was looking for as she continued to scan those around us, because I was, too - the boys.
When Edward had walked up to the stage, my heart had felt like it was going to burst out of my chest. He'd looked weirdly hot in that ugly yellow polyester gown, his cheeks pinking with embarrassment when Em started hollering after him, complete with fist pumps.
His eyes had found mine in the crowd, and that feeling of love and lust and all good things had fluttered in my tummy, my hands itching to weave themselves into his hair and kiss him silly.
"I can't find Em," Rose sighed, interrupting my thoughts as she gave up her search to smooth her hands down her gown.
I followed suit before straightening my cap, the tassel irritating the hell out of me. "They'll find us soon enough," I assured her, giving her hand a quick squeeze. I noticed her nail polish matched the colour of our gowns and I smiled.
And speaking of Em... I was pretty sure Mrs. Cope was still grinning from ear-to-ear after the lip smacker he'd given her - right on the mouth. I hadn't been able to stop laughing, tears forming in my eyes at the expression on both of their faces - happiness for completely different reasons - and was insanely grateful that Alice had insisted on me wearing waterproof mascara this morning, because, in her words, 'things were going to get emotional'.
And that was true.
Especially where my mother was concerned.
"Baby, I'm so, so proud of you!" she'd cried, squeezing the life out of me with one of her hugs.
I'd laughed, hugging her back, frowning when her shoulders started to shake.
Pulling back, I whispered, "Mom?"
"I'm fine," she insisted, wiping at her eyes. "I'm just emotional."
I smiled - I was just happy she was here. This was the first time I'd seen her all year, so I was more than content: sometimes talking over the phone just wasn't the same as having the real thing in front of you.
She gave me another wistful look. "You're so grown up, Bella. When did that happen?" Her eyes immediately cut to Charlie. "When did our baby grow up?" she repeated, her voice instantly cracking. Not that I'm sure it had ever stopped.
She'd started crying again and Dad had looked like he wanted to retreat to someplace else. His cheeks had warmed and his eyes had looked anywhere but at Mom, but he'd stepped forward to rub her back awkwardly nonetheless, murmurs of 'it's alright' passing in between a lot of throat clearing and brushes to his moustache. Phil returned with a new roll of film for his camera a few minutes after that, and I couldn't remember a time I'd ever seen Charlie look so relieved - the expression on his face screamed, 'she's all yours, pal'.
It was nice to see them together though. They still got on pretty well, which made me really lucky. I knew that wasn't always the case for most kids with divorced parents; so I'd hugged them both, smiling once more as Phil took our picture. Needless to say he hadn't turned off the flash, so I'd had to put up with dancing disco balls in my eyes for another few minutes.
"It's useless," Alice sighed, drawing me out of my thoughts as she fluffed the sides of her hair, attempting to exaggerate the flick with the tips of her finger. "This cap has given me the worst case or hat hair... or cap hair, rather," she amended.
I shook my head, giggling. "You look fine, Al," I told her honestly, running my fingers through the back of her spiky, ebony cut, over the areas where she couldn't see without a mirror handy.
My cap had almost fallen off twice when it became my turn to collect my diploma. I'd been fiddling with my hair all morning - a nervous tick, according to Edward - so it was all my own doing. It didn't mean I didn't want to burn the thing though.
I'd heard Em's familiar wolf whistle as I'd shuffled from my seat - the one he did with two fingers - and blushed from head to toe. I didn't think he'd ever tire of trying to embarrass me. Or tease me, for that matter.
I was really going to miss him... all of them.
We were heading to different colleges; different schools better for the different courses we wanted to take. There had been tears shed and clear spirits and cookie dough, but we had holidays and weekends and knew we'd still see each other all the time. Friendships like we had wouldn't fizzle out over the course of a few missed months.
We were stuck with each other. And that was fine with us all.
I'd decided on UW, wanting to stay closer to home. And apparently that was what Edward had had in mind, too.
Both of us had avoided the college talk for so long, scared about what would happen with us, the technicalities of living apart. Every time I had brought it up, something had gotten in the way, or our conversation had simply fizzled out. Locking ourselves away in denial had seemed like the better option.
Things between us had been so, so good during the last four months. Sure we still argued, a lot of the time actually, and always over stupid things, our stubborn natures causing us to butt heads. But despite all that, they never lasted long, one of us usually cracking within a day or two. There was always a lot of kissing involved during those times, which was never a bad thing.
When we'd finally sat down to discuss our options, our conversation had gone a lot differently than what I'd expected.
"What college are you going to?" I'd asked, fiddling with the sleeves of my sweater, fingers clumsy as they attempted to hide inside cotton.
He ran his hand through his hair as he shrugged, unperturbed. "The one you go to," he said simply.
My heart stuttered. "Be serious," I said, even though I loved the words coming from his mouth. I wouldn't tell him that though; he had to make this decision for himself. I couldn't influence him in any way.
He frowned, his brows drawing low over his green eyes. "I am," he said, swallowing heavily, Adam's apple bobbing in his throat. "Do you... do you not want me to...? Go to the same one as you, I mean?" he explained.
My stomach dropped. How could he think that? "No," I blurted, feeling my pulse quicken. "Of course I do. I just can't be the one to make that choice for you."
His expression shifted, his relief evident in the straightening of his brows and slight curl of his lips.
"Well, okay then," he answered, kissing along my thighs where my shorts ended, his light touches driving me crazy inside.
My teeth bit the inside of my cheek as he kissed a little higher. "I was thinking UW," I said quickly, simultaneously trying to gauge his reaction and not let him distract me any more than he already was with his mouth.
His nose skimmed along the inside of my knee. "I applied there," he admitted, his fingers joining in with his attention to my skin.
I smiled, stilling his hand with my own palm. "Yeah?" I said, trying to capture his gaze as I bent my head a little.
His eyes flicked to mine for a moment. "Yeah."
His admission lit me up inside, and I tried really hard not to get my hopes up, but it was difficult. I didn't want to be apart from him. I loved him... I was scared he'd meet someone else... or that things would change between us. Long distance relationships rarely turned out well. I didn't want that for us.
"What happens if we don't get in?" I whispered, my voice small as I gave life to my fear.
He'd grinned, shifting on the bed until he was beside me, face to face, his palm resting on my stomach. "I'll flirt with one of the admissions people," he responded, eyes holding mine
"Oh my god, no you will not," I choked out.
His brows rose, his lips brushing against my cheek as he kissed me. "Why? You know it would work."
"That's beside the point," I said breathlessly.
He looked me in the eye, his thumb brushing my chin. "You're jealous," he stated.
I played with one of the buttons on his shirt. "Am not."
"Don't worry," he smirked, licking his lips. "You're my woman. No one else matters."
Stubborn mouth and, "I'm no one's woman," I amended.
I was totally his woman.
"Keep telling yourself that," he said, his fingers sneaking under the wire of my bra.
"Stop touching my boobs," I laughed, the sound quickly turning into a moan.
His eyes flicked up to mine, his look devilish. "Why? They like me."
I felt my face heat and covered my eyes with my hands. I couldn't even deny that one.
"They're my girls," he continued, pushing the cups down.
I started laughing, feeling it down in my belly. "Oh god, that sounds so wrong."
He'd grabbed my face and kissed me until I was breathless - it had been a good talk.
Rubbing my eyes clear of the memory, I cursed softly as I remembered I had mascara on, quickly checking my fingers for any signs of black.
I was about to ask Alice if anything had smudged, when I felt someone tap me on the shoulder, my heart instantly jumping into my throat, not expecting the touch.
Turning quickly, hand to my chest, I looked into a familiar pair of brown eyes. "Shit, you made me jump," I blurted.
Jake had a small smile on his face, and not the usual grin I had been used to, but it was still something. And I was so happy to see him. I wanted to pull him into a hug, tell him the funny joke I'd heard the other day I knew he'd like. But we weren't there quite yet.
And that was okay.
"Hey," I said softly.
Jake had cut his hair, his once chin length cut now short. It suited him.
"Congratulations," he nodded, that smile getting a little bigger.
I hadn't seen him for a few weeks and my smile grew in response to his.
The last time we'd spoken had been at a barbecue his dad had thrown together last minute after a particularly fruitful fishing trip with Charlie about a month back. We'd all stuffed ourselves until the sight of fish made us groan out loud. And not in a good way.
"Thanks," I breathed, swallowing against the happy induced lump in my throat. "You too," I added.
Jacob had just graduated himself. I hadn't been able to attend his graduation due to school, but Charlie had taken the day off work to be there. Billy had also promised me a copy of his film if I wanted it.
"Quil and Embry are around somewhere," he continued, scratching the back of his head. "Probably scaring fathers by chatting up their daughters."
His eyes cut to mine and we both started laughing, an honest to god one that started in my belly.
"I would say I'm surprised, but, well..." I laughed again, shaking my head.
He licked his lips, his eyes flicking over my face as he slid his hands into the pockets of his jeans. "Anyway," he sighed, "I'm about to head off, but I just wanted to come tell you congrats."
I nodded, exhaling slowly. "Thanks, Jake," I whispered.
My teeth found my lip in my hesitation and without thinking too much more about what I was about to do, I gave him a quick hug.
He sort of froze and I was worried he was going to pull away, but then his hand found my back, his touch light, and the tension in my posture lessened a little.
"See ya, Bells," he said quietly before disentangling himself.
"Bye," I said, watching him go.
Rose snorted, gaining my attention. "What?" I asked, a smile tugging at the corners of my lips.
"Was that as awkward for you as it was for me?" she teased.
I pushed at her arm. "Shut up," I laughed, squeaking when someone picked me up from behind.
"Who was that I just saw you with?" Edward whispered into my neck.
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and pulled in a deep breath instead. "Don't start," I warned.
His lips left warm kisses down my skin. "I wasn't going to," he answered, his warm breath on my neck making me feel fidgety.
"Mhmm," I hummed, not believing him in the slightest.
My hands slid up his forearms as his hold tightened around my waist. "Ready to get out of here?" he asked. "We're all heading to Newton's for food I think."
"Let me just say bye to my parents first," I said, scanning through the row of heads for them.
He kissed me once more before stepping back. "They're with my mom and dad," he told me, pointing to the area left of the stage as he linked his fingers with mine, pulling me forward.
I still got embarrassed holding hands in front of everyone... or rather in front of Charlie and his parents. Esme would smile every single time, and Edward's cheeks still got rosy. That part was totally worth it though. It was adorable.
Carlisle was dressed in a grey suit today, and I looked, but was no longer affected. He still had an amazing butt though.
Hell. I was going to hell.
It didn't stop the other women in the crowd from staring though. Mothers all around us were staring coyly over their shoulders. Especially the elder ones. Forks had suddenly turned into Cougar Town. My fingers squeezed Edward's a little tighter, just to be on the safe side.
"Mom?" I said as we stopped in front of them. "We're going to go to Newtons for a bit."
She ran her hand along my hair. "Okay, baby, but be back at the house at seven. I'm cooking."
I saw Phil wince out of the corner of me eye, Charlie too, and bit my lip to stop the smile that was threatening to make an appearance. "Okay."
Esme kissed Edward's cheek and I fought the urge not to get jealous. That was my face.
Oh my god, there was something seriously wrong with me.
I'd end up having to go to some sort of addiction meeting... maybe after finding a collection of t-shirts in the back of my closest with his face printed on them. I should start praying for myself now, rather than later.
The next thing I knew, my own mother was pulling him in for a kiss, his lips forming into a smirk when he caught the expression on my face.
"You get younger every time I see you, Renee," he smiled, even going as far as to wink at her.
Gross, was she flirting? I had to look away.
Esme wrapped me up into a hug, whispering another congratulations in my ear, making me smile. Then Carlisle stepped forward to kiss my cheek, and I was almost tempted to slap his butt, but thought against it on account of present company.
I caught Edward's eye, and he was the one glaring then. I grinned back at him.
"Hey!" Emmett's voice shouted at us from a few feet away. "Can we go now? I'm wasting away over here," he whined.
Charlie's 'stache twitched and Esme shook her head at her son, smiling.
"You ready?" Edward asked as I waved back at the adults.
I licked my lips, turning my head to quickly press my mouth to his. "Yeah, I'm ready."
He got that look in his eye and I flushed all over. "Want to make a pit-stop first?" he smirked. "I know a great little secluded spot. Lots of trees, maybe a squirrel or two, that sort of thing."
Pulling away from him, but reaching back for his hand, I wondered, "Is that all you think about?"
"Mostly," he answered honestly. "You're too irresistible for your own good. I can't be held accountable in the slightest."
I laughed. "You're so full of shit."
He came back up behind me again, his hands on my hips as we followed Alice to the parking lot. "I'm full of something else, too," he whispered into my ear, causing my chest to hurt as my laughter continued until tears sprung to my eyes.
"Sick," I told him. "Sick."
"I'm so hungry," Em groaned, his hand splayed over his stomach. "I haven't eaten all day."
Edward tore the wrapper from his straw. "You had cereal this morning," he replied, brow raised.
Em waved him off. "Like that counts. Cereal is considered rabbit food. Everyone knows that."
"Obviously," Jazz interjected, smiling as he took a gulp of his Coke.
The ice clinked in my glass as I swirled my straw in my own drink. "I can't wait for my burger. I was too nervous to eat this morning."
"Me, too," Alice agreed, putting her gum in a napkin before crumpling it into a ball.
"Amateurs," Em interrupted, laughing when Alice threw her napkin at him.
Edward's hand found my bare knee under the table and I discreetly tried to push it away. He would always try this; try and get me worked up when we were out in public.
His teasing was never-ending, but my favourite thing of all was when I'd find him looking at me, no ulterior motives, his eyes soft and his smile curling up at one side.
It never failed to make my heart skip a beat.
"Stop it," I whisper-hissed, pinching at the side of his thigh when he completely ignored me.
His hand curved around my thigh tightly in retaliation. "Stop what?" he whispered back, turning his head to look at me. Smug, beautiful face.
"I have a fork in my hand," I warned.
"No you don't," he pointed out with a smile.
I pushed some hair from the side of my face. "Yeah, but I could," I said, glancing back to the table. "Our food will be here shortly, and then you'll be sorry."
"It's here now," he grinned, nodding to the waitress. "And you promise?"
I raised a brow. "Just you wait."
"And since when do you eat your burger with a fork, anyway?" he asked, pushing his drink aside as he made room for his food.
"Since right now," I said stubbornly, thanking the girl with the braids as she set my plate down in front of me.
I unwrapped my cutlery from its napkin and started cutting up my burger... with difficulty. Edward smirked the whole time.
"That's the saddest thing I've ever seen," Em commented once I was done, his mouth full with fries.
Rose pushed the bottom of his chin up, effectively closing his mouth. "Gross, Em."
"What?" he shrugged, chewing quickly. "Bella's making me edgy. Who cuts up their burger like that? It's not normal."
"You're not normal," Alice snorted, causing Jazz to laugh.
"Yeah, Bella," Edward interjected with a smirk. "Stop it, you're making Emmett uncomfortable." He took a mouthful of Coke, eyes twinkling.
I stabbed a chunk of ground beef and put it in my mouth slowly, my eyes on Edward the whole time. I moaned lightly, remembering the very first time I'd teased him with this sound, in this very same diner, while eating the very same thing.
He eyes dipped to my mouth, the hand that was still on my leg inching a little higher.
Game on, Buddy.
The best things in life were those that brought you back to a moment, a place; the ones that brought a smile to your face and a jolt to your heart. For me, that was my friends, my parents, my pseudo family...
For me, that was Edward.
We'd been through so much together in such a short period of time. He'd broken my heart and stitched it back up so many times I was unsure how it could still feel.
But I think it always would when it came to Edward, whether the moment be good or bad.
"What are you thinking about?" he wondered, pulling me closer to him.
I looked up at his face, my food momentarily forgotten, my heart full. "You," I answered truthfully.
He smiled, looking right back, his thumb sweeping back and forth against my cheek. "Oh yeah?" he questioned.
"Yeah," I nodded. "Is that okay with you?"
"Hmm, that depends," he said, his expression thoughtful.
I laughed. "On what?" I asked.
"On what it is you're thinking about," he said, momentarily leaning forward to kiss my forehead.
My eyes fluttered shut, my smile formed from one of mischievous teasing as I felt his hand inching its way under my skirt again.
"Well," I said slowly. "It involves you, your hand, and a fork..."
I didn't get to say much else, as my mouth was suddenly full of burger, his palm smushed to my lips.
Eyes wide and cheeks full of bread, I glared up at him playfully. "Oh, you really shouldn't have done that," I said through a mouthful of food, one hand in front of my mouth as I swept a finger through my ketchup on my plate with the other.
Before he had time to react, I wiped it across his cheek, hearing the others laugh around us before leaving us to our own devices - they were used to us being in our own little world by now.
"You know," I laughed, grinning up at his pissed expression, "red really is your colour. You should wear it more often."
His eyes narrowed further, in teasing contemplation, his tongue coming out to wet his lips.
"I think it would look a lot better on you," he said, grabbing my face as he pressed his cheek to mine, tickling me with his now tomato-sticky stubble.
"Get off me," I giggled, eyes screwed shut as his onslaught continued.
His lips replaced his cheek, kissing my face all over, again and again. "Truce?" he said between cushiony soft presses of his mouth.
Biting lightly against his chin, I whispered: "For now."
He dipped a corner of his napkin into Rose's glass of water when she wasn't looking, wiping my face clean as I shoved another bit of burger into my mouth.
I was sure the sight of us was sickening, but I didn't care. And from the look on Edward's face, I didn't think he did either.
The voices of those around us comforted me like an old, favoured sweater, Jazz bickering with Rose about something as Em flicked sodden balls of napkin into Alice's hair.
I smiled, knowing we had a whole summer of doing whatever we wanted before heading to college.
And I as relaxed back into Edward's arms, his lips at my temple, whispering things that made me giggle, I couldn't help but wonder:
Why did I ever try to evade Edward?
Again, thank you all so much from the bottom of my heart for reading. I'm going to miss these two, and all of you as well.