Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight or it's character names - those belong to Stephenie Meyer. Bittersweet Irony and it's characterizations, backgrounds, and plot lines belong to SweetVenom69. No copying, translation, or reproduction is allowed without my written authorization. © 2011 SweetVenom69.
A/N: To my faithful readers. I promised it wouldn't be another 3 months, and I kept my word... although, I'm cutting it close. Thank you for sticking with me. The next chapter is going to be an exciting one, and I can't wait to get started on it! *wicked laughs*
As always, my betas/prereaders SingleStrand, smexy4smarties, littlevic, and fangscape who I adore and appreciate their constant support. Thank you.
Playlist Selection: Cry Little Sister – by Gerard McMann
Leah and I are lounging on the beach of La Push, soaking up the bright summer sun. The ocean breeze is cool, but it's a welcomed treat for this balmy day. My friends and I are having a cookout and bonfire on the beach later, but right now Leah and I are absorbing our Vitamin D.
"I still don't understand why Edward didn't want to hang with us today." She raises her sunglasses up to her forehead and looks over at me. "The man needs a tan, Bella."
"He said he had plans with his family this afternoon, but that he'll meet us this evening for the bonfire." I flip over onto my stomach and untie the straps of my bathing suit that fasten around my back. "Maybe he felt weird because Jake wasn't here. I don't know."
Leah and I fall back into a comfortable silence as we bask in the sun, listening to the gentle crash of the waves against the shore and the sounds of visitors frolicking in the surf just up the beach. She plugs her earbuds back in and starts humming quietly to the song that's playing.
I turn my face away from her, looking out over the vacant beach to the south. The tall, rugged cliffs that jut out from the sand catch my attention. Immediately, my eyes follow their sharp lines down to the waves as they crash against the ocean-molded pebbles along the shore.
I'm not sure what makes me compare the two, but something about the abrupt change in the scenery seems to represent important times in my life. Everything I knew before Edward disappeared was like the top of the cliff—gradually climbing higher, a few obstacles in the way, but the most prominent feature was that it's topped with lush, promising life.
The sudden drop-off of the cliff to the beach below represents the day my whole world turned upside down—ground zero for the life that I thought I would have to live without Edward. Thankfully, that's not the case anymore.
The last five years of my life is represented by the pebbles—a rocky road that leads from the base of the cliffs to the cool, infinite waters of the ocean.
The thought of the water temperature makes me think of the chill of Edward's skin. It's definitely not like the warm, tanned body that he had in Phoenix, but it's never been more comforting and welcoming than when I've been wrapped in his arms since he came back to me.
I always tried to keep a small flicker of hope that he was alive somewhere and that one day we'd reunite, but the evidence at the cabin seemed to make those wishes an impossibility... and then one day, there he was, sitting in a goddamn library in Forks.
I think about the past couple of weeks since he came knocking on my door. I was so fucking pissed that he was here in Washington—hell, living only a couple of miles away from me—and it took him two weeks to contact me. I went through so many emotions during those fourteen days that, in the end, all I had left in me was anger. Then he crushed me again by telling me that he didn't remember anything about me or our lives together back in Arizona. Talk about a kick to the gut...
The bracelet Edward bought me in Port Angeles is digging into my wrist, so I jiggle my arm to unstick the charms from my skin. Each week, he's given me a new charm that represents memories for both of us. The first were a tiny silver cactus and a red-painted ladybug that represented our life in Arizona. Last week, he gave me an apple charm... for Washington, our current life, but then he chuckled something about "forbidden fruit." I'm not sure what he meant by that exactly...
My fingers are mindlessly drawing little figure-eights in the sand, and it reminds me of something Edward used to do when when he was nervous or in deep thought. He had drawn them all over his Trig book the afternoon he asked me out on our first date, and carved them into his desk with the lead of his pencil the morning we took our SAT tests.
But my most favorite memory of him doing it was the day we sat under the willow tree by the pond in the park where he proposed to me. He gently traced the pattern against my skin with his fingertips, and even though his mind was probably racing about what to say or how to say it, it was that tiny gesture that became forever engraved in my mind and my heart.
Last night as I was playing with my bracelet, I teased him that his father had always bought his mother jewelry for every occasion, and that he must have inherited that trait from him. He scoffed and told me it's something a man should do for the woman he loves. Then he looked at me with a panicked expression as if he had revealed a big secret.
I played it cool and tried not to think he meant to confess that he loved me. We had only gotten back together, and he was slowly regaining his memories back. It would probably be a while before I ever heard him say those three little words to me again.
God, how I want to hear those words...
After my moment of wishful thinking, I remembered I had a trinket that was to be his mother's, but it had arrived too late. I led Edward into my bedroom and sat him on the bed while I dug through my jewelry box looking for the necklace.
After untangling it from another chain, I turned and placed it in Edward's hand which he immediately closed around mine.
"Bella?" he croaked. Opening his hand, Edward looked at the necklace and then up at me, shaking his head slowly. I would have expected to see tears in his eyes with the emotion expressed on his face.
"What's wrong, babe?"
"Nothing's wrong, sweetheart. I just had another memory..."
"Was it a bad memory?" I asked carefully.
"No." We were silent for a moment while he ran his thumb over the design. "This wasn't my mom's."
I looked at him, confused, wondering if I had mistaken it's intended recipient five years ago. Maybe he didn't know his dad had purchased it. Maybe it was the wrong piece of jewelry that was shipped to the house... Looking from his eyes to the pendant in his hand, and then back to his face, it finally hit me.
"Oh." I didn't have to ask for confirmation; it was obvious now. "It was a gift for me." He didn't say anything, only nodding his head before pulling me to sit down next to him on the edge of the bed. "It's even more beautiful now that I know it was from you."
Edward smiled, wrapped his arm around my shoulders, and leaned in to kiss my temple. "You are my forever, my infinity... Even as a hu-, uh, even when I was younger, I apparently knew I wanted to spend eternity with you."
Now, I was the one with emotion written all over my face.
A screeching seagull breaks my thoughts, and suddenly I notice that I'm crying. I wipe the tears quickly and glance back over at Leah, hoping she hadn't noticed. Luckily, she's obliviously lip synching to the song on her iPod and her eyes are closed. I slam my eyes shut and bury my face down into the towel, silently praying that I make it through the day without a meltdown.
Today is PostHell day number one thousand, eight-hundred seventy—the fourth of July. It would have been our fifth wedding anniversary. I wipe another fallen tear from my face and sigh. Today is going to be a long day.
Later in the afternoon, Leah and I are at the cookout at Jake's friend Embry's house. The girls and I sit in rickety plastic patio chairs and gossip while the boys are out in the yard, tossing around a football. Leah, Rachel, and Claire are giggling about previous boyfriends, but I pretend to pay attention to the conversation; my thoughts muddied with the significance of today.
After Embry chars the hamburgers into briquettes and the boys have a watermelon seed spitting contest, I send Edward a text, letting him know that we will be heading to the beach again for the bonfire shortly.
The sun slips below the horizon just as Edward arrives on the beach, casually strolling toward me in a pair of jeans, a lightweight long-sleeved shirt, and one of my jackets in his hand. How did he know to bring a jacket? He offers a manly handshake to a few of the guys and makes his way over to me, sits against the large piece of driftwood behind us, and drapes the jacket around my shoulders.
"Hello, beautiful girl," he whispers huskily into my ear, causing me to shiver at the feel of his cool breath against my skin.
"Hey, handsome." I can tell I'm blushing, my cheeks warming from the blood pumping faster through my veins as he gently nuzzles my neck with his nose and kisses it softly. This is new. The most affection I've gotten from him over the last couple of weeks has been snuggling against each other and a few kisses to my head or cheek, but this is much more intimate...and I love it.
Edward sits back against the log, and I almost immediately miss his mouth on my skin. His arm wraps around my shoulders as he pulls me to lean against his chest. We sit quietly watching Embry and Jacob lighting the bonfire, but inside, my emotions and hormones are battling it out with each other. I can't help but to think of what today would have been for us, but the sensation tickling my body from his nearness is trying to take over—telling me to let go of all the shoulda, woulda, coulda, and that I just need to take advantage of the fact that he's here now... and to claim my man.
Edward chuckles quietly beside me, and I glance up to his face, noticing the sexy little smirk sprawled across his lips. Hormones might actually have a victory tonight.
After a while, Leah joins Edward and me, and together we talk about random bullshit happening around Forks. Well, mostly it's Edward and Leah talking. He is distracting me too much by lightly drawing those figure-eights along the inside of my forearms again, whispering words so quietly in my ear that it sounds like a subtle humming, and placing more soft kisses below my ear. I don't know where all this affection has been buried since he's come back in my life, but I'm thankful it's resurfaced. This is my old Edward—very affectionate, intimate, flirty... God, how I have missed that...missed him.
A few of the boys head off further down the beach to set up the fireworks on their launching spot. The rest of us spectators wait patiently by the bonfire for the show to start. After a few minutes, Edward and Embry return and sit across the fire from Leah and me. The two guys continue their talk about the Mariners' game schedule while Leah chatters away to me about a shopping trip to Seattle. I can't pay attention to her ramblings; the man staring at me through the flickering flames holds all my attention, and everything else just fades into the background.
The way he's looking at me—the intensity, desire, longing, hunger—just make me want leap across the bonfire and kiss him until he stops breathing. I see his eyes sparkling and his mouth twist in that damn smirk again. Bastard knows what that does to me; I squirm a little bit. He notices and a wide grin graces his face momentarily before he's pulled back into his conversation with Embry.
I pull the jacket tighter around my chest and imagine it's Edward's arms holding me tight. He was always so gentle with me, softly caressing my skin, tender kisses, perfectly blended with the intense grasps, hair tugging, lip-biting passionate sex we had.
Turning my attention back to Leah, I nod, ohh, and ahh at the proper times. My thoughts are still about Edward, though. Even though he doesn't truly remember me and the life we had before his "accident", I would never forget the old Edward. He was the one I loved more than life. He's still inside the new Edward, just hidden behind the pale, cold skin, and maize-colored eyes. What I would give to know what happened to him five years ago.
It's after midnight when the party dies down, and I ride with Edward back to my apartment. We are both fairly quiet for the beginning part of the car ride, but as we get to a more desolate and dark part of La Push Road, my mind begins to race with dirty thoughts. The alcohol has kicked in and my hormones have taken over.
I begin thinking of a night back in Phoenix when Edward and I were returning from a party at a house out in the desert, and I was feeling a little frisky. I had teased him, rubbing my hand over the swelling in his jeans, and whispered how I wanted to suck him while he drove us home.
Edward clears his throat and shifts in his seat next to me. I smile to myself and turn in my seat, slowly reach over to lightly run my hand up his thigh. The car revs.
"Uh, Bella?" he croaks.
"What are you doing?"
I lean in to press my mouth against his earlobe. "Driving you crazy, I hope."
Licking the skin, I smile as I hear him taking in a deep breath and feel his jaw clenching against my lips. Bingo!
The next thing I know, we are barreling down my street, Edward slams the car into park, and I'm being carried over his shoulder toward my apartment door. I don't think I am quite that drunk, but it seems like everything moves in a blur.
Suddenly, we are on top of my bed, and he's kissing me, our hands are roaming all over each other's body, I'm taking shallow, shaky breaths...and then I open my eyes and notice it's late morning. Damn alcohol.
Over the next couple of weeks, Edward practically moves into my apartment—not that I'm complaining. The intimacy is slowly growing between us, although the last time things were getting hot and heavy was the night of July fourth. Still, he takes every chance to touch me, kiss me, and wrap his arms around me, and I can't find it in me to really give a rat's ass that it hasn't been more physical. He's alive and here with me, and that's all I truly care about.
Edward continues to bring me a new charm each week. Last week was a Native American fish design. I had recognized the symbol from seeing similar ones around La Push. This week's is a letter "B".
"B for Bella?" I ask as I roll the tiny trinket in my palm. It's late afternoon at the end of July, and we are lounging on my couch, watching talk shows on the television while Edward gently massages my feet resting his lap.
Jesus, it feels so incredible...relaxing and erotic all at the same time. He glances up at me briefly and then back toward my feet, slowly kneading the soles with his thumbs. His lips twist into a smirk but he continues with his ministrations. I think I just moaned.
"Yeah, for Bella...and barefoot," he tickles my feet for a moment, causing me to squeal before he continues, "brilliant, brown-eyed brunette, breathtakingly beautiful..." He pauses and looks up at me again. "And blushing."
Yep, I'm blushing.
Slowly, I sit up and move to kiss him, inching my way closer to his lips, my breath getting slightly ragged as the look in his eyes mirrors the lust boiling inside me.
I jump back to my side of the couch as if I was zapped with electricity. "Shit!" I clutch my chest, my heart pounding in my chest. Edward chuckles at me and then glares at Carrumba as she continues with her screeching from the perch on top of her cage.
"AMP-pur pur pur...GAWWAAK!"
Suddenly, there's a knock on my door. Edward sighs heavily and gets up to answer it, shooting a glare at Carrumba.
Edward's overly cheery sister Alice breezes in and does her usual hair tug to my ponytail. Thank God she's not a hugger.
I met Alice two weeks ago. Edward had taken me to the Thriftway for my weekly grocery shopping, and we ran into Alice and her husband Jasper. She seemed very excited to finally meet me, chatting my ear off and gushing about how adorable I was. That was a bit awkward. Jasper stood next to his wife quietly and was mostly watching our conversation.
Before I had realized it, Edward and Jasper were bagging my groceries at the checkout and Alice was still talking about colleges on the east coast. I thought it was strange she and Jasper didn't actually buy anything.
"Hey, Bella! You ready to go?" Alice perches herself on the arm of the sofa, glances over my current attire, and frowns slightly. By the time her eyes meet mine again, she's smiling brightly. At least she's chipper.
"Go?" I ask as I look from her to Edward and back again, confused. "Go where?"
"Yeah, go where, Alice?" Edward crosses his arms over his chest and gives a pointed glare at his sister.
It takes a moment for her to reply out loud, but for a split second, it seems like her lips are a blur as she looks at Edward. I have to blink a few times to see if my vision is distorted or that actually happened. Unfortunately, she turns her attention back to me before I can catch it.
"Last week, I mentioned going to Port Angeles for some girl time, remember?"
I nod slowly, barely recalling that conversation. "Yeah, but I don't remember saying whe-"
"Baby, I think it would be a fantastic idea for you to take a little trip with Alice. Today. Now. Uhh, why don't you go get dressed." He practically pushes me toward my closet, smiling a little too happily. What the hell's going on?
Alice and I spend the afternoon in Port Angeles, dodging raindrops and shopping. It's late in the afternoon, and my stomach growls loudly, signaling hours since I have eaten.
"Hey, Alice? Do you mind if we grab a quick bite? I'm famished."
"Of course! But I ate before I came to get you, so I don't want anything." She giggles and then says in a weird robot/alien voice, "Time to feed the human."
I chuckle as she drags me toward a little cafe on the corner. We seat ourselves in a booth near the front windows, and I peruse the menu while Alice rummages through her bag for...God knows what.
"Hey, I'm Natalie. Can I take your order?" I look up from my menu to the waitress, smiling as she jots down my selection. "And for you, ma'am?" She glances at Alice.
"Oh, no, thanks!" Alice waves her off and then quickly grabs Natalie's wrist as she turns to go. "Well, maybe just a water."
While I eat my food, Alice and I chat about my school projects and my plans for after I graduate. Actually, she does most of the talking, but not once does she take a sip of her water. I think to myself, Her throat has to be parched from all the jabbering she does.
While she's rambling about other random things, I think about Edward, and the similarities between the Cullen family members. They are all pale as hell, with ruby red lips and golden eyes, and have an strange aversion to food. Hell, even the big one, Emmett, turned his nose up at a seven-layer dip I had brought over to their house last week.
Edward had finally invited me over to meet the rest of the family, under the guise of watching the Mariners playing. I knew he didn't like the Mariners -he's been a Diamondback's fan his entire life- but I think he must have remembered that I never did well in formal situations. A casual get together was the best way for me to get to know the whole Cullen family, even though I was slightly shocked to see him actually rooting for the other team.
The rest of that day went without a hitch, and surprisingly, his family was very warm and inviting...well, figuratively.
I feel as if I have been enveloped into the Cullen family, accepted openly even though they know Edward and I have a past together. Each of them seem to want to get to know me better, and that's oddly comforting. I've felt so alone for the last few years, even when Riley was still here. I knew I always had my friends to talk to and be entertained by, but there was something missing...something
that rooted itself into my soul, and without it, I was always alone.
That something was Edward.
Now that he's come back into my life, I don't want him out of my sight. I get anxious when he's away, but at least there's always someone with me, occupying my time until I can see him again. I'm either at school with Jacob, hanging out with Leah, or entertaining any number of the Cullens.
By the end of August, I start my next semester of school, and Edward and I fall into a comfortable routine. Most nights he stays with me and goes back to his family's home while I'm at school, and he meets me back after class. There are a few days where he and one of his family members go on an overnight trip. I don't really know where they go. He says the family has property further inland in the Olympic mountains and they make routine trips to go hunting on the property. I wonder if he'll take me sometime.
I think back to Charlie's hunting excursions—coming home with a five hundred pound carcass bleeding all over the bed of the truck. Ugh. Blood and guts and fur bits everywhere? No, thank you. I'll have to turn down Edward if he ever invites me to go hunting with him.
As for my parents, I try my best to avoid talking to them. My mom calls every Sunday, but since Edward's come back into my life, I don't know what to say to my parents. I want nothing more than to shout from the damn rooftops that Edward is alive, but I'm worried what would happen once they knew.
Charlie would call a huge investigation, that's for certain. The whole Cullen family would be harassed into interviews about how and where they met Edward, and he would be hounded about the incident with his parents and where he's been for the past five years.
No. I can't tell them. At least not yet.
Maybe he and I could just vanish and run away together. Neither of us would have to answer questions or be put in the spotlight. We could just be Edward and Bella...together.
When Renee calls on Sunday night, I finally answer. It's been three weeks since I spoke to my parents, and last time, Renee quickly deciphered that I have a boyfriend and proceeded to pummel me with inquiries about him. I had given her very short, clipped answers and ultimately told her that the relationship was so new that I didn't want to jinx it by gushing about my new man. She's a bit superstitious, so that seemed to get her off my back for a while.
Now? She barely mentions Edward and dives into her story of how someone had broken into their house—completely obliterating the back door of the house, but that nothing was taken. All her jewelry, money, and electronics were never touched. The only thing she noticed that was disturbed was a few of stacked boxes in my old bedroom. She didn't know what I had packed in them, so she didn't really know if anything had been taken. Charlie did a thorough sweep of fingerprints in the whole house just in case the robbers touched anything, but so far, they hadn't had any luck finding a match.
Halfway through my phone call with my parents, I glance over at Edward and notice he's deep in thought, carving figure-eights in my coffee table. Nudging him with my foot, I grab his attention and see a slight worried look cross his face for a second before he recovers and smiles.
"I'll go get a glass of water." he whispers and points toward the kitchen. I nod and mouth "okay" while watching him round the counter top. Renee continues to chatter on about the new neighbors that rented the Gibson's old house, but I tune her out. I'm too distracted with what's going through Edward's mind.
He brings two glasses of water into the living room just as I finally wrangle myself off the phone with Renee.
"Penny for your thoughts?"
Edward smiles, shakes his head, and drapes his arm along the back of the couch behind me. "I was just thinking that your birthday is in a couple of weeks. How about you go visit your parents for the weekend?"
In the three seconds before I answer him, my brain runs through a few scenarios. One, Edward comes with me to Phoenix. Maybe by being there, more of his memories will come back to him, or he could regain it completely. My parents would be shocked that he's alive and would welcome him back, no questions asked. This is the most unlikely scenario.
Two, I take Edward back to Phoenix and we are faced with hours upon hours of interrogations. I don't want him to have to go through that, but this is probably what will actually happen.
Or, God forbid—Three, I go back to Arizona alone, spend a couple days with my parents and maybe catch up with Angela. I would love this option, but the major negative is that Edward wouldn't be with me, and I just...I just can't be apart from him. What happens if he disappeared again while I was gone? I would be completely destroyed.
"Good. It's settled then. You are going to Phoenix, and I'll stay here and birdsit." Edward nods toward Carrumba as she's hanging upside down on her rope toy inside her cage.
He leans in and whispers against my lips before kissing me. "I promise, you will never lose me again. I'll be right here when you get back."
Once he lets me back up for air, I smile widely, excited about my first trip back home since I moved up to Washington. "Thank you, baby."
"No thanks needed, Bella. Besides, it's only for a couple days. I can't be away from you for much more than that," he chuckles and snatches the remote from the coffee table. "Now, let's just cuddle on the couch and watch a movie." He nods toward the plastic bag leaning against the TV stand. "What did you rent?"
I hop off the couch, grab the bag, and root around until I find one that I remember being one of Edward and his parents' favorites.