Disclaimer: The great Stephanie Meyer owns all things Twilight. I'm just using her amazing characters to tell you a story.

Thanks as always to my beta AgoodWITCH for all of the input, great comments and overall support on my stories. I love you so much.

Also, I have to give another huge thank you to shelikesthesound for her beta work on this chapter and for saving me for me this week. You are the best, darlin. I love you with all my heart. (If you haven't read her stories yet, you are truly missing out. They are AMAZING!)

A/N: I'm starting off this chapter with a little treat for you. We all know what Edward's been going through in this story. How about we get a little insight into what Emmett's been feeling? Is he really as supportive as Edward wants to believe? Let's find out, shall we.


Chapter 32 – Clearing The Air

EMPOV

"Hey gorgeous." I smiled as I answered the phone.

"Hi sexy. What are you up to today?" Rose asked.

"Nothin' much right now." I shrugged. "Just waiting for Edward to get home and then…"

"He's still not back yet?" she interrupted. "Do you think they're finally working things out?"

"I hope so. I can't stand seeing him so depressed. He's not himself anymore."

"I'm sure it'll work out, Em. Now that he's finally telling her the truth, she'll realize how wrong she's been, and they can start over again."

"I hope you're right. He's already on the edge, and I'm afraid that one push…"

My phone beeped as I got another call. Glancing at it quickly, I saw that it was Edward.

"Hold on, Rosie. Edward's calling." She said okay, and I pushed the button to answer. "Hey Bro, how's everything…?"

"Hey Em," he cut me off. "I'm just letting you know I'll be home soon."

He sounded awful, and I knew something went wrong.

"You okay, Ed?"

"No. See you at home," was all he said before hanging up.

"Son of a bitch," I said quietly as the phone beeped again, reminding me Rose was still on the line.

"Rose," I said as I clicked back to her.

"So did they…"

"I don't know what the fuck happened, but he sounded like shit," I growled, cutting her off. "I'm sorry, Rose, I know she's your fucking friend, but I swear to God when I see her again…"

"Emmett, calm down. We don't even know what happened. Maybe she just…"

"Just what?" I yelled at her. "She hurt him again, Rose. I fucking know she did, and I'm not putting up with this shit anymore!"

"Don't you dare take this shit out on me, Emmett Cullen. I had nothing to do with this!"

"Shit. I'm sorry, baby. I'm just so fed up with this bullshit. She doesn't give a fuck about him. It's about time he accepts it and moves the fuck on." I was yelling again.

I took a few deep breaths to calm down. The last thing I needed was to piss Rosie off over this shit. I apologized again for getting angry with her. She accepted but made sure I knew I couldn't yell at her and treat her like shit simply because I was pissed. I knew that, of course, and apologized again.

She and I talked for a little while longer before I heard the car door close outside.

"Hey, baby, Edward just got home. Let me call you back, okay?"

"Sure, Em. I hope you were wrong before and things really are okay," she said. "Talk to you soon."

I ended the call and tossed the phone on the couch just as Edward walked through the door.

His eyes were glued to the floor as he came into the living room. It didn't matter, though. He didn't have to look at me; it was obvious his eyes were red. It was worse than I'd originally thought.

Edward put the box in his hands on the table, dropped my keys on top of it and rushed to get out of the room.

"Edward," I called after him.

Whatever happened, he needed to talk about it, get it off his chest so he would feel better. No matter how much I wanted it, though, he dismissed me with a wave of his hand.

"Later, Em," was all he said.

He was quick to move up the stairs and, within seconds, his door slammed, echoing through the house.

Refusing to let him wallow, I ran up the stairs after him. I was just about to knock when I heard the cries coming from the other side of the door. It killed me to hear my brother cry.

Edward was strong in so many ways, but when it came to girls, he was too much like dad, sensitive and caring. He wore his heart on his sleeve and left himself wide open to get hurt. And it was more than obvious…she hurt him bad.

Anger filled me as I rushed down the stairs and grabbed my phone off the couch. Rosie picked up on the second ring.

"Em, is everything alright?"

"I hope she's finally fucking happy. Edward's in his room crying. My brother doesn't fucking cry, Rose," I shouted. "That girl better hope I don't see her face anytime soon, because I'm not Edward. I will tell her exactly what I think of her right now and let me warn you, she won't fucking like it."

"God Em, I'm sorry."

"Sorry isn't enough right now. Just keep that girl away from me!"

Rose stayed silent while I paced the living room, clenching and unclenching my fist. I tried to calm myself down before I said something to her I would regret. After a minute or two of silence, I realized it wasn't going to happen.

"Rose, I gotta go," I snapped at her.

"I know, baby. Try to calm down," she said with a quiet voice. "Call me later if you can. I love you."

I didn't know how long I paced the floor after she hung up, but I was finally able to get a grip on my anger. Now that I was a little more in control, I sat back down on the couch, head in my hands, trying to figure out how to get Edward to finally give up and let Bella go.

~..~..~..~..~..~..~..~

BPOV

It was nearly four-thirty when the bus came to a stop. I jumped out and ran the block and a half that would get me to Edward's street. My feet stopped cold when I turned the corner and saw his house. Now that I was there, I couldn't force myself to take another step.

What would I say to him after making him wait so long? Not only the hours he'd spent waiting for me today, but for the past year. I'd allowed myself to believe everything Jacob told me, making me too afraid to let Edward near me.

How could I possibly apologize for everything I'd put him through? The screaming, the yelling and, more importantly, the hitting. He'd walked around with a slightly bruised cheek on several occasions after I'd slapped him. I had acted too quickly before I'd had a chance to think about what I was doing.

How could I apologize for never giving him the chance to explain? Even when he begged me to listen? And how could I even begin to apologize for breaking his heart over and over again?

Remembering how Angela had described Edward, hurt and upset, when he'd left the restaurant, none of those questions mattered anymore. If he was hurt enough to give up, then nothing mattered. I couldn't let him do it.

My feet finally moved, and I was running again toward the house at the end of the block. Once I hit their porch, I took a second to catch my breath before I rang the bell. Too impatient to wait, I started knocking.

I heard grumbling on the other side of the door, but I couldn't make out the words. I stood there nervously bouncing from foot to foot as the door swung open.

"Bella." Emmett looked shocked to see me standing there.

"Emmett…hi, is Edward here?" I asked nervously. "I really need to talk to him."

I couldn't say I'd ever seen it before, but, standing in front of him now, I could swear Emmett was angry.

"No," he barked out the word. Yes, he was angry.

"Do you know where he is? When he'll be back?"

"I mean no, Bella, you can't talk to him."

The anger in his voice had me backing up a step. Even though we didn't really know each other, Emmett was always nice to me, always with a smile and teasing words. Now, I'd messed that up, and it looked like he hated me.

"Do you have any idea how much you've hurt him?"

Even if he wanted an answer to the question, I couldn't have given him one. He continued before I could even open my mouth.

"My brother couldn't even look me in the eye when he came home. Do you think I like seeing him that way? Do you honestly think for one second, knowing what you did to him, I would let you anywhere near him? Think again, Bella."

"But I…"

"No!" He cut me off. "I'm done watching you play with him like he's nothing. I'm done watching you hurt him and not give a shit about it. And I'm done watching you rip his heart out and not care who picks up the pieces. He deserves better than that, and he deserves better than you."

He took a step toward me, and I backed off the porch. My chest ached as his hate-filled words pierced through my heart.

"Now leave, Bella, before you do more damage than you already have."

The door slammed shut, and I burst into tears. Edward had every right to hate me after everything I'd done to him, but I had no idea everyone else would hate me just as much or, in Emmett's case, maybe more.

Defeated, I turned to leave, but my legs wouldn't move. I knew Edward cared about me, his letters told me so. I needed to tell him I cared about him, too. I knew I'd hurt him countless times, and I needed to make up for that…if he would just talk to me.

I couldn't give up, not when I was so close. I jumped back onto the porch and banged on the door.

"Edward," I shouted his name. If he was home, he had to hear me. "Edward, please, I need to talk to you."

There was no answer. Using both fists, I pounded harder.

"Edward! Edward, I'm sorry. Please just talk to me," I yelled.

I pounded hard, even kicking the door a few times, hoping he would hear me.

"Edward, please talk to me," I screamed, my voice cracking on the last word.

My fists were hurting, and my arms were getting tired from beating on the door, but I wasn't giving up until he talked to me.

"Let go…" I heard his voice through the door.

He was right there. So close. Not caring about the pain in my hands, I pounded on the door with all my strength.

"…not letting you…" That was Emmett's voice.

He was still trying to keep Edward from me.

"Emmett, please," I yelled for him this time, "I just want to talk."

"She wants to…"

Edward's voice came through the door again, and I stopped, hoping to hear what they were saying.

"Let me go!" he yelled at Emmett.

"No! You don't need that girl, Ed. Just let her go."

Hearing Emmett's words, I tried the doorknob this time, desperate to get into that room and make him see how sorry I was for hurting Edward all those times in the past. It was locked, of course, so I started beating the door and yelling for both of them this time.

They were yelling at each other, and I heard Rose's name thrown around a couple of times. She had nothing to do with this, why would they be arguing about her?

"…are you gonna let that damn girl…" Emmett yelled again.

His words were so hurtful, and I tried as hard as I could to ignore them. I knew, right then, he hated me, and how could I blame him? I hated myself for everything I'd done to Edward. But I was here to make things right. To tell Edward I wanted to start over, if only he would give me a chance this time.

"Fine! Bella can go to hell!"

Edward's words stunned me. All the air left my lungs and I fell against the door when my legs gave out.

I believed he was fighting his brother to get to me, but I was wrong. He really didn't want me anymore. I wanted to call out to him again, but what was the point? I'd obviously hurt him too much and now, he really did hate me.

With my heartbeat pounding in my ears, I turned and ran from the house. I couldn't be there anymore. Any chance I had with Edward was gone.

I had just cleared their driveway when my phone started ringing. Stupidly I grabbed for it, praying it was Edward. When Angela's name lit up the screen, I remembered he didn't have my number. I slowed down a little as I answered.

"I'm too late, Ang," I choked out the only words that came to my mind.

"Oh Bella, no. He has to listen." She was sympathetic as always. "Let me call him. I'll…"

Barely able to catch my breath, I stopped her. "He hates me…said I could go to hell."

"I don't hate you, Bella."

Startled by the sound of Edward's voice, I stumbled. He tried to catch me, but I slipped right through his hands and fell to the ground. My knees hit first and I curled up into a tight ball, bracing myself just as my shoulder slammed into the concrete.

My cries were immediately drowned out by Edward's apologies.

"Oh God. I'm sorry, Bella. I'm so sorry." Edward was hovering over me, touching me softly. "Please be okay. Please be okay," he said over and over again.

He tried to get me to roll onto my back, but it hurt too much to move. I stayed in my little ball and cried.

I cried as the pain radiated in my shoulder and knees. I cried from the hurtful words Emmett had said, knowing he truly meant every one. I cried as the awful words Edward had said about me echoed in my head.

"Emmett," he yelled. "Emmett!"

He tried to turn me over again, but the sharp ache was too great, so I fought against him.

"Emmett, get out here!"

"What the hell d…" He was far away, but I could still hear him. "Bella!"

I heard the pounding of his feet against the cement as he got closer.

"What did you do?" Emmett growled at him.

"I didn't do anything." Edward defended himself. "She tripped. I couldn't catch her."

"Bella," Emmett's tone was quieter, more soothing. "I'm gonna pick you up, okay? We need to get you inside."

When I didn't answer, he slid his hands under me and lifted me slowly. I screamed as the pain shot through my shoulder and down my arm. Emmett apologized as he held me gently against his chest.

Before I knew it, Emmett lowered me onto the couch in their living room. I cried out from the shooting pain again as he let me go and helped me take my coat off. I hissed as he moved my arm around and touched my shoulder in a few places.

"You'll be all right, Bella," he said as he put my arm back down gently.

I was still crying when he left me alone on the couch, though, not as much. I heard water running from kitchen, but when it shut off, they were arguing again. Their voices were low, but I was still able to hear them.

"I don't care what you say," Edward growled.

"She's no good for you," Emmett said. "How many times does she have to hurt you before you see it?"

"If that's what she wanted, would she be here right now?"

"Sure, she's here now, but what happens when she sees you even talking to another girl and flips out? Or when Jake decides he wants her back? You don't think she'll go running? What will that do to you, Edward? Think about it."

I cringed at Emmett's words. After what Angela had said, I wasn't worried about other girls and things were over between Jake and me. Hopefully, I could make them both see that.

"It doesn't matter. She's here, Em. I have to take my chance."

His voice cracked, and I could finally hear the pain I'd caused him. His pain was the only thing that could make me feel worse than I already did.

"But Edward…"

"Would you give up if it was Rose?" There was no answer before Edward continued. "Then let me do this. I'll accept whatever comes, just let me talk to her."

Emmett must have agreed, because Edward came into the room and kneeled next to the couch. He placed two small bowls – one full of clear water and the other with clouded water – and a first aid kit on the floor. He dipped a washcloth into the cloudy water, rung out the excess and gently placed it against my knees through the tear in my pants.

The sting of the liquid touching the scrape on my knee made me jump, and he pulled the washcloth away quickly.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly before touching the cloth to my knee again.

I hissed when the sting hit me again, but he didn't remove it this time.

"When we were kids," he said absently, "Emmett and I would always go to my dad with scrapes and cuts, and he would mix up this stuff that always made the pain go away."

Using the clear water, he rinsed the blood and dirt off the washcloth before dipping it into the cloudy water once more and continuing to clean my knee.

"When we got older, he taught us how to make it so we could treat ourselves if he wasn't around." He spoke softly, maybe to keep from letting his emotions show.

"It stings," I said, wincing as he put more pressure on my knee.

"At first, but it'll feel better once the cuts are cleaned."

My heart broke as I watched him. Remembering what Emmett said, I noticed how Edward wouldn't even look at me. His eyes stayed focused on his hands. I also noticed how red and puffy they were. He looked like I always did after I cried over Jake, and it hurt me even more to know I'd done the same thing to him.

He was quiet as he immersed a small piece of gauze into the misty water and let it rest on my knee as he grabbed a large bandage out of the first aid kit.

"I'm sorry for this," he said as he ripped the hole in my pants, making it a little bigger. "I need more room to put this on."

Pulling back the cover over the adhesive, he adjusted the bandage into place, pressing around the edges to make sure it stayed. He repeated the process with my other leg, and when he was done, he helped me sit up before he started to clean up.

"Thanks," I said, and he mumbled a response.

He still hadn't looked at me, and I really wanted him to. How else would he know I meant every word I was about to say to him?

"Edward," I said, touching his shoulder.

He jerked away from me and continued putting things away.

"Edward," I tried again.

"Why are you here, Bella?" he asked quietly.

"Emmett's wrong," I said, instead of answering his question. "I don't want to hurt you. I know I already have, and you have every right to hate me for it, but I have to say I'm sorry. I'm so sorry for all of it, Edward. All the stories, the lies…everything got so out of control, and it was my fault. Things shouldn't have been that way between us."

As soon as I started, the floodgates opened. I wanted to rush through everything, hoping he would hear me out.

"I thought about you so much after the day we met, and I was so excited when I saw you sitting at our table that first day. I wanted to hold onto you, know that it wasn't just another dream, and you were really there with me. Then Jessica came up and said she'd been looking for you. After hearing her talk about the things you did with her, I was hurt. I thought you liked me, but you were with her. I know what she's like, and I hated you for doing that. It just made me feel like I wasn't good enough for you either."

"Don't ever say that." He sounded angry. "Jake is an asshole, and I hate him for making you feel that way."

He moved closer to me, grabbing one of my hands and finally meeting my eyes.

"You were always too good for him, Bella. And I know what he told you about me, but I swear to you, I never had sex with Jessica, or anyone else for that matter. I'll admit I kissed her, but that was only after I saw you with Jake."

"Wait a minute. I didn't even know you were here until we got back to school. How…no, when did you see me?" I asked.

He hung his head again. "The first night I got here. Out of all the places we could have stopped for gas. I was buying my mom a bottle of water when I saw you. I wanted to run across the street and tell you I was here, but I saw Jake. You were sitting on the hood of a car, hugging him, and then he kissed you. And then you both looked at me and laughed. It was like you were mocking me or something. I knew you didn't care about me. That you hadn't thought about me after I left, not like I did."

The words poured out of him, and it took me a minute to sort through everything he was saying.

"You were all I thought about while I was gone. Jasper told me you had a boyfriend, and I had hoped something would happen to break you up before I got here." He looked up at me again. "I'm sorry. I know that sounds bad, but I wanted you to be with me…not him."

"I did think about you…all the time. I dreamed about you," I said.

My mind finally caught up with his words.

"Wait. I think I remember that night. Jake mentioned something about the car across the street. I barely glanced at it. I didn't see you."

I thought back to that night, trying to picture it. Then it hit me.

"No, I did see you. I looked back before we went inside. I knew it was you, but when I called Rose later and told her that I saw you, she told me it was impossible. She told me I had to forget you. That you lived in California, and you weren't coming back. I knew she was right, and I was never going to see you again." A tear rolled down my cheek. "It hurt me so much to do it, but I let you go that night."

"After seeing you with him, I tried to do the same thing," he said. "In my head, I said goodbye to you, but my heart never let go."

Edward finally pushed off the floor and sat on the couch next to me. Taking a deep breath, he kept talking.

"Everything started the day after we moved in. Jessica introduced herself to us right away and started hanging around a lot. Then she invited us to a New Year's Eve party. She said she wanted to introduce us to some of the kids from school. At first, I was hoping you'd be there, but then I was really hoping you wouldn't be."

"Why?" I asked, trying to keep the disappointment out of my voice.

"Because I thought if you were there, you would have been there with Jake. I wouldn't have been able to be in the same room with the two of you." He exhaled. "Emmett told me I should just get you alone and tell you I wanted to be with you, but I couldn't do that."

"Why not?" I asked again.

"Bella, I saw you that night, and you looked so happy to be with him. I couldn't ruin that. I couldn't put you in a position where you would have to choose. It wouldn't have been fair to you." He shrugged. "Besides, I had no idea you would even remember me, and I was the new kid, so I figured you would have chosen him anyway. It was better for me to just forget everything and let you go. That was the only reason I kissed Jessica that night. You were unavailable and I thought she was pretty."

My eyes dropped to the couch between us when he said that.

"Please don't do that," he said, lifting my face back to his.

"Do what?" I choked out.

"Don't hide from me. Not now." He held one of my hands. "I promised you the truth, Bella, and I'm going to give you that, but it's not going be what you think it is."

"What does that even mean?"

"You've heard a lot of things about me that just aren't true. A few minutes ago, you even said you heard Jessica talking about what we did together. I don't know what she said about me, but whatever it was, I can tell you it was a lie. The night of the party, we were kissing. She took me into one of the back rooms with her…"

My free hand clenched into a fist, fingernails digging into my skin. I know I wanted the truth, but I didn't really need to hear this.

"…but nothing happened while we were in there." He gave a little tug on my hand. "Now, I know what you're thinking. Hell, it's probably what everyone at that party was thinking, considering I was in there with Jessica of all people. But I couldn't do anything with her. Besides the fact that my mom would kill me if she ever found out..."

I laughed a little at that. Who really thinks of their mom while they're making out with a girl?

"…I was still thinking of you. I knew I didn't have a chance with you anymore, so there was technically nothing stopping me from being with her." His brow furrowed. "It just felt wrong to me, though, kissing her while I was thinking of you.

"Even after I pulled away from her, she still tried to talk me into staying with her that night, like I was her date, but I couldn't do that either. I left her in that room and went to find Emmett. I know I should have said something when the guys he was talking to started making jokes about us 'getting it on' in the back room, but I didn't. I just figured 'guys will be guys' so I let them talk. If I would've known about her reputation, then I wouldn't have let it go."

"Seriously?" I asked, not quite believing the last part. "Do you just think all fifteen year old girls are that into sex?"

"Honestly, I wouldn't know," he said sheepishly.

"Come on, Edward."

"Believe it or not, Bella," he cut me off, "I don't have that much experience with girls. I only had one girlfriend in California, but she and I were so focused on sports and stuff that we really didn't see much of each other. And if you really want to know, I broke up with her after I met you."

I tried to ignore how happy it made me to hear those words. I still had more questions.

"Okay, so you didn't do anything with Jessica at the party, but what about after? I had to sit there and listen to her talk – in great detail – for an hour about the two of you together. You're telling me she made it all up?"

"Yes," he said simply. "She wanted more but, like I said, I just couldn't. I didn't want her that way. Then after we got back to school, and Jasper told me about her and her reputation, I couldn't believe I considered even kissing her in the first place. That's when I realized why you ran away from me that day. I wanted to tell you that you were wrong. I tried to, but you kept pushing me away."

"I was hurt," I said, dropping my eyes again.

"I know," he said, letting go of my hand. "But what I couldn't understand was why. Why wouldn't you just ask me? You assumed you were right. No matter what anyone tried to tell you, you were so determined to believe the worst of me. Do you have any idea how that made me feel?"

Looking back up at him, the pain was back in his face and tears came back to his eyes. Seeing his face, a lump settled in my throat, and I couldn't answer.

"I was happy back in California. When my parents told us about the possibility of moving, I hated them for it. I didn't want to come here, but my dad dragged us here anyway. All I wanted to do was go back home, but that was before I ran into you. I thought you were beautiful, and when we were together later during that game, when I had you in my arms, it was like I couldn't let you go.

"When I had to, I couldn't wait to get back here. Not a day went by that I didn't think about you. When my dad told us he got the job and we were moving here, I literally prayed for you to remember me. I didn't think you would, but then, as I was sitting in the cafeteria, I heard you say my name.

"I can't even describe the feelings that came over me, and I couldn't stop myself. I had to have you in my arms again. And just like before, I didn't want to let you go, but I knew I had to. You had a boyfriend, and I wasn't going to interfere with that.

"After we started to talk, Jessica came up and you took off. I tried to follow you to find out what was wrong, but I had no clue where you went. I was forced to wait for you to come back. But when you did, and I tried to talk to you, you walked away."

He stood up from the couch, putting the distance of the room between us.

"You said goodbye, and you walked away from me, Bella, without another word. Jasper had to be the one to explain everything to me. And when I realized what you thought I did, I tried to tell you the truth, so many times, but you wouldn't listen to me."

He raised his voice as I watched anger take over his face. He was pissed, and he had every right to be.

"But, Edward, after everything with Jake…" I tried to explain but he cut me off.

"Don't you dare try to use Jake as an excuse for this," he snapped at me. "I know he hurt you, but you made your own choices without giving me the chance to explain my side of things. You want me to believe that you thought about me, may have even cared about me, yet you chose to believe Jessica, Jake, and whoever else opened their mouth about me rather than finding out the truth. Hell," he threw up his hands in exasperation, "forget about me. You wouldn't even listen to your own friends when they tried to tell you the truth. Why, Bella? Explain that one to me please, because I just don't get it."

I didn't know what to say. For months, Alice and Rosalie both begged me to listen, and I refused. The only one I cared to listen to was Jake, and I really should have known better.

Edward's eyebrows rose as he waited for an answer.

I couldn't look at him as I explained. "You don't know how much Jake has hurt me in the past few years," I said quietly. "It may be just an excuse to you, but when I thought of you with Jessica, the first thing that came to my mind was Jake."

"How does that even make any sense, Bella?"

"Everything Jake's done, I allowed it to happen," I admitted. "He would walk away from me and go to Leah over and over again, and I kept allowing him back in. I kept handing him my heart to break whenever he felt like it. I was stupid, I admit that, but then you came along.

"The day we met, I thought he was going to do it again. That's why you saw me crying. I was so embarrassed you saw me that way, and I tried to get away from you, but you wouldn't let me. As I stood there, holding onto you, I can honestly say Jake was the furthest thing from my mind."

I shifted a little, wincing when the movement sent a pain through my knees. Once I was settled, I continued.

"The same thing happened on your first day at school. When you jumped out of your chair and hugged me, the whole room went away. I don't know what happened, but it was as if you and I were the only ones there, no one else mattered. Then just the sound of Jessica's voice shattered that…world we were in, or at least, the one I was in." I took a slow breath. "I had just spent all of fourth period listening to her brag about how she already hooked up with the new kid, talking about how easy he was to get. She just had to wiggle her ass a few times."

I let out a humorless laugh. "I remember feeling sorry for the poor kid who got stuck with her. He obviously had no idea what he was in for. When I realized she was talking about you, it really broke my heart. I couldn't believe the only other guy I'd ever liked could stoop so low as to be with Jessica."

"But I didn't do anything with her, Bella," he interrupted.

"I didn't know that at the time. All I knew was what I heard her say about the two of you, and it hurt me so much that I couldn't even look at you. There was no way I could talk to you. So I did the one thing I could to protect myself from another boy like Jacob. I said goodbye to you…again, only this time, saying it to your face, it crushed me."

My arms wrapped around my stomach and my eyes pinched closed, trying to keep the tears from falling. I felt the couch dip next to me as Edward moved back to my side.

"I can understand you were hurt, Bella." His voice lost the anger. "But Alice and Rose both tried to tell you that nothing happened; that I could never do that. Why wouldn't you listen? They're your best friends, Bella. Did you think they would lie to you?"

"It wasn't like that." I turned to face him. "Every word out of Jessica's mouth made it hurt worse every single day. I couldn't be around you, couldn't look at you, and I couldn't let the girls talk about you, because it felt like I couldn't breathe every time I heard your name."

Unable to look at him any longer, my gaze shifted back to the floor.

"Then you showed up at my meet that day and cheered me on like I mattered to you. After my race, I saw the look in your eyes. I let myself believe that you cared about me. You wouldn't have been there otherwise, right?"

I paused for a second, taking a deep breath. Edward laid a hand on my back, his fingers moving in small circles. It was such a simple touch, light and gentle, but gave me hope that we could work this out.

"I wanted to find you so we could talk, but I found Jacob instead. He was in so much pain after what you did to him, but he was only concerned about me, telling me what you really wanted from me and how he tried to protect me from that."

"What a bunch of bullshit!"

His voice rose in anger again as he started pacing the room.

"And you bought that shit, didn't you?" he yelled. "Wait. What the fuck am I thinking? Of course you did. Nothing anyone said would have made a difference. As long as Jacob said it was true, then it must have been, right?"

"That's not fair," I shouted back.

"Then what is, Bella?" His cold eyes landed on me. "You took every word he ever said and used it against me without a second thought. You never even considered the fact that he was lying."

"But it wasn't just him," I argued. "Jessica…"

"Oh right, Jessica had to have her say, too. Sorry, I forgot," he said sarcastically. "As long as you have Jessica and Jake's word on everything, I guess you're all set, right?"

He was back to pacing again. I was just about to say something when he turned on me again.

"Oh wait, weren't you the one who told me, not even ten minutes ago, that you didn't trust Jake as much as you thought you should? You were the one who thought he was already cheating on you, am I right? Yeah, his word is the first one you should believe."

I opened my mouth to speak but closed it again when he continued.

"And I'm sure, in your long-standing friendship with Jessica, she's never once lied to you, right? I'm sure she's always given you such great advice. No wait," he tapped his fingers to his forehead, "I keep forgetting…you don't even like the bitch. Maybe you were just trying to make her feel better by taking her word on everything."

"You don't have to be a complete asshole about it," I shouted.

"Oh, I'm sorry." His hand covered his heart. "Should I try to be more like you? You know, you are the very model of sweet and loving behavior. Maybe I should start treating you the same way you've treated me for the last year. That should solve all our problems."

"Fuck you, Edward."

"Sorry, Bella, I'm not that kind of guy."

He turned his back on me and tears filled my eyes. It really was too late. I'd lost him before I even had him, and it was my fault. It was time to leave. I didn't belong there anymore.

I stood up, wanting to make my escape before he turned back around, but the stabbing pain in both of my knees sent me crashing to the ground. Without thinking, I threw my hands out to catch myself and cried out the second my left hand hit the ground, sending the pain from my left shoulder through my whole body.

"Bella!"

Edward was by my side in a second, one arm across my back as his other was caressing my hurt shoulder.

"I'm sorry," he whispered over and over.

Tears that had nothing to do with the physical pain fell from my eyes as I lay on the floor. Before long, Edward was helping me to sit against the couch and immediately began checking the bandages on my knees.

He shook his head as he pulled the bandage off my left knee and saw the blood on the gauze. Reaching to grab the bowl and first aid kit still sitting on the coffee table, Edward put another piece of gauze soaked in that clouded solution on my knee before taking another bandage from the first aid kit, covering the scrapes with it.

"I thought you said it would feel better," I said as he repeated the process with my right knee.

He shrugged. "Guess I'm not as good a doctor as my dad, huh?" He let out a small, humorless laugh.

We sat in silence for a few minutes, and I watched as he repacked the first aid kit, placing it and the bowl back on the table. When he turned back to me, I grabbed his hand. My eyes were focused on our joined hands, too afraid to look up and see the anger that was in his eyes before I fell.

"I've hurt you so much," I said sadly. "How could you want anything to do with me after everything I've done? Why would you even bother?"

"Jasper warned me all along to be careful." His voice was just as quiet as mine.

My eyes snapped up, noticing his eyes were also focused on our hands. I wanted to ask him what Jasper had said, but he spoke again before I could.

"He kept telling me not to get my hopes up. But I knew…"

His sentence trailed off. I wanted to ask him to finish, but I didn't want to ruin this calm between us. Looking back down at our hands, I watched as he slowly laced his fingers with mine.

"No, I hoped," he finally continued, "that if you knew the truth, you wouldn't hate me and things could be different."

"I can't say I would have listened," I said.

"No you wouldn't have. You weren't ready to hear it." His grip tightened slightly. "If I would have told you what that fight was really about, and what I knew about Jake, you would have called me a liar and accused me of trying to break the two of you up. I would have ruined anything that could have ever been between us."

"You can tell me now," I urged. I needed to hear the whole truth.

I looked up, wanting to see his face as he explained. He still wouldn't meet my eyes, but I guessed it might be better that way.

"Jake came after me that day." Edward took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "After I saw you race, Emmett texted me to let me know he was outside waiting for me. I didn't want to leave, but I had to. Jake followed me out, asking me what I was doing there. He had told me he'd seen me watching you but there was nothing I could ever do about it. He would never let you get close to me. I told him it was your choice, and you would choose me once I told you the truth...that he really didn't want you."

I gasped. I knew it was true now, but to hear that Edward knew it, even so long ago, surprised me.

"I'm sorry. I know that has to be hard to hear. I lied to him, though." His grip tightened again, and the fingers on his other hand caressed my arm as he continued. "I didn't know for sure back then, but I'd seen the way Jake and Leah would look at each other. I was sure something was going on, so I lied and told him he wasn't quite as good at sneaking around as he thought. He wouldn't admit it, of course, but the look on his face answered for him."

"He told me it started on Valentine's Day," I said absently. After a second to think, I ripped my hand from Edward's and asked, "Are you telling me it was before that?"

Stunned by my quick move, he finally looked at me.

"I honestly don't know. I didn't have any real proof that day, just what I thought was the truth." His gaze shifted back to his now empty hands. "He already knew I had my eye on you, so I told him that he'd seen you looking at me, too, and that he needed to be worried. I told him once you knew what was going on, you'd come to me." He brought his eyes back to mine. "I know it was wrong to taunt him like that, and I'm sorry, but I couldn't help myself. I knew it was all a lie, but he didn't. That's why he hit me.

"We fought, and each of us got in some good hits, but I finally got him down. You have to know, I don't like to fight, but I was so angry by then, I just kept hitting him. I told him I was going to tell you everything, and I wasn't going to let him hurt you anymore. And I would have, but when we got back to school on Monday, and I ran into you in the hallway, you went off on me and ran away. I lost my chance again, because you never spoke to me after that."

"I never should have believed him," I said absently. "He told me so many things about you, and it was so hard not to believe it, especially with Jessica around. The day I ran away from you made it so much worse."

"How could it get worse?" he asked.

"I freaked out when you said you wanted to be alone with me," I admitted. "I was so upset, I went and hid out in one of the bathrooms for a while. Jessica and Lauren happened to come in, talking about how stupid I was for turning you down. Then Lauren asked why you would want me anyway when the two of you were just together."

"She said what!"

I flinched as the anger returned to his voice. I didn't want to upset him again, but I knew I had to tell him.

"She said you were together all night the Friday before my meet." I shook my head. "I lost it when I heard that. Hearing that you could be with her one night and then come to see me the next day made everything Jake ever said to me sound like the truth."

"That bitch!" he growled.

"You weren't with her?" I asked hesitantly.

"No, I was," he said quickly, "but it was just to go shopping. She had asked me if I would go to the mall with her so she could pick up something for Jessica's birthday. I didn't know her well, but I felt bad turning her down. So to be nice, I said okay." He rolled his eyes. "She annoyed the hell out of me all night. I couldn't get her to stop talking, and I was so glad when I finally got away from her."

I laughed a little. "That sounds like Lauren, all right."

"I couldn't get rid of her after that. She and Jessica were everywhere. It was like they were stalking me or something. Do you know they even showed up one night while I was at the movies with my parents? They trapped me at the concession stand, and it took Emmett coming to get me before I could get away from them."

The guilt hit me instantly as I remembered seeing him that night.

"I saw you there that night."

"You did?" He looked at me, confused, and shook his head. "I didn't see you there."

"I was there to watch a movie we were going to review for the paper. I saw you with them, and my mind went to something else Jake told me." His body tensed up as he waited for me to explain. "He had said that Jessica was too easy for you, and you wanted me because you saw me as more of a challenge. That night, I figured you got a little of the challenge you were looking for by trying to be with them both."

"God," he said as a hand grabbed a fistful of his hair, "we never stood a chance, did we?"

"Between Jake, all the girls, my stupidity, and my stubbornness, there was no way we could." I took a deep breath and added, "But you never gave up on me. You believed in me when I didn't deserve it, and if it weren't for your letters, Edward, I wouldn't be here right now. You found a way to tell me how you felt when I didn't want to listen."

He reached down to hold my hand again, and his eyes locked on mine.

"From the moment I saw you, I only wanted you, Bella. I'll admit there were times when I wanted to give up, but no one would let me; not Alice, Rose, or even my parents would allow me to quit."

"Oh God," I groaned, hiding my face. "Your parents know about all of this?"

"It was kind of hard to hide it from them. They saw how upset and depressed I always was. It's hard to keep a secret in this house. I don't regret telling them, though, because they gave me some great advice."

"Ugh…they must hate me right now," I mumbled into my hands.

I heard a soft laugh and moved my hands to glare at him.

"It's not funny. All of this has been for nothing. They'd never let you be with someone like me. I mean, look at the way Emmett reacted already, and he's just your brother. Your mom has to hate me so much more than that."

"I'm sorry about that." Emmett's voice made me jump. "But I refuse to sit by and watch you…"

"What do you want, Em?" Edward's icy tone cut him off.

"Mom called. They'll be home in about half an hour." He threw a set of keys onto the couch. "You better drive Bella home."

He walked away without another word. Since they'd moved here, I'd never really gotten to know Emmett. Now, it seemed like whatever friendship we could have had was ruined.

"Let me put this stuff away, and I'll drive you home."

I nodded, wanting to get as far away from his house as possible before his mom got home. After Edward admitted to being depressed a lot in the past year, I could only imagine what she thought of me right now. And I didn't see his dad liking me any better than her, either. I had to leave before they caught me there.

I had managed to stand while Edward was putting things away, and he helped me with my coat after he came back into the room. The pain in my knees made my steps slow and cautious as he walked me to the car, and once I was settled, he slipped into the driver's seat and started the engine.

The conversation on the drive home was much lighter than it had been over the past couple of hours. Edward asked me about swimming and working at the paper, but that reminded me of the situation my dad was in, and I didn't want to talk about it.

When he pulled up in front of my house, I didn't want to get out. He hesitated for a second before he got out, rushing to my side to open my door for me. He walked me to my door, and I was tempted to ask him to come in so we could talk more, but I knew he had to get home.

"I wish we had more time," he said, echoing my thoughts.

"Me too," I agreed. "I feel like now that your whole family hates me, this is it. I won't have another chance."

Edward took my hand. "Bella, look at me."

I shook my head, not wanting him to see the tears that filled my eyes at the thought of losing him now.

"My mom couldn't hate anyone if she tried…especially you."

That got my attention, and my head snapped up to see his face.

"How could she…?"

"Do you want to know what she said to me before she left the house today?" he asked, cutting me off.

I nodded, and Edward blushed a little.

"She looked me right in the eye and said, 'Help her to see who you really are. Once she does, you'll get everything you've ever wanted.'"

I couldn't believe it. What mother wouldn't have some resentment toward a girl who treated her son the way I had treated Edward?

"She's encouraged me the whole way. I wouldn't have made it this far without her." He laid a hand on my cheek. "I don't want this to be the end, Bella. Give me a chance and let me prove to you that everything I've told you is true."

I shook my head and pulled his hand away from my face, holding it in mine. He had that backwards.

"No, Edward. I'm the one who should be begging for chances," I told him. "A chance to make up for everything I've put you through. A chance to show you that you didn't wait for nothing. A chance to show you how much I care about the guy whose beautiful words touched my heart."

I was in his arms the instant the last word left my mouth. My arms were quick to wrap around his waist, holding him tight.

"I guess we both have things to make up for." Leaning back slightly to look me in the eye, he said, "But if we can talk, and I mean really talk like we did today, and not let misunderstandings or lies get in our way again, then we can be great friends, Bella."

Friends? He only wants to be friends?

"I can always hope for more one day, but it's not something we should rush into. Not with the past we have."

"I think that's smart," I said, relieved I still had a chance.

His hands slid down my arms to grab my hands again.

"I better get home, but we'll talk, okay?"

"Okay."

He let me go and stepped back so I could open the door. He said goodbye and walked to his car. I was just about to close the door behind me when he called.

"Bella."

"Yeah," I said as I stopped the door from closing.

"Can I call you sometime?" he asked.

My smile showed my excitement at his question.

"Yes," I answered quickly. "Come here and I'll give you my number."

"That's okay. I already have it." His smile was the biggest I'd ever seen cross his face. "I've had it for a long time."

With a wink, he ducked into the car, leaving me staring after him as he drove away.


God…finally…a whole conversation. They got so much out in the open. They may not have gone over every detail, but this is a start. Now, they have a chance to really get to know each other and, like Edward said, maybe hope for more one day.

Thanks for sticking with me and remember, leave me a little something to tell me what you think. Until next time…much love to you - D