(Disclaimer: Characters belong to SM)
Emmett continued to laugh as I lay on the ground, groaning in pain. I could hear three girls laughing and the distinct sound of Alice's squeal. Then the door was slammed shut and the Abba music faded away as the car drove away.
The clicking of Esme's heels came into the room and she gasped.
"Emmett!" she scolded, hitting his shoulder.
"It—wasn't—me!" he guffawed. "You know that girl, Rosalie?"
"Yup! She pulled up to the house in her hot red convertible and marched into the house like she owned the place! Then she went up to Edward and was all like 'Are you the guy who left Bella the night her parents died?' and he was like 'oh no' and she was all 'oh yeah', and then she punched him and kicked him in the nuts!" He began a whole new round of laughter while I pulled myself up off the ground, gripping the edge of the counter for support.
"Are you all right, Edward?" Esme asked, trying her best to be sympathetic. However, I could see the satisfaction and amusement glowing in her eyes.
"Yeah, fine," I muttered sullenly.
"You totally deserved it, man," Emmett said, his laughter having died down.
"I know." And I did. I deserved much, much more than what I was given. I was glad that Bella had made a friend as protective as Rosalie was. She might be a bit insane, but she obviously cared about Bella.
"Did you see how she smiled when she said sorry to me?" I asked.
"Who, Bella?" Emmett asked.
"Yeah." Who else?
"What, did you think she'd try to protect you?"
I didn't answer. Emmett snorted and left the room as Esme leaned against the counter beside me. Neither of us spoke for a short while.
"She's changed," I finally said.
"She has," Esme agreed with a slight nod. "For the better, in my opinion."
A couple minutes went by before I spoke again. "What am I supposed to do now?"
"I can't answer that for you, Edward. The only advice I can give you is that you need to try to listen to her, and in return she'll listen to you."
"Thanksgiving is tomorrow," I stated dumbly.
"It is," she said with a sigh. "Bella leaves the day after."
That wouldn't give me much time to make even the smallest amount of progress with her. I'd have to try to talk to her again. We had barely spoken yesterday and it had instantly turned into a fight which had lasted all of thirty seconds at best before Bella had gotten up and left the room, slamming the door behind her.
Being around her felt so strange. There were things she would do that I remembered with perfect clarity, like biting her lip and brushing the bridge of her nose with her forefinger when she was thoughtful. Then I'd notice the things she wasn't doing—like blushing constantly, hiding her face with her hair, nibbling on her fingernails and twisting her fingers anxiously. She'd grown into a beautiful, confident woman who didn't take shit from anyone.
And then she'd speak in a strong voice that told people she knew exactly what she was talking about. Her personality had changed so much that it was almost impossible to recognize her. My best friend had been a shy, beautiful, people-pleasing girl that everyone thought would grow into a woman who married a wealthy man, baked cookies for the neighbors, and had a picture-perfect life.
Jesus, we had been wrong.
I didn't have any idea who this Bella was, but I knew for a fact that I wanted to get to know her even if it meant begging for her forgiveness for the rest of my life.
"Alice!" Bella called as I skipped down the stairs. At her side stood the strong blond woman from her pictures. Rosalie. I walked straight up to her and gave her a hug. She turned rigid but relaxed after a while.
"Hi, Rosalie!" I smiled cheerfully. "We're going to be great friends."
She raised an eyebrow and said, "I highly doubt that."
A copper glint caught my eye and I gasped as I took in the purse she held. She followed my gaze and held onto the bag a little more tightly.
"Oh. My. God!" I squealed. "Is that a Miss Violet purse?"
Her grip relaxed and she smiled slightly. "A one of a kind original." I gaped at her and Bella laughed.
"Meet Alice," she said to her friend. "She's been into fashion ever since I can remember and owns her own clothing store now."
Rosalie's lips curved up into a satisfied smile. "Maybe we will be friends."
We all started to laugh and Rosalie motioned for us to follow her outside.
"I passed this really cool coffee shop on the way here. Let's talk there for a while," she suggested, jumping into the front seat of her convertible. Bella and I followed suit and as we pulled away from the house, Rosalie asked me, "So, how close are you and Edward?"
"Not very anymore," I said quietly before grinning. "But what you just did to him almost made me wet my pants laughing! His face was so hilarious!"
She frowned. "How did you know about that?"
Bella smiled at and then looked at Rosalie. "Alice is pretty special."
It surprised me how quickly Alice and Rosalie became friends. Rose had always taken forever to warm up to people, with the exception of me, so it meant a lot that my two friends, from past and present, got along perfectly. Sitting in the shop, drinking coffee as we chatted about nothing in particular, felt absolutely perfect and right.
An even greater surprise was how easily Rosalie believed that Alice had visions. After listening to Alice and I explain everything to her, she was silent for a little while before asking the little pixie-like woman what it was like.
Of course, my good mood was instantly killed when we pulled into the Cullen's driveway and I saw a nervous Edward shuffling from foot to foot. I groaned and put my head in my hands. Alice sighed but giggled a bit, probably amused with my discomfort, and Rosalie raised one delicate eyebrow before rolling her eyes in distaste.
"Want me to can him again?" she asked as if it was no big deal at all.
"No," I sighed. "I have to straighten out some stuff with him before I leave anyway."
Rosalie passed by Edward with a menacing look and Alice gave him a little thumbs up before she followed Rosalie into the house. I wearily walked over to where he stood and crossed my arms defensively, waiting for him to say whatever it was he needed first.
"Erm…Rosalie seems like a good friend," he began slowly. I rolled my eyes.
"Just say whatever you need to say, Edward."
He sighed and shook his head before squaring his shoulders and looking me in the eye. "First of all, I'm sorry for the way things turned out last night."
"Yeah, me too," I muttered, not really meaning it. I was still positive he needed a good kick in the ass and to go find a better job. If he heard the sarcasm in my voice, he didn't say anything about it.
"I also wanted to give you these before you left." He held out a manila envelope with my name scrawled on it in sparkly black ink. I started. Strangely enough, I knew exactly what pen that ink had come from.
"Happy birthday, Edward!" I said cheerily, handing him a small, neatly wrapped box. "That's only a small part of your gift."
He tore open the package and burst out laughing when he saw the item inside.
"A box of your special black pens?" he chuckled.
He shook his head. "You are one weird girl, Isabella Swan."
All through high school, I never used any other pens from but one brand and color. I must have gone through almost one-hundred of them. Edward had always teased me about my strange obsession, saying that most teenagers got addicted to cigarettes and other drugs—not glittery black pens. As a sort of joke, I had given him a pack for his sixteenth birthday. He never used them except for when he needed to write something that I would later read.
Recovering, I took it from his hands and asked, "What is it?"
Quietly, he spoke. "Pictures from the concert at senior prom." Hurrying now, he said, "You don't have to look at them or keep them, but I just thought you might want them."
Looking at the ground, I spoke. "Thank you."
Neither of us spoke for a minute and finally Edward announced that he was going to go inside.
"Wait," I said quickly. "I want to set some things straight first."
He turned back to me and looked ten years older than he actually was. "Yes?" he asked slowly. Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes and spoke so I wouldn't have to see all the emotions in his eyes as he listened to what I had to say.
"I um, I want you to know that I think I've sort of forgiven you. However…" I trailed off briefly, collecting the words I wanted him to hear. "However, I really don't think it's a good idea for us to be friends."
A couple beats passed, and then I heard Edward inhale shakily.
"And why not?" he asked in a controlled voice. My heart ached; he used to always use this voice when he was angry with me and didn't want to yell or make me feel bad.
"I just…I don't…As a child, I…" with a frustrated sigh, I tried to think of some way I could explain my decision without bearing my heart to him. "It's not what I need," I finally finished. Edward frowned and stared at the ground for an immeasurable moment.
"What do you need?" he finally whispered, meeting my eyes.
"I don't really know, to be honest," I answered truthfully.
"Then how do you know I'm not it?" he demanded, gaining some confidence.
"I just do," I said defensively, creasing my forehead. Rose hated when I did that. She insisted I would get premature wrinkles.
"Well I think you're wrong," he stated simply. I was about to protest, but he spoke again. "I know we've both dealt…with things…differently over the past seven years, but I cannot believe that you've been as happy as you were when we were in school."
"I'm not a teenager anymore, Edward."
"I know you're not," he said easily. "What's your point?"
"My point is," I stressed, "that the things that made me happy as a kid won't make me happy anymore." Why couldn't he just drop it? Why was he trying to change my mind? I refused to believe that he wanted me in his life this much.
"Why can't you stop asking me the same question?"
"Why can't you stop making this so difficult?" he shot back. I groaned in a mixture of confusion, frustration, and anger.
"Bella," Edward said carefully. "Look, I know we both have a lot of things we're withholding that we're not ready to share yet. It could be affecting you're decision. All I'm asking is a chance to fix things with you. I'm a different person now—"
"No kidding," I muttered. He shot me an angry look.
"And 'so are you' would be a huge understatement," he continued. I shot daggers at him but kept quiet. "I want to get to know the new Bella. All I want is to try. If you agree, I promise I'll let you have an out whenever you want. I won't push you or hold you back. Just give me one chance," he pleaded, eyes wide. And, damn him, I got trapped in those evil green things.
"Okay?" He blinked several times, freeing me from his gaze.
"Seriously?" he asked with a small laugh, emitting more light and joy from his face than I had seen the entire time I'd been here.
"I mean, I'll think about it." His smile fell slightly, but he still shone. "I'll let you know before I leave."
He nodded quickly and opened his mouth to speak when Esme called from the front door, "Supper time!"
The day after thanksgiving, I was shaken awake by Alice. Rubbing my eyes sleepily, I sat up.
"Rosalie changed your flight to early this morning. We need to leave the house in an hour."
I stood up quickly, fully awake. "What time is it?"
Jeez. Why the hell would Rosalie feel the need to change the flight to this early in the morning? I'd definitely be sleeping on the plane.
I ran around the house packing up my things and was ready five minutes before six. Creeping down the hallway, I peeked into Edward's room only to find him asleep. I crept into his room and grabbed one of the black pens from the desk drawer quietly so as not to wake him. On a notepad I scribbled down my answer. Friends, or not?