Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns the characters. I'm borrowing them.
Not too shabby, eh? Eh?
Keep this in mind while reading: you can't kill me. If you kill me, there won't be an ending to this story. Just keep telling yourself these things.
I love you all beyond measure. You're wonderful. Thank you so much for the reviews and taking the time out to read this even after all this time has passed.
And don't kill me.
You guys love me.
"Are you coming tonight?"
I balanced my phone between my shoulder and ear as I grabbed my lunch from the microwave, plopping back onto the metal chair and sighing quietly.
It had been two weeks since Edward had walked out of my apartment to talk to Tanya and he'd decided to go back to her. He'd texted me to let me know his decision and we hadn't spoken since. I'd avoided the bowling alley like the plague, which meant that I hadn't seen my friends and now Rose was on the hunt.
"I don't know. I'm pretty tired."
She sighed heavily and I smirked sadly as I grabbed the plastic fork from beside me.
"That wasn't really an actual question, Bella."
"I know," I mumbled around a mouthful of spaghetti.
"What's going on with you? You've been really distant since like, Christmas."
Had I mentioned that I haven't told any of them about the Edward situation?
"Just tired, I guess. Been working a lot."
Because I'd asked for the extra hours. Extra hours meant I didn't have to go home and face the fact that I had no one to blame but myself.
"So you owe it to yourself to come out and have some fun. Come on, Bella. We miss you."
I sighed heavily and nodded, twirling my spaghetti around on my fork.
"I miss you guys, too."
"So come out tonight! I know you only work until six, woman. I was there once!"
"Then I'll see you tonight? Around six-thirty?"
I grunted, stabbing at the noodles in my Tupperware container. "Yeah, I'll be there."
"Great! Edward's bartending and I guess Tanya will be there later, too."
My heart sunk and I swallowed hard, pushing my food away from me and leaning back in the chair.
"I don't know why he went back to her."
I stared at the red and white snowflakes on the table cloth in front of me, my heart beating rapidly in my chest as I swallowed hard.
I don't know how the news had gotten out that they'd broken up – I didn't know how any of them had reacted to it or how they felt about it. I was still reeling from the entire roller coaster my life had been the past few weeks and hadn't had the opportunity to think about anyone else.
Selfish? Probably, but I also knew that I needed time to myself to get over it.
Edward and I had never been together. We were just having a "good time" so he owed me nothing and I knew that. But my emotions had been so wrapped up in everything we were doing, despite the fact that I knew nothing would come of it, that I felt way more broken than I'd ever let myself admit to.
"I don't know," I said quietly, honestly. "Twelve years is a lot to just throw away, I guess."
"She can't just decide to throw it all away and change her mind."
"But she did." I sighed again and leaned forward, picking up my fork once more and twirling it around on the tablecloth. "And it's his life and we're his friends, so we can't judge him right?"
"Fuck that," she scoffed. I snorted. "Yes, we're his friends so we're the ones that are supposed to judge him and hold him accountable. He's being an idiot."
"He's a man."
"Well he needs to stop thinking with his dick."
I laughed and shook my head.
"It's what they're best at."
"Listen, I love Tanya. She's great. But she and Edward…" She trailed off and sighed heavily. "They never made sense."
"You and Emmett don't make sense."
"Sure we do!" she exclaimed. "He balances me out! I'm drunk, he's sober. I'm head strong and he's rational. Balance, Bella; that's what makes relationships work."
"How do you figure Edward and Tanya don't balance?"
"She thinks she's a queen!"
"She's not wrong."
"Edward doesn't like being King."
I sighed and dropped the fork again, rubbing a hand over my face.
"You don't know that."
"Edward likes to fade into the background, Bella. He always has. Tanya likes to be seen. She likes going out and meeting everyone. Edward does, too, but he doesn't actively work at it. They are too different and it stopped working a while ago. Why he thought going back to that was a good idea is beyond me."
"I don't know," I sighed.
"Whatever. You're coming tonight. If you don't, I'm sending Emmett out to pick you up."
"I know you will."
"Okay, good. I'll see you tonight, my dear!"
I hung up and sighed heavily, staring at the lunch I no longer had an appetite for.
I knew I'd have to face it sometime. I knew that I'd have to be in the same room with him and Tanya again eventually. I just didn't know if I was ever going to be ready for the eventually to come. I was scared, to be completely honest. I'd done my best not to think about how I'd feel when I finally saw Edward again because I wasn't sure that I'd be able to handle it without having every emotion written on my face.
Now I didn't really have a choice. Emmett would be waiting at my front door for me if I wasn't at the bowling alley by six-thirty – there was no way I'd be able to get out of this.
I had five hours to get my emotions under control and figure out a way to handle Edward and Tanya back together without hiding in the bathroom for the rest of the night. I'd dealt with worse – I watched him walk away from me. I could absolutely handle this.
It was six forty-five and I was still sitting in my truck, staring at the front entrance to the bowling alley and chewing on my bottom lip.
My heart was in my stomach and I couldn't stop fidgeting. All of my nails had been chewed into basically nothing, but I knew by the time I walked in, I'd still be trying to make them shorter.
Five hours hadn't been long enough to figure this out. I'd spent the rest of the day in a fog, trying my best to figure out how I was going to survive this night without having a complete and total mental breakdown and still hadn't come up with any solid answer. I was a nervous wreck and no matter how many times I'd gone over this situation in my head, nothing was working.
I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard a tap on my window and looked over to see Emmett standing there, a small smirk on his face. I placed a hand on my chest before rolling down the window and huffing out a deep breath.
"You scared the shit out of me."
"I was sent to retrieve you," he laughed, resting his arms on the window. "Rose wanted to remind you of her promise."
"I can see that. You're not in there, though." He nodded towards the bowling alley. "We're all waiting for you."
I started chewing on my lip again and Emmett tilted his head at me.
"It's Edward, huh?"
"What?" My eyes widened and I quickly shook my head. "No."
"I'm not an idiot, Bella."
No, you're just the only sober one 99% of the time.
"Stop," he said quietly, reaching out and putting a hand on my shoulder.
I felt my bottom lip quivering and looked away from him, blowing out a deep breath.
"I don't know what I can say that will make it better."
"How'd you find out?"
"The two of you suck at being stealthy."
I laughed sarcastically and rolled my eyes. "Who else knows?"
"I told Rose. She still doesn't fully believe it but I think she's beginning to."
"Alice and Jasper?"
"Alice has suspected. Jasper thinks she's just hoping." He squeezed my shoulder before dropping his hand. "She's always wanted you two to get together."
I shrugged one shoulder and finally looked back at him.
"He chose her." I nodded once and held my head up high. "I have to respect that decision."
"She's here tonight, you know."
I blew out another deep breath.
"She's in a mood."
"Great," I mumbled.
"Rose has shots lined up already."
I laughed again and nodded, finally grabbing my keys from the ignition and my purse from beside me.
"Then who am I to keep her waiting?"
He grinned at me and opened the door for me, offering me his arm as I jumped down from my seat. We walked in silence up to the entrance, my heart nearly beating out of my chest, my palms sweaty and every step feeling like I was walking on broken glass. The closer we got to the entrance, the closer to we got to the bar once we'd made it through the doors… I felt like I was in a dream. It didn't feel real.
And then… then I saw Edward behind the bar. I had to grip Emmett's arm a little tighter as I watched him pour drinks for the people at the bar, watched him laugh loudly to something one of them said, watched his arms flex as he handed them their drinks…
My insides melted and I felt the resolve the prospect of shots had given me dissolve. Then I saw Tanya, sitting alone at the end of the bar with her perfect legs crossed and her lips pursed as she pushed a beer bottle side to side in her hand.
"Emmett, I don't think…"
"We're right here," he said quietly, squeezing my hand as he led me over to the table where Rose and Mike were sitting.
"This is insane," I breathed.
I hated walking right by the bar. It was always where I stopped first when I came in here; stop to see Edward, share some fun banter, get a beer and then join the gang. Now, I was hiding behind Emmett and heading straight to our table.
This whole thing was wrong.
"Bella!" Rose screeched, grabbing two shot glasses and immediately holding one out to me as I reached her.
I grabbed it without thinking twice, throwing my head back and swallowing all of the whiskey as it burned down my throat. I sat down, slamming the glass on the table and motioning her for another. She slid another one over to me wordlessly and I did the same with that.
"Babe, we're gonna need more," Rose stated to Emmett, nodding at me and reaching over to squeeze my wrist. "We'll drive you home."
I nodded my thanks, looking over at Mike who seemed shell-shocked and confused.
"Bad year," I confirmed, reaching over and grabbing the full shot that sat in front of him.
"It just started. Hey!" he whined.
"Which explains why I need this more than you do."
I downed his shot too, sliding the empty glass over to him and grinning as the warm fuzziness flowed through my veins.
My new year had started out terrible. Then it wasn't so bad, before it got terrible again. Alcohol wouldn't make any of it better, but it would at least numb the things I couldn't change for a few hours.
I stumbled into the bathroom a while later, fighting with my hair as it got in my face and in my mouth.
"Assholes," I mumbled, fighting with the strands that wouldn't get away from me.
I might have possibly had far too much to drink. I don't remember the amount of whiskey Rose and Emmett had kept feeding me and to be honest, I didn't care. I hadn't been able to let loose like this in a very long time and after the way Christmas and the year had started, I deserved it. I didn't have to work the next day and I didn't have anyone to be sober for, so what did it matter?
I stumbled into the closest stall and fought with my dress pants, very tempted to just rip them and say fuck it all. I had more pairs at home. I knew how to sew a little. I could make it work.
I didn't really pay much attention when I heard the door to the bathroom open, staring at the back of the stall door as I sat on the toilet and pondered over the night I was having.
I felt free. I had mostly ignored Edward and Tanya at the bar and neither of them had made any moves to join our table, as they both normally would have on any other day. I'd snuck in a few glances, feeling my stomach roll when I watched Edward gently kiss her cheek even while she was glaring at him and pushing him away.
That girl was an idiot. She wanted him back and she got him; why was she pushing him away?
I stared hard at the door, immediately knowing the voice and scowling.
Did I growl? I may have.
"Haven't talked to you much."
"I've been right here all night."
"Why are you here?"
"To hang out with my friends." I stood up and fought with the button on my pants again. "Why else do I come here?"
"To drool over Edward, of course."
I rolled my eyes and shoved out of the stall, coming face to face with her enraged scowl. She had her hands on her hips and her eyes narrowed.
"Back. Up." I shoved my way around her and walked over to the sink, washing my hands and watching her carefully in the mirror. "I didn't come to drool over Edward."
"You've never gotten this drunk before."
Suddenly she was right behind me and I jumped. She was some sort of ninja, I swear it. I never even heard her move.
"I know all about you and Edward," she said, her voice low and menacing.
I kept eye contact with her but swallowed hard, slowly moving to grab a few paper towels from the dispenser.
"He told me everything."
"Congratulations to you," I mumbled, throwing the paper towels into the trash and turning to face her. "You have him back."
"I thought we were friends, Bella."
"We weren't a thing, Tanya. We were just sleeping together."
"You don't sleep with a friend's ex-boyfriend."
"It just happened, okay?" I slurred, rolling my eyes. "We didn't plan for it to happen."
"Doesn't matter." She flipped her hair over her shoulder and ran her tongue along her teeth, pointedly fixing her make up in the mirror over my shoulder. "It's over with you two."
"No shit, Tanya. He chose you." I moved away from her, heading towards the door. "Don't be an idiot and let him get away again."
"If it means keeping him away from you, I sure as hell won't. How'd my sloppy seconds taste, by the way?"
Rage built up inside me and I turned back to her, my hands trembling as I curled them into fists and back again.
"Are you just using him?"
"He needs a push in the right direction. You were decidedly the wrong one." She looked over at me, smiling slowly. "He's got so much potential. I can make him great."
"He already is great and if you can't see that…"
"What? You think I should let him go so he can be with you? So that he can turn into someone his parents don't even recognize anymore?" She laughed. "You're not even half the woman I am."
"Thank fuck for that." I shook my head at her, still shaking slightly as I stared at her in disbelief. Who was this person that I had considered a friend at one point? She'd done a complete turn-around in less than a month and I didn't even know who this person was. "He deserves better."
"He deserves exactly what he has." She flipped her hair again and I wanted to rip every strand out of her pretty little head. "You are nothing to him, Bella, and you never were. You were a fling; something he needed to get out of his system. Enjoy sleeping with that at night."
With that, she pushed by me out of the bathroom and I stared after her. Every insecurity crept up behind me, seeping into my bones and I leaned against the wall behind the door, gently hitting my head against the tile behind me as I let it wash over me.
I don't know how long I stood there, staring blankly at the stall door in front of me until someone finally came in. I quickly moved out of the way and stood just outside the bathroom, looking between where the bar was and the front entrance.
I couldn't drive, I knew that. I could've walked home if I'd had my keys, but they were in my purse and my purse was in the bar at the table. My feet were glued to the carpet and I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to go back in there and face anyone, but I had no escape.
I slowly walked back to the bar and back to the table, carefully sitting down and looking at each of my friends.
"Okay, time to go," Emmett decided quickly, slapping the table as he stood up.
"Do you want to stay with us?" Rose asked me, placing a hand on my arm.
She was surprisingly sober and I wasn't sure what to do when the tables were turned like this.
"No," I managed, shaking my head.
My voice sounded hollow.
"If you need us…"
I nodded and slowly stood up, feeling robotic as I slid my jacket over my shoulders and grabbed my purse. I snuck a look over at Edward as we walked towards the entrance, feeling my heart break as he watched us leave with a look I couldn't even being to describe on his face.
I walked up to my apartment once Emmett and Rose had dropped me off, stumbling my way inside as I fought with the key. I slammed the door behind me, flopping onto the couch and staring up at the dark ceiling. I dropped my purse on the floor next to me, sighing heavily and closing my eyes as the room began to spin.
I just needed to not think about anything for a while. I realize alcohol was the worst thing to turn to in that situation, but Rose, Emmett and Mike had been able to distract me with their normal bowling speak and it felt good to be out with people that I'd missed being around. Of course, Tanya had to go and throw a wrench into things, but before that, I'd been feeling a lot better about things.
Oh, if only she hadn't been there to screw everything up. We'd had such a great day before she'd called on New Year's Day… everything felt so perfect with him then…
We were so perfect together that day.
I jumped when I heard a knock on the door, realizing that I'd fallen asleep. I blearily looked over at the TV, noticing that it was nearly two in the morning.
"Who's 'at?" I mumbled, rolling off the couch and landing on my face on the floor.
Too many drinks. Too many shots. Too much.
His voice soothed all the wounds rising to the surface and I felt my heart leap as I anchored myself on the coffee table and slowly stood up.
"What you doing here?"
I grabbed the door handle, yanking it open to see his concerned face standing on the other side. His lip ring was balanced between his teeth and his hands were twisted together as he looked at me.
"What?" I asked again when he didn't say anything.
"I just… um… I just got done with work."
I moved to close the door and he slapped his hand on it. I raised an eyebrow at him, crossing my arms over my chest.
The alcohol was wearing off and my head was starting to pound. A sour taste was developing in my mouth the longer I stood there and I couldn't determine if it was from getting ready to puke or if it was because this gorgeous Adonis was standing at my doorstep for the first time in two weeks and every part of me wanted to jump him.
"She went home. We closed late and I wanted to make sure you were okay."
"As you can see, I'm fine."
"I think we should talk…"
"We don't have anything to talk about." I jutted my chin out defiantly, swallowing hard. "You made your choice."
"It wasn't a choice…" I rolled my eyes. "It was… she said she wanted to try again and after 12 years, I owe it to her, don't I?"
"You're defending a decision that I had nothing to do with, Edward. We were never a couple; you don't have to explain anything to me."
"I feel like I do."
"Then that's on you."
"Bella, please," he whispered, taking a step toward me.
I backed away from him, winding my arms tighter around me as I watched his face fall. Did he really think that he could just show up here, try to talk his way out of things and that everything would just be fine?
How much had he had to drink tonight?
"Are we never going to talk again?"
"We're talking now." My voice was shaking and I looked down at my feet, sniffling a little when I felt my eyes water. "What more do you want?"
"To be my friend again."
"We're still friends."
"You never even bothered to come see me tonight. You and Rose had Emmett running for drinks all night and you never…" He growled and buried his hands in his hair. "You always talk to me when you come to the alley. And you haven't been there in two weeks, Bella!"
"Why does this bother you?" My voice was catching on something in my throat. I couldn't figure out what it was, but it sounded like I couldn't breathe. "Why do you care so much?"
"I care about you! I care about having you in my life!"
"I'm still in your life."
My chest was heaving and suddenly my face was wet.
Ah, shit, I was crying.
What the fuck, Bella.
He took one more step towards me, stepping fully into the apartment and reaching for me. I jumped back, wiping my face with my hands and shaking my head.
"I've been busy, Edward."
"Why are you crying?"
What kind of a question was that? Why are you crying? Why are you standing there not crying, Edward?
"Because I'm still drunk!"
"We're not having a conversation that would make anyone want to cry!"
"Well I'm doing it anyway!" I shouted, holding my hands out at my sides.
My stomach lurched and I slapped my hands over my mouth, turning on my heel and running to my bathroom. I made in just enough time to slam the top against the tank before emptying the contents of my stomach.
I felt his hands on the back of my neck, scooping my hair away from my face. He started rubbing my back as I continued to throw up everything I'd eaten that day and at some point he from me long enough to get a cup of water and shove it under my nose.
I finally sat back when my stomach stopped rolling, ending up half on his lap as I cupped the water in my hands.
"Thanks," I mumbled weakly.
He was silently running his hands over my hair, keeping all the strands that had been driving me nuts the entire night out of my face.
"Are you okay?" he whispered, his fingertips trailing along my forehead.
"Yeah." I sipped my water, not wanting to move from his chest as we sat in silence on the floor of my bathroom. "Thanks, again."
"I miss you, Bella," he whispered, his nose pressing against the side of my head.
I sat up, shaking my head and placing the cup on the side of the tub. "Stop it."
"You're my friend. I can't miss my friend?"
"You can't miss your friend when your girlfriend is a harpy."
My eyes widened and I stood up a little too quickly, swaying side to side and finally balancing myself on the sink.
"What?" he asked, his voice low as he stood up behind me. "I thought you two were friends."
"We had a chat."
I grabbed the cup from the edge of the tub, holding it against me as I walked into the kitchen and dumped it down the sink.
Why didn't I get wine?
"What kind of a chat?"
"Did you tell her about us? You told her that we were sleeping together." I turned to point at him quickly before looking away from him and refilling my cup. I didn't know what I was doing. "She said she knew."
"Yes, I told her."
"Okay." I nodded frantically, bringing the glass to my lips. "She's not happy about it."
"I know that, too."
I swallowed more water, barely sparing glances at him. If I looked at him for too long, I was going to start crying again. I didn't want to cry again. I'd tried so hard not to cry over him and this night was just undoing everything I'd worked hard for.
"I was a fling then?" I whispered, closing my eyes tightly. "I was something you needed to get out of your system."
"No. What? Bella…"
"That's what she said you'd said."
"We were… we just… you and I… Bella…"
"You said it," I whispered, nodding. "You need to go. Now."
"Please, Bella, you're the one that told me I should talk to her!"
"And you did." I finally looked over at him, seeing how distressed and upset he looked. I couldn't bring myself to care over the complete and total destruction of my heart happening in my chest. "And now you're back together and that's great." I sucked in a deep, shaky breath and forced a smile on my face. "I'm happy if you're happy. But you should go. You need to go home to her."
"I'm still living with my parents."
I shook my head sharply, holding up one hand.
I didn't need to know these things. I didn't need to care that he was still, for some reason, living with his parents when he was newly reunited with the queen of his former castle. I was the fling he needed to get out of his system before he got what he actually wanted back in his life and I didn't need to know anything else from here on out.
"Wherever it is that you sleep at night, you need to go there. I need to get some sleep and someone is going to be wondering where you are and why you're not saying goodnight to her." I sucked in a deep breath. "You need to go."
"Please let me…"
"Go!" I shouted, pointing toward the direction of the door. "I can't do this, Edward, you have to go."
"I miss you," he breathed.
"I don't know how to navigate…"
"We never did." I laughed humorlessly and slapped a hand against my thigh. "Please go."
He reached out for me and I jumped away one more time. He scrubbed his hands over his face before turning on his heel and walking away from me.
"For what it's worth… I'm sorry, Bella."
"Me too," I whispered, listening as the door closed behind him once more. I didn't know how many more times I could survive that sound. "God, me too."