Previously…

I bit down hard on my lip. I even tasted blood. And then, I entered the number I had written in front of me into my phone and saved it simply as 'E.' Then, I opened a blank message and typed. I had to delete it a few times because my hands were shaking so much. But eventually, I was done with the short message. I stared at the screen for a long time, reading the two little words over and over again. And then, I clicked send.

I'm ready.

~PTP~

He will do one of two things

He will admit to everything

Or he'll say he's just not the same

And you'll begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend

Somewhere along in the bitterness

And I would have stayed up with you all night

Had I known how to save a life

-How to Save a Life, The Fray

Playing the Part

Chapter 15 – A Broken Record

Bella POV

Once the message was sent, I drank down the other half of the glass of wine and then drew in several deep breaths through my nose, blowing them out through my mouth as I waited for some kind of reply.

I hadn't been waiting long when there was a soft knock on my door. I bit down on my lip and went over, taking one more deep breath – and wishing that I had poured myself another glass of wine – before opening it.

There he stood. I hadn't noticed what he was wearing earlier, but now it took the centre of my attention. It was just jeans, a white shirt and black tie but, God, he looked so good. I looked up and met his green, green eyes, letting them wash over me rather than pushing him away as I always did nowadays. I stepped aside, wordlessly inviting him in. Once he was inside, I checked for any people with cameras before shutting the door and turning to him as he took his beanie hat off.

Before I even knew what I was doing, I had pushed him back against the wall and touched my lips to his. I hadn't meant to, but I also hadn't been able to stop myself. He was like an addiction, and I needed my next hit more than I needed air to breathe.

Edward didn't pull away, though. In fact, he wrapped his arms around me and swiftly swapped places with me so that my back was against the wall. He hitched my legs up around his waist and pressed himself against me as he held me up, his hands under my bum. He was gentle with me at first, the pressure soft against my lips as he kissed me and then pulled away. But then his lips found mine again. And again. And then again. And, suddenly his mouth was attacking mine as he pinned me against the wall.

Our kisses were desperate, hard, passionate as we tried to make up for missed time. Our breaths were heavy and gasping when we split for a second before reconnecting.

I didn't pull away until he pressed his hips into me, grinding against me as his tongue slipped against mine. I lifted my head and looked at the ceiling, gasping for breath. I hoped that pulling in the air would help my brain to work logically again.

It didn't.

Edward's mouth moved up and down my chin, stirring up the butterflies that remained in my stomach. I took a moment to watch him. My fingers seemed stuck in his mussed hair; his eyes were shut, his long eyelashes appearing to brush his cheekbones; his eyebrows were furrowed a little, as though he was thinking very hard about something. It would have been almost childlike had his lips and hips not been doing what they were doing.

"Edward," I gasped his name to catch his attention, pulling a little too hard on his hair.

He groaned but pulled his lips from my skin, pressing his forehead to mine instead. "What?" he whispered.

"I… we can't do this," I said. I loosened my legs, silently pleading with him to let me go, but that just made his hold on me tighter and his body press closer against mine.

"I'm not letting you slip through my fingers again, Bella. You mean too much for that."

I shut my eyes so that I wouldn't be forced to take in his words. "I… you…" I sputtered. Then, I took a deep breath. "That doesn't change anything."

He was quiet for so long that I had to open my eyes to check that he hadn't fallen asleep or something. I wouldn't have been surprised; my presence must be pretty dull now that he had witnessed things that were so much better.

But he stared right back into my eyes, as though he was trying to figure me out. Eventually he responded with, "Why not? Why can't we do this Bella? I've had enough of dancing around you. I've waited for this for eight years!" His eyebrows narrowed even further. His finger came up and stroked down the side of my face. "What are you waiting for?"

His words had me stumped, because I simply didn't know the answer. After stumbling for an excuse for a moment I said, "I'm just… not… ready."

"That's not what your message said." He punctuated his point with a kiss on the side of my mouth.

If my hands didn't like being in Edward's hair so much, I would have slapped myself, or at least let my head fall into my hands. I regretted this already. I really wasn't ready. But then, when would I be? I couldn't see a time when I wouldn't be scared of committing to someone who had abandoned me once before already. I wasn't scared of commitment; but I was certainly terrified of abandonment. It hurt too bloody much. That was why I was playing it safe with Jacob…

Jacob! His face fluttered through my mind and guilt gathered in my stomach. I looked away at the floor as I realised that I had to end it with Jake, even if I didn't particularly like the thought of losing his company; or, worse, hurting him. But there was no way that I could call myself his girlfriend when I felt like this about someone else. Especially not when said someone else was still pressing me against the wall after kissing me like he had been lost in the desert for months and I was water.

"Secondly," I continued, like Edward hadn't made my first point completely moot, "I'm not technically available." I felt awful that this hadn't occurred to me before.

Edward obviously noticed that I had forgotten about Jake because he smirked before rolling his eyes. "Easily changed."

"Ugh!" I looked at him in disbelief. "And what if I like Jake, Edward? What if I'm engaged to him, albeit secretly, or at least intend to marry him? What if I love him?" It was all bullshit of course – if I loved Jacob, it was as more of a brother than a lover – but still. Edward had no right to presume that I could just let him go like that.

Edward's smirk just widened. "You don't," he said simply.

"And why do you think that?"

"He irritates you. I can tell. And you left him on your date to talk to me, and you just initiated that kiss, and you didn't even think about him until you wanted to change the subject. So I think I have two points more than you."

"Two?"

"You said you were ready and then you weren't. And we both know how much you despise double standards. So I'm two points ahead." He shrugged, and for a moment I saw the old teasing Edward that I used to. Only, this one had a couple of laugh lines, was a hell of a lot sexier, and had his crotch pressed against mine.

I sighed but didn't object to his statement, and he chuckled under his breath before moving in to continue kissing me.

I turned my head, because I wasn't finished talking yet.

"There's another reason?" he asked, exasperated.

"Yes," I said. My voice was steadier than I felt it should be.

"Does this one actually count?"

I avoided his eyes and then took a deep breath and said, "Yes. Edward, since I last saw you – since I knew you – you've become… Jesus, you're a freaking phenomenon. Everyone loves you. Your face is on every cover of every magazine, everyone knows your name and you probably make more money in one second than I do in three years."

"But that… Bella, that doesn't even matter. It's just… it's just a job. It doesn't define me as a person. I'm still who I was then." He was serious now, just like me.

I shook my head. "That's not the problem."

"Then what is?"

"You're… you're everything. And I'm… well, I'm nothing. People like us are not meant to be together."

Then he got angry. "Bullshit!" he spat, his hands gripping me tighter. "Bella, you need to get glasses or some shit because you don't see the world the way it is. Just because I make a lot of money and people know my name doesn't make me any better than anyone. It doesn't mean that I have better morals, or a better personality, or even better looks. It's all false, all bullshit. That industry is built on lies, and deceit, and bullshit.

"I can be with whoever the fuck I want to; as long as they'll take me. And you're not nothing," he spat the word back at me like it was an expletive. "You're a teacher. You have inspired hundreds – no, thousands of children to become better people. You're… you're the foundation of humanity. The ultimate example of who to be and what to do, aside from parents. You help others out of pure selflessness, and want them to do better than yourself. You want more for these kids than you do yourself; you want the best for each and every one of them because they're all unique, and they're all so clever in their own way. Even the ones that don't seem so clever intellectually have something they excel at. Your words, Bella. From high school. And you spoke them with such passion. You love those kids, Bell. And you help them so much. Believe me, you are the very furthest thing from nothing. You're extraordinary, and incredible, and beautiful, and, hell, I want you. And I love you so much. And your inability to see yourself in a positive light is not going to take away the one thing I've wanted for the past eight years." He took a deep breath, and then bent his head again.

This time, I didn't have the strength to reject him. He loved me. He said that he loved me.

His lips smothered mine with a passion that I hadn't ever felt before. I threw myself into the kiss, knowing that I would make sure that this was the last one we had before I could sort my shit out. I needed to be able to see clearly before I allowed Edward to take the last piece of my heart. Because while he could then piece it together and make it whole, he could also shatter it even more; it was a lot more brittle, and weak now than it was before. I needed to put a little more distance between us, be friends until I knew that my vision was unclouded, and that he wouldn't leave me.

So I kissed the hell out of him, pressing myself against him as much as he pressed against me, pulling his face closer to mine, pushing my fingers through his perfect silky hair.

"Shit, Bella," he groaned when he pulled away.

It took all of the strength I had, but I unwound my legs and carefully stepped down to the floor. I held onto his shoulders for a moment, until I gained my balance, and then I moved away, pushing my hand through my hair as I put distance between us.

"What now?" Edward murmured, closing the distance and winding his arms around my waist.

"Please let go," I whispered; I couldn't do this with him touching me.

"Didn't you hear a word that I just said?" His voice was angry again, but he conformed anyway.

"Yes," I breathed, "but that doesn't get rid of Jacob, and nor does it make me… I don't know." I turned to look at him. I decided to just lay my cards on the table. "Edward, I'm scared of what this could mean, okay? I…" I shook my head. "Just give me a bit of time. I'll… I'll end things with Jacob, and we can be friends until… until we can be something more."

I could tell by the set of his jaw that Edward wasn't one bit pleased with the assessment but he nodded all the same. "Okay."

"So…" I met his eyes with mine and held out my hand. "Friends?"

He clasped my hand in his and shook it, his eyes still holding mine. "For now."

I offered him a drink, but he rejected saying it was late and he had something he had to do. I watched him leave from my front window and then let the curtain fall into place, feeling slightly dejected.

But then, I sat on the couch with my bottle of wine and lifted the lid of my laptop. I waited for the screen to light up, and then signed into the IM system and waited. He signed in twenty minutes later and I instantly pulled up the pop-up window.

Passionate_Writer: Yes.

Just_Another_Guy: ?

Passionate_Writer: Yes, I love him.

Passionate_Writer: So much.

Edward POV

I already knew it, of course – no one would kiss anyone else like that if they didn't love them – but it was nice to have it confirmed all the same. Even if I did wish that she was brave enough to say it to my face. But I knew Bella too well to know that she would have to hear the words from my lips first before she even considered articulating her feelings.

Though I was flying high, euphoric at her words, I played my part right. Like any good actor would.

Just_Another_Guy: What happened?

Passionate_Writer: I don't know… he was just here and kissing me and

Passionate_Writer: I don't know. I think I've always loved him. That's why it hurt so much when he left.

Just_Another_Guy: For his pretty girl.

Passionate_Writer: For his pretty girl. She's here now, too. She was with him last night. God, I hate her so much. She smirked when she saw me. Like I'm worse than her because every frickin person on the planet knows her name, her face, her fucking legs-up-to-her-neck.

Just_Another_Guy: She's famous?

Passionate_Writer: Unfortunately. He is, too.

Just_Another_Guy: Would I know them? Know of them, I mean

Passionate_Writer: Yes. Almost certainly.

Just_Another_Guy: Care to share?

Passionate_Writer: Not particularly. You'd laugh because he's so amazing and talented and hot and here I am alone drinking my way through a whole bottle of wine alone and wittering on to you like some kind of adolescent schoolgirl. Fuck, schoolgirl is catching.

I actually laughed out loud.

Just_Another_Guy: Lol. Are you drunk?

Passionate_Writer: Maybe just an iddy biddy teeny tiny bit.

Just_Another_Guy: You're adorable.

Passionate_Writer: Um. Okay? Is that a compliment?

Just_Another_Guy: Of course it is. I would never insult you, Bella.

I hesitated after I had sent it, trying to remember whether she had told me her name or not in one of these chats before. But she didn't comment on it so I presumed that either she had mentioned it, or she was too drunk to notice my slip-up.

Passionate_Writer: You're a bit like him, you know. Well, kind of.

I tried not to panic at her words.

Just_Another_Guy: Really? How so?

Passionate_Writer: You're nice. You comploment me

Passionate_Writer: *compliment

Passionate_Writer: We should meet one day

Shit! I had guessed that she would want to meet up or know more about me sooner or later, but I had hoped for a bit longer. Some time to get to know her again before I was forced to see her face-to-face as my anonymous counterpart, before everything would fall apart again. I had, of course, considered agreeing to meet and standing her up, but the hurt that that would cause her would make me feel guilty for the rest of my life. I knew that I was over-thinking everything, but Bella meant so much to me that my mind was like a broken record; stuck on her.

I brushed my fingers across the keys, wondering how to reply, when the phone rang. I thanked God for the interruption and quickly typed

Just_Another_Guy: Phone's ringing, ttyl

I signed out and grabbed the phone just in time. "Hello?"

"Hi, Edward."

I had to held back my groan. "Hey, Tanya, what's up?"

"Could you come pick me up? My drive's gone… driveabouts."

I glanced longingly at the computer screen, but sighed and said, "Yeah, I'll be there in a minute." I hung up after she had simpered her thanks, shut down the computer and grabbed my keys off of the worktop.

~PTP~

I hadn't meant to come here, I really, truly hadn't. But I had a day off from any kind of work at all and I just got in my car and… ended up here.

It had been just over a week since Bella had kissed me. I hadn't spoken to her since. At least, not in person. I had spoken to her plenty of times – at least once a day, except for one day – online. The second time she had apologised profusely for her drunken ramblings and I had told her not to worry about it, it was fine. And that was true. We fell back into our easy exchanges, but she didn't say a word about me again. She asked some questions about me and I used the tale I had fabricated in my head in case I should need it. I stuck as close to the truth as I could, but some of it was a little outlandish. As far as Bella knew, 'just another guy' was a twenty-six year old guy who had recently moved from England to Seattle, worked as a barista in Starbucks during the day and sung in bars at night as he tried to work his way to the top.

In exchange, I asked her about her writing, her job, and her life in general. She shared various details more than willingly – some that I knew, and some that I didn't. One thing that she told me that wouldn't leave my mind was that she wanted to move out of her 'crummy apartment' but didn't have the money. I didn't know what I could do to help (I was well aware that she would never accept any amount of money, no matter how small a dent it put in my wallet), but I did know that I wanted to do something.

When I wasn't talking to Bella, I had either been working, or placating Tanya and her many demands. Until Friday, that was, when a photo of us leaving my apartment block together had been front page news in the tabloids. Thank God the apartment block had good security because it had been pandemonium outside ever since. Tanya had been happy, basking in the attention, and I had been… well, pissed. I told her that this wasn't on any more, and she had to stay in a hotel. She had reluctantly gone, finally leaving me my apartment to myself again.

And Bella hadn't been online since. I couldn't help but wonder whether the papers had anything to do with that.

Now, it was Tuesday. Almost half past twelve. And I was sat in my inconspicuous silver Volvo, a block away from Bella's school. I got out and went through my preparation list for when I didn't want to be noticed. Hat down, glasses on, hood up, head down. I meandered toward the school, already wondering whether this was a bad idea. But my feet wouldn't turn back, so I kept walking until I was enveloped in the warmth of the corridor that I had walked down before.

My palms were sweaty now. I hoped to God that no one would notice me, especially not a teenaged girl. That would be awful. I had known this was one of the worst ideas I had ever had but… I couldn't seem to be able to help myself. I felt sick with nerves when I stopped in front of Bella's classroom door. I stood outside, out of sight, and watched her through the window. She was sat on the edge of the desk, looking completely at home as she engaged in some kind of debate with the kids in her class. A smile spread across my face when I saw the subject of the debate on the whiteboard: Wuthering Heights. Bella's favourite book.

Just then, the bell rang. Bella stood up, smiled at her class and then dismissed them. I stepped back into the shadows as the children filed out of the classroom. They all seemed relieved to have escaped and that made me slightly angry. I remembered being in high school, I remembered how little respect students held for their teachers. Or, most of them. I would have bet my bottom dollar that Bella didn't get the respect she deserved from these kids.

I waited until the stream of children stopped, and then I pushed the door wider. Bella was stacking books on her desk and humming quietly to herself. I guessed that that had been a good lesson, then.

Quietly, I snuck up behind her after pulling off my sunglasses, and then gently put one of my hands on each side of her waist. She jumped and twisted in my arms. "Jacob!" she gasped, and then her face flushed red when her eyes met mine. "What are you doing?" she hissed, alarmed.

I narrowed my eyes. "Jacob?"

She narrowed hers back. "He is my boyfriend."

"I thought you were going to end it with him?" I challenged. There was more venom in my tone than I had wanted, but I couldn't do anything about that now. This wasn't like work; I couldn't get feedback and do another take.

Bella didn't like my tone. She pulled away from me with a huff, a scowl etched on her previously-happy face.

I instantly felt awful. I followed her around the back of her desk. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to… I'm sorry."

She sighed and turned around again. She looked me in the eye and leant back against her desk. "Why are you here?"

"I wanted to surprise you. And I want to take you out for lunch on my day off," I told her with a shrug of my shoulders, attempting to be nonchalant.

"Edward," she said slowly, "I… you… we're not dating. You can't just turn up to take me out for lunch!"

"What's wrong with it? Friends go out for lunch all the time."

Bella rolled her eyes. "Friends don't push each other against walls and make out with them and then ignore them for a week. I don't have a clue what we are, Edward, but I don't think we're 'friends'."

"You said we were friends. Last week. And I haven't been ignoring you! I've been busy!"

She snorted bitterly. "I saw. I didn't know that you and Tanya were still dating. I thought that ship had sailed long ago."

"We're not. You know that. I don't even… God!" I sighed. "I shouldn't have to explain myself to you, Bella! You should know me better than that."

"You don't have to explain yourself to me; admit it, Edward, I barely know you now."

Her falsely-uncaring voice and sudden coldness after last week bothered me beyond words. I slammed my hand down on her desk to pull her attention back to me. "Goddammit, Bella! What the fuck is wrong with you? I'm trying to make things better here and all you're doing is making it fucking difficult as hell!"

The room fell into a loud silence. And then, to my surprise, she burst into tears. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I just… oh God, Edward, I've been so stupid!"

I slipped an arm around her shoulder and gently pulled her over to a desk. I sat her down on one side and perched beside her. "What? What's the matter?"

She gasped in quick breaths. Her mouth opened and closed, but no words came out.

I felt butterflies gathering in my stomach. "Bella, you're worrying me. What?"

She turned her head into my shoulder. "I'm… so… stupid," she mumbled between sobs.

I rubbed circles into her back, and didn't pressure her. I just waited for her to calm down, though with every second that Bella didn't stop crying, my panic grew. When my panic level became critical, I whispered, "Bella, just tell me. Please."

She lifted her head and looked at my face for a long moment. "On Friday, I-" But then, the door opened and Bella was cut off.

We both looked up simultaneously to see Jacob stood in the doorway. He paused for a moment, shocked, and then his expression turned to one of outrage when he saw Bella's tears. "What's going on?" he demanded, coming fully into the room and closing the door behind him. He turned to me, suddenly in my face. "What have you done to her?"

"Jake, leave it," Bella mumbled, reaching a hand out to him. "He hasn't-"

"Be quiet a moment, Bella." Jacob swatted her hand away, and paid no attention to her.

My jaw clenched. I stood up so that he wasn't towering over me by quite so much – although he still did – and took his muscled bicep in my hand. I roughly turned him to face Bella. "At least pay the lady the attention she fucking deserves, asshole." I felt Jacob bristle as he shook me off, but he knew that I was right so didn't turn again.

Bella flushed as the attention turned to her. She wiped at her eyes. She seemed calmer now that Jacob was here, and that felt like a bad omen. Then, she pushed herself off of the desk so that she was standing up and said, "It's fine, Jacob. Edward and I were just talking."

Jacob looked at me. There was a glimmer of anger in his eyes. Then he turned back to Bella. "Okay. Well… lunch?"

Bella hesitated. She glanced at me, and then she nodded. "Sure. Let's go." And she slipped her hand into his, and they walked over to the door of the classroom and left. I stood there, her blatent rejection like a slap around the face.

But then the door opened again. Bella came back in and over to her desk. She picked up her bag and slung it over her shoulder. Then, she looked at me and whispered, "I'm sorry," and then turned to walk away again.

I caught her fingers in mine. "Wait… what is going on? What happened to being friends? You were going to end this, Bella."

She extracted her fingers and murmured, "I know. It's… it's complicated. Goodbye, Edward."

As she walked away again, I got an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. One that emphasised her use of the word 'goodbye' rather than 'see you later.' When had my life become such a mess?

~X~X~X~X~X~X~X~X~X~X~X~X~

Aw, poor Eddie :( And what in the world is up with Bella? ;)

Hello again lovely loyal readers :) I hope you all had wonderful amazing Christmases and got lots of Twilight-related things ;) I know I did… so much, in fact, that Rob and Kristen should be on my doorstep to thank me personally for singlehandedly paying their wages ;)

Now… about the lateness of the update… Laura's laptop broke. Very badly. And then she dropped it when she fell down the stairs and somehow it was fixed :D So, the update could have come a lot later :) But, yeah, it's been done for a while, just not posted :)

I'm gonna shut up now, because I don't think I have anything else to say :/ Unlike me :/ Oh well :)

Thanks so much for all of the lovely reviews and please, please keep them coming :) Next update will be within the next month, guaranteed :)

Reviews make lovely belated Christmas presents, btw… just sayin ;)

Thanks so much everyone!

-Steph (and Laura)