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And sorry it took so long.

Chapter Twenty - The Trust Issue

Bella

I woke up the next morning and couldn't immediately remember where I was. The room was still dark, but there were rays of grey light struggling to beam through the gaps in the curtains. I could tell it was very early, and I was wondering if I had enough time to fit in some more sleep before school when I noticed the cool tickle of air that was dancing along my arm. I turned my head; Edward was still sleeping, facing towards me, his breathing even and heavy. I couldn't make out his features in the dim, and I wondered how bad his cuts and bruises were now.

I lay there, thinking back on everything that had happened yesterday. It had been eventful, to say the least. James was probably going to jail, and now Edward and I were together.

I found myself remembering the first time I had met Edward Cullen; he was intriguing, mysterious, and a complete douche bag. If someone had told me that I would end up in a relationship with him, I would have laughed.

A relationship. It seemed like such a normal word, too normal to describe something as dysfunctional as us. The bet, which for me had been an immovable wedge between us, mattered little now. I had forgiven Edward, but I had to admit to myself that the hurt was still there. I had played with fire and I had been burnt, and it was hard to forget the sting. Considering Edward had let himself get beaten to a pulp because he felt so guilty, I wasn't going to throw it in his face.

Edward had said he wanted to take the day off school today and I didn't blame him. Everyone would stare and gossip and be concerned, and it was none of their business. As much as I wanted to stay here all day with him, I felt that I should go in. There were about a million texts and missed calls from Alice to see if I was okay, and I also needed to talk to Rosalie and clear the air. I loved my friends, and I wasn't prepared to ditch them just because I now had Edward. I knew I would feel better once I spoke to them.

I got out of the bed as quietly as I could, and managed to leave the room without disturbing Edward's sleep. I used the bathroom to get dressed again, and was surprised to find Emmett downstairs already, eating a bowl of cereal.

"Morning," he said with his mouth full.

"Hi," I smiled. "You're up early."

"I remembered last night that I actually have to go to school. Football tryouts were rescheduled for today. And I'd never miss an opportunity to take the piss out of Newton! How come you're up?"

"I should probably go to school too. I want to talk to the girls, and my dad might find out if I don't," I sighed, remembering my promise to him last night. Mostly he let me do as I pleased, but occasionally he liked to remind me he was a parent by checking up on me from time to time.

Emmett offered me breakfast, which I accepted, and we ate at the table in near silence, the only sounds coming from the crunching of our cereal. I still felt a bit awkward with Emmett. I know I had said last night that everything was fine, but I didn't want to make a fuss in front of Edward, and plus I didn't want more tension and upset. I wanted us to all be friends, but it was easier to forgive then it was to forget. I didn't like the fact Emmett had used me, had kissed me with cruel intentions and made a joke out of me. But he had seemed sincere last night in his apology, so I resolved to give him a second chance.

I was giving out a lot of those.

Edward shuffled into the room then, interrupting my thoughts. Emmett lowered his bowl, from which he had been draining the last dregs of milk into his mouth, and his eyes widened.

I winced. Edward's bruises looked more horrific today than they had the night before. His black eye was a shiny blend of purples, his cut lip had scabbed, and there was a yellow tinge on his neck that I was sure was leading to another terrible bruise, but was mostly hidden by the large black hoodie he was wearing. He looked sullen and tired, and moved quite gingerly.

"Are you OK?" Emmett and I asked him at the same time.

"I'm fine," he said shortly. "I'm going to school."

"But you said last night -"

"I know, but I have assignments and homework to hand up, they are late enough as it is."

"I can hand them in for you," I offered, and he gave me his first smile of the day, though it was still a little strained.

"Thanks," he said, walking over to beside me and putting his arm around my waist. "But I can't really afford to miss anymore school. I have to be good," he sighed.

"Never thought I'd see the day," Emmett said.

Edward rolled his eyes.


Edward's appearance in school had sparked a record amount of rumours yet, most of which had been no doubt fuelled by Jessica Stanley. He had no interest in hearing about any of them, but some of the ones I had overheard in the cafeteria were a great source of amusement for me. My particular favourites were the rumours that he had started his own version of Fight Club, or the one that claimed I had beaten him up. Apart from that one, all the theories made Edward seem a lot more badass than he really was, and they would probably be sorely disappointed if they learned about the real Edward Cullen.

A part of me felt really smug that they never would.

Although saving me from James even though he had already taken a savage beating was still pretty badass in my book. The original version of events was definitely the most interesting, and I felt smug that the gossips of this school and town would never hear about it either.

The rumours died down eventually over the passing weeks, as Edward's bruises faded and his cut lip was nothing but a thin red line. Everyone grew used to seeing me and Edward together, and though we were a topic of interest, the novelty of discussing us was wearing thin. I was grateful for this, as being the subject of attention and scrutiny had always made me feel uncomfortable.

Alice had come straight up to me when I pulled up to school with Edward the first day, and I wasted no time in apologising and filling her in on the whole story. I knew she never would have let me rest otherwise. She was amazed, but delighted that we were together, and after that was her usual bubbly and affectionate self around Edward too.

Jasper, also, happily accepted Edward into our group, but he couldn't resist teasing me with an "I told you so". I punched him in the arm, knowing that he had been right to worry and warn me not to trust Edward at the time, but none of that mattered now. I appreciated Jasper for looking out for me, and couldn't help but giggle with Alice as the two boys bonded over their fondness for their musical instruments.

I had been really hesitant to face Rosalie, mainly because I was unsure if she even wanted anything to do with me anymore. I had kissed the guy she had been mad about for ages, and I hadn't told her. I felt guilty and ashamed as I approached her and burst out an apology, but she wasn't angry with me.

"It's okay, Bella," she said. "I was really angry at the time, and if I'm honest, hated your guts a little bit-"

I cringed.

"But look, you didn't mean to hurt me and I'm with Emmett now and he's mad about me so all's well that ends well," she said, with a confident toss of her long blonde hair. "I'm happy for you and Edward too," she added, and I smiled.

It had all gone better than I would have expected really. Everything resolved itself into a nice neat bundle with a bow on top. It made me feel slightly uneasy. Everything couldn't be perfect now. Life didn't work that way. You think something is one way but it could turn out to be another.


I wished my emotional wounds could have healed as fast as Edward's physical ones. Although I forgave him completely when it came to the bet, and I believed now that he was being himself and honest with me, I still found myself dwelling on the past. I hated myself for it, because I could see all the effort he was putting in to make me happy.

He would take me out at the weekend, either for a cosy date at the cinema where he would insist on buying the popcorn and leave one hand on my tingling thigh throughout the movie. Or he would take me up to Garrett's bar where we would watch street races whenever they took the chance, cheering on his friends.

We had no fear of James anymore. He and his friends had been arrested for what they had done to Edward, and once they had been put away, a lot of other people had come forward to build cases against them. Edward's father, Carlisle, had hired the best and most expensive lawyer he could find, to Edward's own surprise.

Edward hadn't wanted to involve his parents, but couldn't hide the bruises or lie away the concerned phone calls the teachers had made about his appearance. He'd been afraid of the reprimands, but all Carlisle did was ensure that James was to be punished to the highest extent of the law, and made Edward swear that he would stay out of trouble from now on.

"I would have bet on him murdering me and burying me in the backyard," Edward said, shaking his head and stretching out on his bed. I was over at his house visiting after school, and he had been filling me in on his conversation with Carlisle.

"Well, you haven't had the best experience with bets now, Edward," I couldn't help teasing. He rolled his eyes, and lunged for me. I squealed and tried to scramble away from him, but he was too strong, and began to tickle me mercilessly.

"Stop! Don't!" I gasped, my abs killing me from laughing.

Edward dragged me onto his lap, sniggering.

"Say you are sorry!" he smirked.

"Sorry, I'm sorry," I laughed, and he finally stopped tickling me. I tried to catch my breath, giddy, when he kissed me, and I rearranged myself in his lap so that I could press closer to him. We were still sharing a breathless kind of kiss when Carlisle entered the room without warning.

I sprang away from Edward and at the same time, he pushed me; I lost my balance and with a loud bang ended up on the floor. Edward crossed his legs hurriedly and tried to look as innocent as he could with lip-gloss smeared on his face.

And that was how I met Edward's dad.

Carlisle pretended like he hadn't seen anything, and after I scrambled clumsily to my feet, beetroot red, he shook my hand. I was nervous and embarrassed but he was kind and seemed to approve of me. He asked that I stay for dinner, and reminded Edward of his promise to study.

We spent the rest of the evening studying Biology and sometimes taking little breaks to make out. It had been a wonderful afternoon, but then things started to change.

True to his word, Edward had begun to study hard and catch up in school. His teachers couldn't get over their delight of his neatly written homework and new studious attitude, and it reflected in their "I told you so" smirk as they handed back his papers with giant red As on them, and comments saying "keep it up!" and "look what you can do when you try!"

I expected Edward to get a big head about it all, but he just kept his head down and worked. He didn't talk to me during class like he used to, unless it was to ask a question about the lesson, but he would hold my hand or play footsie with me under the desk. I guessed that he was further behind than he was letting on, so I tried not to distract him. Of course I wanted him to do well. I myself was able to concentrate in class more, no longer distracted by Edward Cullen and his intriguing, infuriating ways. I smiled to myself as I remembered how different things used to be.

After school I usually went around to Alice's or Rosalie and Jasper's, or they came back to mine, as Edward always studied after school. For hours. I could tell most days that he wanted to just ditch with me, but he always forced himself to do the time, kissing me apologetically and promising to text.

I drove myself crazy sometimes though, wondering if he was really studying. I didn't think I'd be physically able to study that much, even if I was really far behind. I would probably procrastinate and waste the time panicking about how much I had to do and end up not doing anything at all. Although that was just me; maybe Edward actually was capable of taking in huge amounts of information at one time, and if so he was lucky. I wanted to kill him for having brains and not bothering to use them, because I would have loved to have been an above average student.

I could usually talk sense into myself, but there was a small nagging part of me now that I couldn't ever seem to silence. What if he wasn't studying? What if he had jumped on his bike and drove up to Port Angeles and was drinking and hanging out with Tanya? Or some other ex, one of the "trail" of girls Garrett joked about.

I now lived in fear of being lied to. It wasn't fun.

As a result, I was constantly texting him. After letting him study most of the day, I would casually ask what he was up to. It must have started to grate on his nerves, because it was every day, but he always replied in a good mood and sometimes rang me back, and I felt better when all I could hear was classical music in the background, rather than roaring engines or Tanya's stupid accent.

I wondered why he was putting up with my slightly erratic behaviour -constant texts, constant pressings for details at lunch about his evenings - but I guessed that maybe he felt he still had to make things up to me. He didn't. He apologised. He told the truth. He promised no more lies. This was all me, this was all in my head and it was my issues, and I knew I had to deal with them.

Although it was easier said than done.

On a Friday evening, after a whole week of Edward studying like a maniac and being withdrawn and moody, I was beginning to seriously panic. He had gone home himself like usual, leaving me with a distracted kiss and a bad feeling. No matter how much I tried to talk myself into the fact that he was just studying, just tired from working, I couldn't shake the feeling that he wasn't telling me something.

"Bella, what's up?" Alice asked me for the third time. We were hanging out in her room today; Jasper in his usual seat on the pink beanbag chair, twirling his harmonica between his fingers; Rosalie sitting at the vanity table, practising eye makeup and texting Emmett; Alice sprawled on the bed half-reading gossip magazines and painting her nails. I was sitting on the floor leaning against Jasper's beanbag, staring into space and chewing my lip.

I opened my mouth to say "nothing", for the third time, but "Hmm" was all that ended up coming out.

"What?"

I sighed, tossing the book that I was definitely not reading to the side.

"I don't know," I admitted, and Alice and Rosalie looked up from what they were doing. I had my back to Jasper, but I knew he was paying attention too.

"There has to be something wrong, you haven't been quite right all day," Alice prompted. I couldn't slip anything past her, she was so observant. Or maybe I was just too easy to read. I suddenly feared that Edward was picking up on my mood too, and that had been what was wrong with him earlier.

"I just…" I trailed off, struggling to find words to express how I was feeling. "I'm… worried. About Edward."

"Worried about what?" Alice frowned. My friends had accepted Edward into the group like one of their own, but due to Edward's constant studying they hadn't all gotten to know each other as well as I would have liked. I didn't want to say too much to tarnish their image of him, especially since they were all giving him a chance for my sake.

"He's just… oh, I don't know!" I snapped, feeling frustrated beyond belief. "He is working all the time, and that's great, he should catch up in school because God knows he missed enough of it, but I've barely gotten to see him this week and how do I know he's not…" I let myself trail off, hating the silence that followed and hating myself and my feelings and hating the fact I couldn't just trust in what I knew.

"You are afraid he's slacking off to do other things that don't include spending time with you?" Rosalie asked shrewdly.

I shrugged, starting to feel upset. I wished I hadn't said anything. I had made myself look like a selfish, whiny bitch.

"Bella, I don't blame you for being worried," Jasper said, and I turned to look at him. "For lots of the time that you knew him he was absent from school and would suddenly show up with no explanation of what he was doing that whole time, and then you found out he had been using you for a bet… he wasn't that trustworthy to begin with, but you didn't expect that from him… you are just trying to protect yourself now."

I processed this. "I shouldn't be doubting him though. He said he was sorry for all that and was a different person then and that he was unhappy and he took it out on other people. He is making up for it. Why can't I just trust what he says now?"

"Because trust needs to be earned," Jasper said. "And he needs to earn it big time."

"He is mad about you, Bella," Alice began to reassure me.

"Why don't we just ask Emmett what Edward is doing," Rosalie interrupted, picking her phone back up.

"No," I said in alarm.

"Bella, you are being ridiculous. You ask Edward what he is doing and he tells you, yet it's not enough for you. But I get that when trust is broken, yadda yadda. I felt a bit like that with Emmett after -" she broke off, and I winced a bit; neither of us wanted to bring up the whole me-and-Emmett fiasco again. "But then I remembered he was with me so that must count for something," she continued. "Edward is with you now and he wouldn't be going out with you if he didn't care about you."

I felt slightly chastised, but also a bit better. I knew myself that I was being ridiculous, but Rosalie's blunt words had helped me too. I just had to put my trust in Edward no matter what, because he was with me, and I knew deep down that he wouldn't knowingly hurt me again.

"We'll see what Emmett says anyway," Rosalie said, snapping me out of my little epiphany.

"What?" I spluttered, alarmed again. "You texted him?! What did you say?"

"I said Bella wants to know is Edward really studying, she is having major trust issues."

"Rosalie!"

"Oh Bella, relax! This is what you wanted to know right?!"

"What if he tells Edward?" I fretted, stricken. Edward knowing how I felt was the last thing I wanted.

"He won't, why would he?"

I didn't answer that, and nervously waited for Rosalie's phone to beep. Jasper played a few random notes on his harmonica, and Alice started spouting reassurances at me and telling me that once Edward had caught up on all his school work that he would probably shower me with attention to make up for it… I tuned her out. I didn't want attention from Edward. I just wanted these horrible, ambivalent feelings I had about him to go away. I didn't know where they had come from, because I had been so happy when Edward and I had gotten together, and I didn't want us to be apart again.

I had a sudden, startling thought.

Did I love him?

Was I in love with him, after everything? Was I just scared because I didn't know if he loved me too? Was I afraid of him lying to me now because it would hurt so much worse the second time?

I anxiously probed my feelings, unsure of anything any more.