A/N: This story is for my wonderful friend brandy-d, who flattered me with her generous donation to Alex's Lemonade Stand in the November Fandom Gives Back auction. She is such a sweetheart and allowed me to write whatever I chose for her. B, I hope you love it =)
My thanks to Chele681 for beta'ing and fangirling in ways I hardly deserve! All recognizable characters, references, and lyrics are property of their respective owners. No copyright infringement is intended. This story belongs to me...and brandy-d!
"Are you all ready for finals, honey?"
"Yes, Mom," I replied. "We have Monday and Tuesday to study, and finals are Wednesday to Saturday."
"And you'll be home Saturday evening?"
"Yep. I should be able to head out of here by noon at the latest. I'll be there in time for dinner," I told her, smiling at the thought of my mom's cooking. Being five hours from home for college meant that I'd only been back twice in my first semester, and if I was being honest with myself, I missed my parents and hometown.
The next words out of my mother's mouth surprised me.
"I think you should offer Bella a ride back to town," she said casually.
I choked. "What? No way. She has her truck here, and it would just be...uncomfortable," I sighed.
"Have you talked to her at all at school?"
My head hung in shame as if my mom could actually see me. "No," I mumbled. Her huff of disapproval didn't make me feel any better about myself.
"Edward Cullen, I know that you made a choice, but you are the only person on that campus she knew before going there. Do you really dislike her that much?"
I didn't reply. I couldn't. I didn't dislike Bella at all. That situation was really quite the opposite, but it was just so fucking awkward how things had all played out.
Bella and I had dated since we were sixteen, and we had been practically inseparable. We were undoubtedly the "it" couple of our high school; everywhere one of us went, people asked where the other was. When I had baseball games, she was always there. When she performed with the chorus or drama club, I went to every single show to support her. When college decision time rolled around, it just made sense to do that together as well. We applied to five colleges, each getting into four, though only three had offered us both admission. Luckily, our top choice was one of those, and we immediately began planning the next step in our education and especially our lives as a couple.
But then I freaked out. As our graduation approached, all I could think about was how much things were going to change. Bella and I were pretty much first everything to one another, so while all my buddies were hoping there would be lots of hot chicks at their college choice, I was praying for a roommate who would be cool with my girlfriend. My older brother Emmett wasn't much help, either. His tales of college life, parties, road trips, and new experiences dazzled me. I couldn't blame anyone else for changing my mind, but all those little details eventually ate away at my mind and convinced me that I wanted something else, something of my own.
Three weeks after graduation, I drove over to Bella's house and asked her to sit outside on the porch with me. She wasn't expecting me, so I caught her in the middle of cleaning the house that she shared with her father. She was in the tiniest shorts and a tank top with no bra, and her hair was in a messy, disheveled knot on top of her head. For a moment, I had doubted my decision, but I had already done so much convincing myself that this was a good idea that I pushed forward. I gave her a long kiss in the doorway, feeling slightly dick-ish about doing that before dumping her, but I had needed to say goodbye.
I had explained to her that I loved her, but that I wanted to be able to make the most of college. When I said that I was going to one of the other colleges on our list and not the one we had planned to attend together, she accepted it and tried to convince me that we could stay together. I wouldn't hear it, though, and I left her crying on her porch when I drove away like a coward.
True to my word, I made the arrangement the next day, forfeiting the deposit my parents had put down on the school I was supposed to have attended. For that, I was my father's bitch for the rest of the summer, volunteering at the hospital and filing paperwork in his office while all my friends were enjoying the last of their vacation before the next chapter of our lives began.
"Edward, are you listening to me?" my mother shrilled in my ear unhappily.
"What was that, Mom?"
"I said," she sneered, "that you are going to drive Bella home for winter break. I checked the weather report for this weekend, and there is no way her old clunker could make it back here in those conditions. I can hardly believe it survived the trip out there."
I couldn't either. It was only the second day of freshman orientation when I saw - and heard - it roll across campus. I would have known that sound anywhere. After a few phone calls to some friends from back home later evening, I learned that I had really screwed things up. When I broke up with Bella, I had mentioned that I was going to our second choice school. I ended up deciding upon our third choice instead because it was the farthest away, which was ironic considering that the distance was the original reason Bella and I had ranked it third. But upon leaving her behind and resolving to live it up at school, I liked the idea of being far from home. Apparently, she felt the same way. According to my friend Mike, whose sister Lauren was in drama club with Bella, my ex-girlfriend couldn't stand the thought of going to our first choice school without me, so she had deferred to the one she thought I wouldn't be at.
"This isn't up for discussion, son," Mom continued. "Her vehicle is out of the question for traveling, and you know as well as I do that Charlie can't be taking that much time off work to come get her. It's Friday, Edward. I will call you on Sunday, and when we speak again, I expect you to tell me that you and Bella have made arrangements for the trip home, understand?"
"Yes, ma'am," I said with defeat. This was probably going to be a disaster, but I suppose I deserved it.
I didn't try to get in touch with Bella that day. Even though I still had her cell phone number, I was avoiding the confrontation. Truth be told, I had seen Bella around campus a handful of times over the course of the semester, but I learned to avoid the paths she would take to classes, and we thankfully didn't hang out at the same parties. My eyes would inevitably end up lingering on her for too long, but I never had the balls to approach her. What would I really say anyway? The Medusa-like glares she shot at me the few times our eyes did meet were enough to keep me at bay. Not to mention the dude with the fauxhawk she was always with. Every time I saw them, Bella was smiling and they were talking, touching, and laughing. It seemed that she had moved on, and I had no right to interfere.
Saturday morning came, and I kept myself busy with things that probably could have waited, but I was avoiding. I submitted my body to an extra long work out that afternoon and then headed to the library to study for finals. Have I mentioned that I had only been to the library two other times the entire semester? Finally, evening came, and after dinner, some of my buddies in my dorm invited me out to a party. It was at a fraternity that a bunch of the guys were hoping to pledge next semester, and we had hung out there quite a bit. The Greek system wasn't quite my thing, but the people and the parties were pretty fun. On the way there, I realized that I still hadn't spoken to Bella, so I resolved to call as soon as I was awake and moving Sunday morning.
The party turned out to be a pretty fun one. It was the last truly big event before the semester ended, so for some reason that made people want to drink more, party harder, and get laid. A few girls shoved themselves upon me, but I would just dance with them for a song or two then slip away to some other part of the house. It wasn't as though they weren't attractive, but none of them held my interest.
I was talking to one of the brothers from the house, who was trying to convince me to do fraternity rush next semester, when my roommate Jasper plowed into me from behind. My beer flew from my hand upon impact, but thankfully it fell to the floor without soaking anyone.
"What the fuck, Jay?" I said harshly, shoving his shoulder, but he continued to grin stupidly at me.
"Dude, your girl is here!"
"What girl?" I asked, immediately feeling the blood drain from my face. Mid-semester, I had let this girl Jessica give me a blow job, and she definitely hadn't taken the hint when I tried to shrug her off after that. She seemed to be my own little puppy dog since then, and the times she found me when she was drunk were not pretty. I needed to get the hell out of there. "Do you think I sneak out the back door without her seeing me, or should I hide out in one of the bedrooms for a while?"
"Not Jessica, man," Jasper corrected. "I saw her leave with some football player about ten minutes after she got here. I'm talking about Bella." He whispered her name conspiratorially, leaning in as the volume of his voice lowered.
"Quit fucking with me," I scolded. "She has never been to a party here."
"Yeah well, she is tonight."
Jasper was the only one of my friends here at school who knew the whole story about Bella. There were a couple other guys who I had pointed her out to before and another handful who were aware that my ex went to school with us, but I made it clear from the beginning that it was not a topic I wished to discuss.
"So what are you going to do?" Jasper asked expectantly.
"Nothing," I shrugged. "Let her have fun."
Jasper shook his head at me and walked away. "Pussy."
I tried to shake him off and go back to enjoying myself and my fresh beer, but his last comment had gotten under my skin. As the only person privileged enough to hear about her, he knew that I regretted my choice and what I jerk I had been to her. He also knew that I refused to approach her, which he constantly told me was idiotic. My justification was that she had come to this college because she thought I would be somewhere else. The girl clearly wanted to forget about me, and she had presumably moved on anyway. If Fauxhawk made her happy, then he probably deserved her more than I did. Nevertheless, it sucked.
Finally, too irritated to enjoy myself any longer, I decided to head home. I sent Jasper a quick text since I couldn't find him, and I made my way toward the front door. As I passed through the large foyer, I caught a glimpse of long dark hair out of the corner of my eye, and I instinctively glanced that way. Leaning against the wall, Bella spoke intimately with Fauxhawk, their heads pressed together in a private conversation. He noticed me first, and I saw his lips move before she lifted her eyes toward mine as well. I was immediately locked in her gaze, unable to move forward as her deep brown eyes bore into mine. I knew I couldn't just walk away after the blatant stare-down, not to mention that I did need to speak to her anyway, so I forced myself to move in their direction.
For a moment, I thought I saw panic in her eyes, but just as quickly as it appeared, it was replaced with a glare. My steps faltered, but I hoped she hadn't noticed as I approached.
"Hey Bella," I said cautiously. She just stared at me until Fauxhawk wrapped his arm around her and squeezed her waist. A pang of jealousy struck me.
"Hi," Bella finally replied unemotionally, which made me feel even more uncomfortable.
My hand rose to the back of my neck, scratching uneasily. Why did she disarm me so much?
"I was just wondering if you wanted a ride back home after finals? My mom mentioned that the weather is supposed to be bad, and she thought that-"
"Whoa, stop," she interrupted me suddenly. "This was your mom's idea? That was awfully nice of her to be so thoughtful, but no, I don't want to ride home with you. I'm not your obligation," she sneered, and then added, "I'm fine, by the way. Thanks for asking. Oh wait, you didn't."
She turned and stomped away, leaving me stunned as I called out to her. "I didn't mean it like that! Bella!" To my surprise, Fauxhawk looked at me sympathetically, which seemed strange given that they were dating, and he held up a finger to tell me to wait.
I stepped back, shoving my hands in my pockets and trying not to stare at their conversation. He pulled her close, whispering something before kissing her quickly on the lips and pushing her gently in my direction. He walked out of the foyer, leaving us to speak.
"Bella, I'm sorry."
"About what?" she said, snapping her head up to look at me.
"Umm, making you think I was only asking you because my mom made me." And for everything else that I did to you.
She sighed heavily, her shoulders slumping. "Right. So why do you want to give me a ride anyway? It's not like we've talked since summer."
"I get that, but we can't avoid each other forever, right? I mean, I don't want things to be weird. And you already know how I feel about your death machine," I added, my lips curling up involuntarily.
"Be nice to Big Red," she replied quickly, and I could hear the uninvited amusement in her voice. "She's been good to me."
"Yeah, good when that thing isn't stalling, sliding around the road, or blowing out cold air when the heat is supposed to be on."
She must have seen my logic because she finally nodded, though she appeared apprehensive in doing so.
"All right," I said, feeling awkward again now that it was agreed upon. "I was just about to head back to my room, so I guess we can iron out the details this week. I was planning to leave Saturday afternoon, if that's all right with you."
"That's fine. My last final is late afternoon on Friday, so I wasn't going to leave until Saturday morning."
"You still have my number?" I asked.
Bella looked down and nodded. "Umm, yeah. I remember it."
"All right. I'll see you later then."
I loaded the last of my bags into the back of my SUV and closed the hatch before getting in and driving to Bella's dorm. As the snow began to fall, I was grateful that my dad had surprised me with the upgrade from my old, used Volvo station wagon to this XC90. It was a bit over the top for a college freshman, but most of my schooling was paid for through scholarships I had earned, and I knew it also had something to do with my parents' empty nest syndrome. It wasn't without stipulations, though; I had to maintain a minimum of a 3.5 GPA and get an on-campus job to cover my "social" expenses. If I didn't, it was back to a used car for me, and I was not interested in that.
I sent Bella a text when I pulled up to her dorm, and she met me at the door to escort me to her room. It was strange seeing the place she had spent the entire semester for the first time. Back home, I had spent countless hours in her bedroom at the Chief's house, but this room was foreign to me. I tried not to stare at her stuff too long. It was completely unlike that room I used to know. Where her bedroom was an array of light purples and blues and filled with art and books, her dorm room was covered in photographs and knick-knacks. Her bed was draped in a deep green and gold comforter with extra pillows and a throw blanket. Her desk was tidy but crowded, which I had never seen from her. Looking at her clothes, I noticed that Bella was dressed in jeans and a fitted hoodie. As it all sank in, I realized that Bella - and her lifestyle overall - seemed more casual, more comfortable than the studious, organized, khakis-and-sweater-wearing girl I used to date. It was obvious that I didn't really know her anymore, even after only a few months.
"I think we can make it all in one trip if you get my duffel bag and that box. I can carry these bags and my laundry," she said, pulling me out of my thoughts. I nodded wordlessly and picked up the items she had pointed to. Once her room was locked, we finished packing up Mae. Why yes, I did name my car, thank you very much.
The first hour of the drive was absolutely painful. We were silent for at least ten minutes, and when I finally mustered the nerve to make small talk, I noticed that Bella had put in her earbuds and was reading a book. She turned to see what I needed, but I just shook my head to indicate that it wasn't important. Disappointed, I continued driving and turned some music on softly to keep me company.
The snow was already coming down hard, and I was incredibly grateful that my mom had insisted I bring Bella back to town with me. Her truck wouldn't have even made it this far. She pulled out her earbuds and closed her book, looking out the windows with a heavy sigh.
"This is really shitty, huh? I hope it passes soon."
"Me too," I agreed, "but my car seems to be handling the roads pretty well so far."
"Uh huh." She paused and ran her hand over the leather seat. "It's really nice, Edward. The heated seats are pretty cool, too. Did you just get it?"
I shook my head. "No, my parents surprised me before I moved out here for school. Betsy now belongs to my little cousin Alice."
"Aww, Betsy," Bella replied with a smile. "Do you miss her?"
I wondered what Bella was really thinking as she asked about my old car. We had shared quite a few good, umm, memories in that Volvo. For all I knew, Bella preferred to forget about those times, but her reminiscent tone made me unsure.
"So what's this one's name?" she asked, and I immediately felt hot and uncomfortable.
"Erm, I didn't name this one."
"You're so full of crap!" she exclaimed, angling herself in her seat to face me. "You name everything! Your bike was Dennis, you called your piano Luddy, and please don't make me mention all the various body parts you assigned pet names."
Her bold statement shocked me, especially the last part. Yes, it was a bit silly of me, but I had named quite a few of my possessions...and my penis...and a few places on Bella's body.
"It's stupid," I hedged. "Can we just drop it, please?"
"No way! This has got to be good if you're trying to hide it. Just tell me already!"
I scrambled for something, anything, but of course my mind went blank and I couldn't think of a single female name. "Michele," I finally blurted. "It's my mom's middle name."
"Bullshit," she said flatly. "You know I can tell when you're lying. Your ears get red and you do that fluttery thing with your eyelids."
"It's stupid," I grumbled, trying to get her to drop it.
"Fine. Be a jerk, Edward Anthony Masen Cullen."
Oh. She pulled out the full name. With both middle names. I knew from experience that she only did that when she was extremely annoyed with me. And I couldn't fucking stand her feeling that way.
I clenched my jaw and narrowed my eyes on the road ahead of us, focusing on the low visibility as I drove. Without looking at her, I mumbled, "Mae."
"What? I couldn't hear you."
"I said it's Mae," I repeated a little bit louder.
Instead of firing back at me with another snarky retort, I saw Bella slump down into her seat out of the corner of my eye. She immediately opened her book and ignored me.
This reaction was unsurprising. She had every reason to feel uncomfortable about my confession. Honestly, who in their right mind would name their car the same thing that they called their ex-girlfriend's breast? Mae and Brandy, I had nicknamed them, though Bella was the only other person who knew that. I don't even know why I did it. When I got the car, I gave it a couple weeks of driving and getting to know each other so that I could pick an appropriate title for my new girl. No matter how many different names I considered, Mae just kept coming back to me, so I finally settled on it. Now I was feeling extremely regretful and stupid about that decision.
We continued on for a while in uncomfortable silence until the sky was dark from the snow storm, despite that it was still afternoon, and my eyes were tired and strained from the low visibility.
"I'm gonna stop for gas and stuff. You want to get out and grab a snack or something?"
"Sure," she replied, unbuckling her seatbelt and zipping her coat back up. I watched as she pulled on her hood and ran through the snow to the convenience store that was attached to the gas station. After filling my tank, I followed her inside to use the restroom and grab a drink. We met again at the counter, where Bella was talking to the woman at the register.
Just then, a rough looking, overweight man - presumably a trucker - shuffled inside, brushing snow out of his hair and stomping his boots on the floor mat. "Phew! It's a killer out there."
We all acknowledged him, and he walked over to where we had gathered.
"You kids headed north?" he asked Bella and me.
"Yeah," I replied. "Just on our way home from school. We have about another two hundred miles to go. It's been slow progress so far."
"No can do, son," he told me. "Just heard on the radio that the roads are closed up at the next exit."
"Is there a way to get around it?" Bella asked.
"No," the woman at the counter answered for him. "Not without sending you pretty far out of your way and around the lake. The roads are likely worse over there, too."
"Shit," I muttered. "What are we supposed to do?"
She reached across the counter and patted my hand kindly. "Don't worry too much. There's a hotel down the way here not too far, but I'd get there soon if they're closing the roads. It's the only one nearby, and they'll fill up quickly."
We thanked them and returned to my car, following the directions we had been given to the hotel. It wasn't anything fancy, but it was nice enough. All we needed was a room with two beds and something to eat.
Unfortunately, that room situation didn't work out very well. All the doubles were filled, so that left us in a single. We gruffly agreed, seeing as it was our only option aside from renting two rooms, and considering that other stranded travelers would be coming in, that would have been selfish of us. Thankfully, there was a restaurant, and the desk clerk told us that they planned to stay open late tonight because of the weather and the fact that guests couldn't go anywhere else for food.
We had each pulled a bag from the back of my car, not completely sure what we were going to get since neither of us had been very organized in our packing to go home, so we scavenged through those when we got into our room.
Bella sighed heavily, sitting on the floor with her bag and digging through it. "I feel so gross. I hate long car rides. And I'm starving."
"Why don't you shower?" I suggested. "I can go down to the restaurant and get us some food. That way you have some time to do whatever you need to, and I can take care of it, all right?"
"You don't mind?" she asked, looking up at me with a hopeful expression. It was the first vulnerable, soft look she had given me since I talked to her the week before at that party, and it made my heart pound heavily.
"Nah, I'll head down there now. Any preferences? You're not, like, a vegetarian now or anything, are you?" I asked as I took one of the key cards from the desk.
She laughed lightly and shook her head. "No, definitely not. Whatever you want to get is fine. Just remember that I don't like raw tomatoes."
"I remember," I said softly, mostly to myself, as I left our room and walked toward the elevators.
Forty minutes later, I returned to the room with more food than the two of us would be able to eat and two bottles of wine.
"How'd you get those?" Bella asked, eyeing the alcohol.
I shrugged and grinned at her. "I had to wait at the bar for our food, so I talked to the barmaid for a while, and she let me add them to the bill."
"You sweet talked the bartender?" she asked. "Edward, you could get her fired for that!" Her words were reproachful, but I sensed that there was something more to her thoughts. She didn't offer any more, so I set the food out on the bed and opened one of the wine bottles on the desk.
"So do you want some?" I asked.
"Yeah, sure," she agreed. "Do you want to shower before we eat? I don't mind waiting."
"That would be great. I'll only be a few minutes."
"All right. It's cool 'cause I want to braid my hair anyway. I don't feel like drying it."
Braids? She knew what those braids did to me. At least she used to. Shaking off those memories, I took a pair of track pants and a T-shirt into the bathroom with me.
As promised, Bella was waiting on the bed with her hair in two long braids that fell over her shoulders. I tried not to think about all the times I had yanked on those sexy pigtails when we were together.
"Ready to eat?"
"Definitely," I said with a smile. I finger-combed my wet hair as I took my seat. Bella's eyes fell to the food, opening each of the containers.
"Wow, nice spread. Looks like I'll be adding a little more to the 'freshman fifteen' tonight," she said sarcastically, but still smiling. I had ordered us a burger and fries, a pasta dish, a chicken salad, an appetizer platter, and a few desserts. It was overkill, but it gave us a selection, and if we were stuck in this hotel longer than tonight, we would have something to munch on tomorrow. I chose to ignore the part of my brain that told me it was actually my inclination to spoil Bella. I definitely didn't want to go there right now. I knew I was stupid for what I had done to her, and I deserved to feel like crap over it, but it was really hard to ignore my resurfacing feelings as we grew more comfortable around one another.
"Bella, you have not gained weight," I replied, rolling my eyes.
"Whatever yourself. I would notice if you had. You look good." I bit my tongue as soon as the words left my mouth. Yes, I wanted to reassure her that she still looked just as amazing as she always had, if not better, but it didn't seem appropriate. Then again, did she expect me to not be attracted to her any longer? Maybe she did, considering that I was the one who had ended our relationship. I needed to change the subject before this conversation went somewhere I didn't want it to.
"Hey, did you call your dad?" I asked as we began picking at the food. She didn't seem to mind sharing and neither did I. It wouldn't have been the first time.
"Yup," she said, popping a crouton into her mouth. "After I got out of the shower. You call your parents?"
"Yeah, down in the restaurant. They say hello, by the way."
"Aww, I miss them," she said softly, but she almost seemed to regret admitting that. "Umm, how are Carlisle and Esme?"
"They're good. Dad's doing the same as always. Mom is still running her design business, but she's adopted some hobbies now that I'm not there to dote over."
"Yeah? Like what?"
I smiled because I knew Bella was genuinely curious. She and my mother had always gotten along so well. "Wheel throwing pottery, and she also started a chapter of Project Linus in town. It's this philanthropy that makes baby blankets and donates them to hospitals. Then when kids come into the ER or whatever, they give them a security blanket they can keep with them and take home."
"That's the nicest thing ever!" Bella beamed. "It's perfect for your mom, too. She's already so artistic and good at that stuff, and she gets to partner with your dad's hospital. She's the sweetest person I've ever known."
"Yeah, I'm lucky to have her," I acknowledged, and it was more true than those simple words could describe. I'd had a very blessed life and a great family. I knew a part of Bella always envied me for that, but she would never really admit it. "How are Renee and Phil doing?" I asked. Bella had moved back with Charlie after her mom remarried when we were fourteen. Through high school, they visited, but I knew she missed her mom.
"They're pretty good. Phil has been applying for some coaching jobs, actually. He's been bounced around between the majors and minors so many times in the last two seasons and they're getting tired of it. My mom has always wanted to live near the beach, so he's trying to make that happen for her."
I nodded in understanding as I continued to eat. We stayed that way for a while, just chatting about our families and all the latest updates on our friends from high school. When we were both full, we put the food in the mini-fridge in the room and turned on the television. We continued to chat on and off as we watched a marathon of old Adam Sandler comedies we had both probably seen twenty times before.
It was nice to talk to Bella, and the more we did, the more at ease I felt around her. But there was still one point of awkwardness - the black cloud looming over our heads that we both refused to acknowledge. Even though we talked about old friends and experiences, we avoided specific references to our relationship. We didn't really say much about college life thus far, which was sort of weird. I didn't want weird, though. If I was being honest with myself, I had to admit that I wanted Bella. I wanted to take back the bullshit decision I had made and beg her to forgive me for being a dick. It would be pointless. I had seen her around campus with Fauxhawk and her friends, and she looked happy. Even in her room I had noticed the small changes in her. It wasn't my place to take that away or interfere in her life any longer, but maybe we could be friends.
"So how do you like school?" I forced myself to ask, even though I knew it would mean hearing about parts of her life that didn't include me. I wasn't sure if I really wanted the details of her moving on.
She poured us each another glass of wine, opening the second bottle to top hers off. "I like it a lot. It was kind of hard at first," she said, and I immediately wondered if she meant adjusting to college life away from home or being on same campus as me, but I was too afraid to ask. "But things have been good. I like my classes, and I've made a lot of really good friends. My roommate has been trying to convince me to do sorority recruitment next semester, but I don't think I want to."
"Same here," I interjected. "I mean, not that I wouldn't want you to join a sorority if you want to. Just that my friends have been trying to get me to do the frat thing. I like hanging out, but I don't see the appeal."
"Well, I see the appeal of the Greek system, but I'd rather focus on other things. There are so many cool clubs and intramural activities that I feel like it could take my time away from doing those things. I don't know. We'll see."
"What about your boyfriend? Is he going to pledge somewhere?"
She looked at me strangely, probably because I had actually referred to her new relationship when we had been successfully avoiding that subject for so long. "Boyfriend?"
"Umm, Fauxhawk?" I clarified.
"Fauxhawk? Oh! You mean Demetri? The guy who was with me last weekend?" She began to giggle, slapping one of her hands over her mouth to muffle the sound. "Oh my gosh, are you serious?"
"What?" I asked dumbly. "I've seen you with him around campus before, and at that party he kissed you."
"Edward! I can't believe you thought Demetri was my boyfriend!"
I shifted nervously, raising my eyebrows for an explanation. "Why not?"
"Because he's gay!" she howled, shaking so hard that she spilled some wine on the bed. "Oops!"
For that second time that day, I could feel my body getting hot, particularly my cheeks. Bella continued to laugh, and I waited, stewing in my embarrassment, for her to calm down.
"Oh, I'm sorry, but that's hilarious. I mean, he's openly gay, and like, didn't you pay attention to him at all? It's kind of obvious."
"Okay, enough already," I said, but I was smiling. It was sort of nice to have amused her. "Fauxhawk is named Demetri and he doesn't like girls. I get it. So are you dating anyone?"
"Nah," she said quieter, "I've hung out and stuff, but no. I doubt you want to hear about it. You? A girlfriend, that is?"
"Nope," I said simply, sipping my wine and turning my attention back to the movie. I had no interest in explaining that all my attempts to meet other girls had been a complete failure. Maybe it would have been different if Bella wasn't at the same school, but then again, maybe it wouldn't. There were girls I found attractive and could flirt with, and I had even fooled around with a few, but it never went beyond that. My friends couldn't believe that I would turn down sex from a willing hot chick, but I didn't see the point when I didn't really care about them. To me, it felt like I would have been wasting it, or I don't know, giving away a part of myself that they didn't deserve. There was no way I was going to explain all that to Bella, though.
Our conversation remained in that lull as we watched the movie and finished off the second bottle of wine. By that time, it wasn't too late, but it was dark outside, and the wine had left us both rather sedated. I knew I wasn't going to last much longer if I was just sitting there, so I went to the closet and pulled out the extra blanket. I took a pillow off the bed and tossed it on the floor. I was just about to go brush my teeth and then lay down, but Bella interrupted me.
"What are you doing?" she asked harshly.
"I was going to go to sleep. It's fine if you want to keep the TV on for a while, though. It won't bother me."
"That's stupid, Edward. Sleep in the damn bed."
"No way. You're not sleeping on the floor."
She rolled her eyes at me and shook her head. "You are so so dense. It's not like we've never slept in the same bed."
"Okay, fine. I'll keep a pillow between us," I said.
She was quiet for a moment, and she did another one of those things where some emotion flickered on her face for the briefest second before she masked it with something else. "Whatever makes you happy," she huffed, jumping off the bed and going into the bathroom without another word. When she came out, she climbed into bed without speaking to me, so I took my turn to brush my teeth. When I finished, the room was darkened, and Bella's eyes were closed. She faced the side of the bed, and I assumed from her steady breathing and stillness that she had fallen asleep already. It would have made sense with all the wine we drank.
I quietly climbed into my side of the bed, trying my best not to disturb her. It became apparent that I wasn't going to fall asleep anytime soon. I was restless, but tried not to toss and turn too much so that I wouldn't wake Bella. Despite the alcohol that should have knocked me out as soon as I hit the pillows, my mind buzzed, and my body refused to rest. I knew what it was, no matter how hard I tried to deny it. Being with Bella had brought my guilt, longing, self-hate, and a plethora of other emotions to a boiling point.
What I needed more than anything was to apologize. It wouldn't take back what I had done or how much I'd hurt her, but she deserved it. Hell, I had hurt myself too, but I wasn't worthy of sympathy from anyone. In a way, I think I had taken her for granted, and along with that, everything we shared. We'd been together for so long that I forgot what life without her was like, but it was something I learned quickly. I didn't want to live in regret, though. Even if I could never make it up to her, she had to know how I felt. I was fully aware that it would only be a single step in mending our friendship, if we ever even stood a chance at romance again, and if we didn't, at least she would have closure. We both would.
I was on my back staring at the ceiling when Bella rolled onto her back as well. The blanket fell from her shoulder, and she kicked it lower. It barely even covered up to her knees, and I contemplated tucking her back in, but the room was warm and I didn't want to make her overheat in my effort to help. Instead, I turned on my side, staring at her peaceful face as she slept. She looked like an angel to me, and I felt a pang in my heart as I realized just how long it had been since I had seen her this way. Yes, it had been far too long, so I wanted to enjoy this because it was most likely the only opportunity I'd get. Seeing her that way built my resolve. Sometime before we returned home, I was going to apologize and tell her what a fool I'd been.
Maybe I can just practice tonight. She's asleep. She'll never know.
I scooted just a little bit closer to her, but retained our separation on the bed. Leaning toward her, I whispered, "I'm sorry, Bella. I'm so fucking sorry for hurting you. It was the stupidest, shittiest thing I've ever done. I'm just glad you're happy now."
With those words out of me, even if only to a sleeping beauty, I felt more relaxed. I allowed my head to fall from my hand and lay on the pillow once more. I closed my eyes, and though sleep didn't come, I was more at ease than I had been all day.
Maybe ten minutes later, I heard Bella hum in her sleep and shift. My eyes opened instinctively, and I watched through the darkness as her hand slid back and forth across her stomach in delicate strokes until the movement caused her shirt to move and expose her smooth belly. Her touch drifted upward toward her breast, cupping one - cupping Mae - and caressing it. I watched, mesmerized, as she pinched her nipple through her shirt, letting out a satisfied noise at the action. Her other hand came off the mattress slowly, skimming over her thigh and between her legs. At the apex, she rubbed her full hand over herself, and her hips responded to the stimulation.
I had no idea what to do. Did I continue to watch her touch herself in her sleep, or did I respectfully roll over and pretend it wasn't happening? Better yet, did I go into the bathroom and relieve the instantaneous erection I had developed?
There was no way to tear my eyes away, no matter what alternatives I considered. Her little cries grew more insistent and louder as she continued her self-exploration, and I was a deer in the headlights. And then she moaned my fucking name.
I nearly fell off the bed. She moaned my name while touching herself. That meant somewhere inside her, even if it wasn't on a conscious level, she still thought of me that way. It gave me hope, and fuck all if it didn't give me a harder damn rod too. When it happened again, my hand shot to my cock, if only to give it a slight squeeze to alleviate some of the pressure.
"Fuck, Edward! Are you just going to watch or are you going to fucking do something here?"
She was awake. She was awake. People don't talk like that in their sleep, and you definitely don't get that kind of frustration from a sleeping girl masturbating.
"Holy shit," I muttered, still trying to collect my thoughts at the reality of this situation.
Bella rolled to her side, and she was suddenly straddling my body. I moved to my back beneath her to accommodate before she shifted her hips down enough to feel how hard I was. "Well then, I take it you have no objections?"
Who the hell was this bold sex kitten? Bella had always been comfortable in our sex life, but she was never so brazen or forceful. Yes, she had her own ways of tempting and enticing me, yet it was different than this. I had to remind myself that Bella was a different woman from the one I left behind in our hometown.
"Hell no," I finally replied, grabbing onto her and pulling down until she crashed into me and our mouths locked in a hard kiss. Things became frantic and uncontrollable as we nipped and tasted one another, and I groaned happily as the familiar flavor of her tongue mingled with mine. She was still perfect in every single way, maybe even better now.
Before I could even think about what was happening, our shirts were gone, and she was yanking my track pants off. Once she did, I flipped her over and removed her pajama bottoms as well. God, she was so gorgeous and amazing. I had missed everything about her, and as we faced each other, completely bare and at the other's mercy, I knew that the longing I felt for her was in every way imaginable - emotionally, physically, spiritually - just, everything. I wasn't complete without her; I knew that now, and I didn't want to let her go. I wanted to be made whole by this incredible angel.
My hand slid between her legs as I kissed down her chest. I massaged her inner thighs, but I didn't touch her most sensitive places.
"Well hello, ladies," I said as I leveled my eyes with her breasts. "Brandy, it's so nice to see you again." I touched my lips to her rosy peak. "And Mae...mmm, I've missed you." I placed my mouth fully over that side, swirling my tongue around her nipple and sucking it between my lips. I trailed kisses up the slope of her breast, stopping where her heart laid beneath flesh and bone, and place a reverent kiss there.
I looked up at Bella and knew that she wanted more, and with her body squirming needfully beneath mine, I complied. My fingertips met her soft pussy, and I was home. She was so ready for me, and I was easily able to slide two fingers in at once.
"Ahh, Edward!" she cried, arching into my palm. "Don't stop."
I wouldn't. I stroked and pumped my fingers, luxuriating in the melodic sounds of her pleasure. No matter what I had done, right now, she wanted this, wanted me.
Suddenly, she surprised me by pushing me away so that I was on my back again. She moved onto me, pulling at my cock in long strokes. She bent down, sucking me into her mouth for a single swipe to add lubrication to her actions. I wanted her mouth on me like that again, but I allowed her to lead us. She was the one who initiated this, and I knew we both needed her to have control.
She bent down to kiss me again, and I accepted her gratefully. "Have you been with anyone else?" she asked, and I had to answer.
"No, not like this. Never like this."
"Good," she said, continuing to stroke me with her arm between us.
"Have you?" I asked because I just had to know, even if it could hurt me.
"No." In a blur of motion, she was over me and on me. She had taken me so quickly, burying my cock deep inside her slick, hot, wonderful body.
We both took a moment to adjust, which we obviously needed. If she hadn't been with anyone else either, that meant it had been six months without sex for both of us. That was far too long.
Once we were comfortable, she bounced on her knees, and I grabbed at hips, tits, her ass, anything I could get. She was stunning, and those fucking braids flopped against her clavicle, calling out for me to pull them. Unable to resist their taunting, I reached out and wrapped my hands around her silky hair. I used the braids to guide her down until our bodies pressed together and our mouths could meet. She moved her hips over me at a new angle, positioning her forearms against the bed and wiggling them beneath my shoulder blades. Her hands wrapped around, gripping the top of my shoulders and sinking her nails into my skin.
Beneath her, I pumped my hips in time with her movements, stroking her back and squeezing her ass firmly. "I've missed you," I muttered, unthinking, and I was suddenly afraid of her response. What if she hadn't missed me too? What if this was just sex because it had been so long and I was familiar? Could I handle the aftermath? Bella did not respond in words, but she nodded against my mouth, continuing to roll her tongue against mine.
I knew she was close when her movements became repetitive and sharp. She stopped kissing me, burying her face in my neck as she pounded herself down onto my cock. I kept my hands planted on her backside, helping her make every push harder and more pleasurable. She cried out loudly with each thrust, and I was moaning with her as well. She was so damn tight, and her walls were clamped around me in just the right way, pushing forcefully against my shaft on each pass.
"Right there, right there," she whimpered, instructing me to continue, and I focused all my attention on getting her what she needed. Suddenly, she let out a long cry, and her body trembled upon mine. I continued to push up into her, so close to the edge, and it only took another minute. Bella was breathing heavily, collapsed on my chest, but her fingernails were still embedded in my flesh. I hissed when she realized this and loosened her grip, but she soothed me by running her tongue over the marks on each side.
"Sorry about that," she said softly, kissing my wound.
"Don't you dare be sorry about that. Damn, Bella..."
We stayed there clinging to one another for a few more minutes. I had gone soft inside her body, but I didn't want to move. It was where I was meant to be, and I would stay there as long as possible, especially if I wouldn't be able to have her again this way. Eventually, however, she whispered that she needed to use the bathroom and extracted herself from me. I let her go unwillingly, reaching over the edge of the bed for my T-shirt to wipe myself off. I noticed several damp spots on the bed, so I unmade it and placed the extra blanket over the mattress for us to lay on.
Bella returned and looked at me curiously when she noticed the blanket beneath us instead of a sheet. "What's this?"
"Uhh, there were wet spots."
"Well," she said, sliding over to me and throwing an arm around my back, "that would have been a good excuse to stay close together."
"Oh really?" I asked playfully, pulling her body flush against mine.
She hummed in approval and hugged me tightly. We stayed close together until she scooted back, looking into my eyes.
"I...I heard you. When you apologized. I was awake."
"Oh," I said, surprised and a little uneasy. "I meant it," I admitted.
"I know you did," she replied softly.
Something else came to my mind. "So you were actually awake when you..."
"Umm, yeah," she deadpanned. "It worked, didn't it?"
I laughed lightly at her, my heart glowing at how comfortable I felt. We weren't fixed by any means, but it was so relieving to laugh with her and mean it. After a moment, I paused and looked at her seriously.
"Bella, what does this mean?" Her eyes dropped, so I lifted her chin and made her face me. "Please?"
She took a deep breath, and her warm breath fanned across my cheeks. I waited as patiently as I could for whatever answer she would give me.
"You're not forgiven," she eventually said, and my heart fell. "At least not yet. A few hours together, and that, even as amazing as it was, it doesn't fix anything. It doesn't explain why you did that to me or make up for breaking my heart. And then to have to be on the same campus as you, knowing you didn't want me? That was really hard, Edward. If it hadn't been for Demetri and some of my other friends, I'm not sure what I would have done. There's a lot you and I need to talk about, though."
"Anything you want," I promised, stroking her cheek with my knuckles.
"Well, I like the sound of that," she said with a smile. "I just feel like I'm a different person now, and maybe so are you, in your own way. I think there were some good parts to it because I learned so much this semester, but there were also parts that sucked. I don't know, but I think we can be better this time. If we work on being honest with each other and try to have an adult relationship instead being lovestruck kids, you know?"
"I get it, Bella, and believe me when I say that I don't want to rush through this with you. I'll do whatever you want to have you back in my life, and if that means just being friends for a while, I'm okay with that. I'm not willing to do things half-assed because I know I'm just not as happy without you. I don't want to lose you again."
"Thank you, Edward." She leaned forward and pressed her lips to mine gently. "We have all the time in the world to figure it out. Let's sleep now."
"All right, love," I agreed as she rolled over in my arms, allowing me to spoon her. She felt good and right there, and I kissed the back of her head and her shoulders before closing my eyes and allowing sleep to consume me.
On the fringe of sleep, I thought I heard her whisper, "I missed you, too."
E/N: If you're reading Misunderstandings and Misconceptions, please excuse me repeating the snow storm/hotel scenario. These were outlined months apart from one another, but I just happened to write them in succession. The title of this story was taken from the Third Eye Blind song of the same name. Basically, the song is about having memories of your ex in everything you do and everywhere you go, but in this case, Stephan Jenkins was also dealing w/ the fact that his ex was Charlize Theron, so he was forced to see her in magazines, movies, TV, etc. in addition to all those other breakup memories. It's a great song & it felt like an appropriate title for this =)
If you haven't heard, there will be another Fandom Gives Back auction prior to the release of Eclipse in theaters. I'll be participating once again, including originals, outtakes, and a collab with MsKathy. My beta, Chele681 would like me to tell you that she's heading up Team PBJ if you are interested in contributing. If you don't read my Peter stories, PBJ = Peter/Bella/Jasper