Trigger Warning: Mentions of suicide.

Chapter 22 - When You Said that You Were Spent

Monday, August 19, 2009

"Hey, Bella, wait up!"

I turn to see Alice power walking toward me. "Uh, hey, Alice," I say, albeit a little warily. "What's up?"

"Oh, um, nothing much. Did you have a good summer?"

"Yeah, it was nice. I spent a month in Florida and the rest of the time with Emmett and Rose."

"And Edward," Alice supplies helpfully.

I nod slowly. "Um, yeah."

She shrugs. "It's okay, Bella. Obviously it's a little bit painful, but…" She pauses and twists her fingers together. "Losing him was my fault. I'm not going to be mad at you."

"Really?" I ask, raising my eyebrows.

"Yeah," she says. "I wanted to apologize, again. I was pretty horrible to you last year, just in general. I want to start over, ideally, but I know that's not possible. So I just wanted to make sure you're going to be cool with working with me on yearbook."

I shrug. "I'm not gonna lie, Alice. I'm pretty mad at you."

Alice winces. "I know."

"But," I say, sighing. "I also know you're a really great photographer and I absolutely trust your judgment when it comes to yearbook. Okay?"

Alice relaxes. "Really?"

"Really. And we can work through our issues this year, okay? Because I'm sure you're a nice girl, because both Jasper and Edward seem to think so, yeah?" I pause and wrinkle my nose. "Nope, too soon."

"Edward still…?" Alice says nervously, looking anxious again. "I mean he's lovely but I feel like us not being together is the right decision and I wouldn't want—"

"Are you worried about breaking his heart?" I ask incredulously.

Alice blushes. "Well, when you put it that way, I guess not. But…I did—do! I do, I do care about him. You know? I'd like to minimalize the damage."

I look away from her only to catch the interested glances of Tyler and Jessica as they walk by. Are they dating now? Weird. I would have thought Jessica and Mike would end up together, and then Lauren and Tyler. I smile at them and wave a little.

They look appropriately embarrassed at having been caught staring. "Sorry," Jessica mouths.

I shrug and mime calling her. Jessica used to be my friend, and there's no reason we can't be now. I return my attention to Alice. "Sorry. Uh, look, I don't think you need to worry about residual feelings. He feels very betrayed, and even if he still liked you, I doubt he would trust you enough to hold a candle for you. No offense."

"Uh, no, I deserve it," she says, shrugging. "Don't worry. I'm, um, glad. I mean. I don't really deserve him, you know? Edward was always a really great boyfriend. I mean, I could tell he liked you right away, but he was so worried about cheating on me that he completely avoided you. I mean, that's not the only reason—sorry. I shouldn't say. Um. He'll tell you, eventually, cool? I don't want to overstep or anything, though! Sorry."

I frown at her, carefully processing the words. She's only a couple inches shorter than me, but I take some comfort in the knowledge that I could probably win in a round of mud wrestling.

I spent too much time in Florida, I realize numbly.

"It's okay," I say at last. "Look, uh, let's take baby steps. But with Edward, you should probably aim for less than that. If you want to be his friend again. Which I don't actually recommend. But you might be able to apologize one day."

Alice nods, apparently understanding that. "Bella, just…uh, one more thing, I guess. Why are you…okay with me?"

I shrug. "I wasn't in a relationship with you, Alice. I mean, it takes two to cheat, right? I can't blame just you." I pause, considering. "And I'm only a little okay with you."

Alice nods again, more slowly this time. "Um, well, okay. I really, really am sorry, Bella. And, uh, thanks. For yearbook."

"Alice," I say, exasperated. "Didn't you know that yearbook is bigger than just us? Senior year! It has to be the best yearbook yet."

She does smile now. "Yeah, yeah. Senior year."

I tuck a piece of hair back under the hood of my raincoat and offer a tight smile. "See you in class."

"Um, yeah," she says. "Bye."

I nod at her and walk off, jamming my hands into my pockets. That was way less stressful than I thought it would be, plus it offers me new insight to Edward.

So he avoided me at first because he thought I was hot—doubly awesome because it means he likes me but is also an honorable boyfriend—but also for some other reason that I suspect has something to do with Phoenix and Phil.

But how did he connect me with Phil? There's no reason for the pair of us to be linked unless he saw us together sometime, and Edward had said he'd never met me in Phoenix.

Edward continues to be an enigma, and me? I continue to fall for it.

"So you like Harry Potter," I say without preamble when I sit down across from Edward at lunch. "Favorite character?"

"Harry," he says, not acting even a little surprised at my abrupt topic choice.

"Really?" I say, raising an eyebrow. "I don't think I've ever heard any one say that."

"Which is dumb," he says, rolling his eyes. "Obviously Harry is impulsive and has anger issues, but he's also incredibly brave and cares so much about his friends that he's willing to die for them. He should be everyone's favorite character."

I smile and bite into my apple. "Well, when you put it that way."

He smiles back. "Who's yours?"

"Sirius, I guess," I offer. "Or maybe Cedric."

"I get Sirius, but Cedric? Why? Are you really attracted to Robert Pattinson or something?"

"Who isn't?" I ask blankly. "But no, that's not why I like him. I think it's more that he's like a more popular version of me. I want to be him…but a girl."

Edward considers that. "Yeah, okay. So why Sirius?"

"He's the first person that loves Harry completely unconditionally," I explain. "I'd argue that Lupin is more of a father to him, but Sirius is the first one who embraces him without hesitation."

"Not Ron?" Edward suggests.

"Not in the same way," I say, shrugging. "Besides, Harry and Ron fought all the time."

Edward concedes the point and offers me some of his fries.

I accept his defeat and his food.

Tuesday, August 20, 2009

I'm nervous as I arrive at school, because this is the first Tuesday alone with Edward. Of course I can hang out with Angie, but a big part of me doesn't want to leave Edward alone.

If that's what he wants.

When I find him sitting at a picnic table, waiting for me like everything is normal, I'm immediately suspicious.

"Hey," I say cautiously as I sit down. "What's up?"

Edward just shrugs, a little morose.

Okay, I think. So he's still having a bad day, he's just okay with me being here. I can handle that.

So I do handle it. "Do you want me to talk or just sit in companionable silence?"

"Silence," he suggests.

So I nod and pull a book out of my bag to read until the bell rings.

Edward walks with me to class, which is pretty unusual since he never did it last year, but I don't feel like asking him why he's changed his stripes now is a good plan. Besides, this is a step toward letting me in. I don't know Edward very well at this point, besides the fact that he relates to the depressed version of Harry Potter, he's attracted to me, and something bad happened in Phoenix. And while I'm very attracted to Edward, relationships are built on more than mutual attraction. I need him to talk to me and to be able to talk to him before any kind of romance happens here. The problem, of course, is that we're both pretty private people who don't like to tell others about our problems.

"I'll see you later," I tell him as he walks away from my classroom.

His only answer is to lift his hand in a quasi-wave.

Curiouser and curiouser.

The rest of the day progresses like that. I read my book (and finish it at lunch, actually) and Edward sits quietly, contemplating something. He seems more sad than angry today, which surprises me a little. But now that I think back on it, his anger was usually directed at me. Maybe that means he's quit blaming me for everything now. That's a good step.

At the end of the day, Edward is waiting outside my classroom, and he walks me to my car. "Bella," he says finally, leaning against my car door. "I'd like to tell you about things tomorrow."

"Not today?" I ask.

He shakes his head and offers a rueful grin that comes out as a grimace. "Not on Tuesdays. Too fresh."

I nod. "Yeah, yeah, of course. Do you, um, want me to come over after school? Tomorrow, I mean. You're probably a little tired right now."

"Very," he agreed.

I nod again, and feel a little like a bobble head doll. "Okay, um, sounds good. I'll see you tomorrow, yeah?"

"Great," he says, and he pulls his lips into a tight smile that only serves to make him look more nervous. "Tomorrow."

I reach out a hand and touch his elbow as he leaves. "Edward," I say seriously. "You don't have to tell me anything. We're friends, but I don't want to rush you into anything you aren't ready for."

"I appreciate that, Bella, but I have to admit that my motives aren't completely friendly," he says, and I start. Neither of us have really acknowledged the attraction to each other. But Edward keeps talking and I relax. "Now that Emmett's gone, only Esme and Carlisle know. It's different to get comfort from your parents. Friends are important. I want you…well, I don't want you to know. But I don't want to hide it from you any more, okay?"

"Okay," I say, and I pull my bottom lip into my mouth to chew on anxiously. "Tomorrow, then. Maybe…maybe you should take a nap," I suggest.

"I think I will," he says, and his eyes soften for the first time today. "See you."

"Bye," I say, and stand outside my truck until he's driven out of the lot. I let out a shaky breath then, and hope, hope, hope that Phil has nothing to do with Edward and Tuesdays.

Wednesday, August 21, 2009

I follow Edward home after school the next day, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm nervous about it. "What's the worst that can happen?" I ask myself as I pull into the Cullen driveway, and then grimace when I think about Phil. "Okay."

Edward doesn't get out of his car right away, but I do, and walk over to the Volvo. I lean against the door. "You sure about this?" I ask.

Through the glass, I hear a muffled, "Not really."

"You don't have to tell me anything," I say, and a part of me hopes he'll change his mind, that he won't say anything, that I'll call Emmett tonight and say, "Edward almost told me about what happened in Phoenix." That Rose will say, "Wow, you dodged a bullet because that stuff is heavy."

"No," Edward says, and he opens his door. "I should tell you. You're my friend."

I can't say no to that, can I? I smile at him warmly. "Of course. We're great friends."

"No need to be facetious," he says, rolling his eyes. "I'm trying to get us to that state, though."

"Great friends?" I ask, and he nods.

"The best of friends."

"It'd be tough to move Emmett out of that slot," I suggest.

"Well, yeah. But you could be my best friend. Maybe."

I touch his arm, and he doesn't flinch away, to my surprise. "Are you sure you want me to be your best friend."

"No," he says honestly. "But I want to want that. So. Can we?" He gestures at the house. "Esme probably made cookies."

"I'll never say no to cookies," I say, but inside I'm screaming because I'm not ready for this, not at all. I swallow my trepidation and follow him inside.

Esme greets us warmly. "How was your day?" she asks Edward.

"It was fine," he says.


"Oh, really good, Esme," I say with a smile.

She doesn't seem to notice anything is wrong. "I made some cookies for a client, but I could spare a couple for you two. Hold on just a minute."

We wait in silence. I want to run away. I think Edward does, too, if the stiffness in his shoulder is any indicator.

"Maybe this isn't such a good idea-" I start to say, but then Esme is sweeping back into the room, and my smile is firmly affixed to my face.

"Here you go," she says, holding out a plate of chocolate chip cookies. "Don't tell anyone." She winks and taps Edward's nose once.

I've never seen the two of them be affectionate before. It isn't that unusual, seeing how Esme is nearly always the motherly, sweet type. But Edward usually seems so adverse to receiving affection that the interaction seems strange.

But today, he takes the plate from her and curls an arm around her waist. "Thanks, Esme," he says as he hugs her.

So yeah, this is going to be heavy.

The hug is short lived, but it still happened. Edward takes the cookies upstairs to his bedroom and I follow him, heart pounding in worry.

When we're sitting in his room, he doesn't say anything for a while, and I start to fidget. "Are you sure?" I ask again, and I want him to say "No, I'm not, in fact, let's try this again. Next year maybe."

"I can't go to Seattle," he says instead of answering me. "I know Emmett will be disappointed that I can't visit him, but I can't go."

"Why not?" I ask, hesitantly. If we're having this discussion, I'm not sure I want it to keep going. But this seems innocuous enough.

It's not, of course. "We-my mom, the one I lived with before-we moved there after living in Phoenix with her old husband."

"Did she remarry?" I ask, because Edward called him her "old husband," and that was weird.

"No," he said, shrugging. "Didn't have time."

Even the way he says that is strange. I struggle to keep the conversation on safe ground, but I don't know what's safe and what isn't. I'm operating blind. "How long did you live with her? You call her your mom, so..."

"She adopted me when I was very young," he says. "Just two years old. I don't remember any one other than her."

"Wow," I say, and I try to think about what that's like. Something I can't put a finger on. Because my parents split up, but there was never any doubt in my mind that they were mine and I was theirs. Biologically, legally, and in our hearts.

He shrugged. "It's never been a big deal. It's not like Hollywood, you know? My birth mother dropped me off at an orphanage when I was born. I've wondered about it idly, but it's not thought-consuming like everyone thinks."

That's mind-boggling in itself. But Hollywood lies about a lot, so it shouldn't be surprising that this is different, too. "Okay," I say. "What was she like?"

"Really nice," he says at last. "Not like Esme, though. She was driven and worked a lot. But she also loved me. She'd come home from work and invite the babysitter to dinner, but then she'd spend the whole dinner talking to me. She didn't cook much, or bake cookies, but she loved a lot."

"My mom never cooks, either. Mostly because we don't let her," I offer.

He smiles at that. "She was okay at it. She was just very tired after working all day. She was a programmer."

Every word seems to be costing him, and he hasn't told me anything yet. The wounds are obviously fresh. But then, no one close to me had died, so it isn't like I really understand where he was coming from.

"She, uh, committed suicide. When I was fourteen."

There's nothing I can say to that, but Edward looks like he's on the edge of a breakdown, so I crawl across the bed to wrap my arms around his shoulders. He sinks into me but starts talking again.

"I came home from school, and I hated it so much. I wanted to go back to Phoenix because I had friends there and I didn't want to leave the state because of Phil but she couldn't handle it and she had a new job and I just wanted her to be happy but she didn't go into work that day, she just stayed home and swallowed an entire bottle of pills. Who does that, Bella? Who gives in? Why wasn't I enough for her?" He stops rambling to cry.

I don't have an answer.

"And it was Tuesday, that's what the calendar said, the calendar the pl bottle was sitting on, and if I just think about Tuesday, I don't think about my mom sprawled out in her own vomit because days of the week are supposed to be harmless and mothers are supposed to protect you and-"

I'm crying now, too, because this is the most he's ever said and he's too young, too fresh, to still be feeling it this strongly.

"It never stops," he says.

No, it doesn't.

Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight or anything else you recognize.

A/N: So it begins. This is going to get worse before it gets better, xoxo.

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