This is another oneshot that I had posted in my twi-25. I liked it enough to not get rid of it when I tore the rest of the drabbles down.

These characters aren't mine. Bella's socks are.


In My Life

~Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ~

I hate this bar.

This quintessence of all that had gone wrong in my life.

This bane of my existence.

Taking one last breath of clean air, I opened the door and stepped inside. It was quiet for a Friday night, no loud band banging aimlessly on a cheap set of drums, no drunken couples wrapped around each other while squinting at the fine print on the karaoke screen. A few faceless patrons graced the shadowed corners, clouds of smoke billowing from the upturned corners of their mouths. The smell of beer and stale cigarette smoke filled my lungs as I approached the bar.

"Hey there, killer," the brown haired barkeep said with a friendly smile on her lips. I smiled back, placing some cash on the counter. Her name was Bella. She truly was a sweet girl. I wondered what sort of thing drove a person like her to want to work in a tiny little dump such as this one. Nevertheless, she was here. Always here.

I'd never allowed myself to ask her why; we seemed to have an unspoken understanding of one another. We talked about things—superficial things. Every conversation we ever had barely scratched the surface, neither of us allowing it to go any deeper. Bella knew my situation. She had been at this bar long enough. She'd been an outside observer to my life for far longer than I cared to acknowledge. After everything fell apart, rumors circulated. There was no way she hadn't heard, and yet, she never pressured me to talk to her about it. She never pried for information.

Bella pulled a bottle of Amber Boch from the small fridge, popping the cap off and smiling wryly. I thanked her before swiping the beer off the counter and making my way over to my usual corner table.

Nostalgia was what brought me here over and over again for the last three years.

The need to feel grounded, connected to the life that I used to have.

I came to this bar often to reminisce. I didn't want to live in the past, but I also never wanted to forget it. To forget what my life was supposed to be, to forget the good times before there was so much bad, to forget the person I used to be, to forget her—them. I needed it as a means of balance in my life, a reminder that no matter how promising things sometimes seemed, there would always be darkness tainting my chance of happiness.

Sometimes I would order a strong drink, and make my way to my corner table, other times I would simply order a water to sip on as I breathed in the stale, second-hand air.

Bella always seemed to know when I needed the former. Perhaps I wasn't as proficient at masking the pain as I thought.

We used to come here, me and my wife. I can't even bring myself to think her name for fear of tearing open the few wounds that had finally begun to heal.

We had met here in college six years ago. I came in one night with some friends, accidentally shot a pool ball under her table; she made me buy it back with a Jack and Coke.

I made a promise to myself that she would be mine, and not just that night, but forever. Her blue eyes sparkled like diamonds in the rays of false neon sunshine. She had smiled sweetly at me, laughing politely at all of my ridiculous jokes and pretending to eat up the even-more ridiculous pick up lines I would toss her way. Toward the end of the night, she pulled her long, strawberry-blonde hair into a knot at the nape of her neck and proceeded to beat my ass at a game of eight ball.

This was our place, though it wasn't much to look at anymore. It had been passed through the hands of several different owners since then, undergoing remodeling and cropping until it was just a tiny hole-in-the-wall bar.

Life seemed to do that to everything, change it and mold it, for better or worse. Time brushes its harsh, influential fingers against everything; plans, hopes, dreams, this bar... even her. I wondered how different she would look now, if three years would have made a difference at all to her physical appearance.

Bringing the bottle to my lips, I clenched my eyes shut tightly and took a long swig of my beer, trying to fight back the memory.

Of course she would look different now. Her eyes would still sparkle just as much, I was sure, but they would be somehow even more alive; her years would be evident in their depths. The curves of her body might be slightly softer having carried a baby for a few short months—our baby.

We hadn't planned on having a baby. We weren't married. Hell, we hadn't even finished college yet. But when I found out she was pregnant, I had been thrilled; excited for the adventure of parenthood despite the fact that it may have been ill-timed. Within the first three weeks, I had painted a room in our apartment in light blue and green pastels; softer shades of the color of our eyes. We got married at the court house with plans of a more traditional wedding after the baby was born.

She wasn't happy. She loved me and wanted to have a family with me, but not at twenty-one. She had tried to convince me that an abortion would be best, that neither of us were ready for the responsibility of a child.

I disagreed. I had come from a broken home, raised by my over-worked mother in the windy city of Chicago. I always told myself that I would have my own big family one day, so when I found out about the baby, I couldn't wait to be for my child the father that I was never able to have.

I was brought out of my silent reverie by the sound of creaking naugahyde as Bella moved into the booth across from me. She set a tray down in the center of the table, a kaleidoscope of different colored liquor in shot glasses.

"You looked like you could use a few," she said, propping her feet up on the seat beside me. I glanced down at her blue and green striped stockings and girlish Mary Janes and couldn't help but smile in spite of myself.

Leaning forward, I breathed in the scent of alcohol in an attempt to decipher what was in the various glasses.

"You trying to kill me?" I asked, half-jokingly. Honestly, I knew what happened when people carelessly mixed alcohol.

"I wasn't sure what you were in the mood for, so just pick a color and stick to it."

"Thank you, Bella," I said, grabbing a glass of amber liquid as she took a clear one from the outer edge.

We raised our glasses in toast of nothing in particular before tossing back our respective beverages. The burn of whiskey set fire to my throat and warmed my stomach. I chased it with another swig of beer, staring intently at Bella for some sign of discomfort due to the vodka she had just drunk. As per usual, she didn't even bat an eyelash. This girl was made of stone.

"Don't you have to tend bar?" I asked, picking up another shot glass. I knew the routine. On the nights Bella could tell that beer just wouldn't do, she'd chase people out after last call and then come sit with me and drink. We didn't do it often, but when we did, it was the happiest I'd allow myself to be.

Bella was smart and funny, easy to be around. We would talk and laugh, and anytime one of us would venture too close to a forbidden topic, the other would gently veer to another. Our conversations danced into the early morning hours at which point I would help her clean up the bar before exchanging our usual words of departure, "until we meet again." It was never goodbye. I had said goodbye to too many people in my life and although I never let Bella get close enough to hurt me, or for me to hurt, I still didn't want to let her go. Goodbye was not an option.

"Charlie offered to take over. It's slow, no need for two of us." She smiled, throwing back another shot.

I nodded, redirecting my gaze back to the shimmering ripples on the surface of the alcohol. I could get lost staring at her if I allowed myself. Waves of chestnut hair framing her beautiful face, a thick shock of bangs swooped across her forehead to one side over a pair of giant brown eyes which were lined with charcoal-colored makeup. She belonged in a classier place than this, somewhere that she would get the proper amount of attention from available men her own age rather than the old locals that spent their evenings and paychecks here.

The thought of her leaving made my heart ache and I threw back another shot in hopes of numbing it. I was starting to feel the alcohol now, the relaxing effect rather than the burn. My fingers felt warm and my teeth were tingling.

"Trying to get me drunk?" I joked.

Bella licked her lips, leaning forward and folding her hands on the table in front of her. "Edward," she said in a low, seductive tone, "I'm your bartender. When am I not trying to get you drunk?" She winked at me and we both laughed.

After a drawn-out moment of comfortable silence and another toast to nothing, Bella sighed noisily. Leaning back in her seat, she stared at me contemplatively for a moment before speaking.

"How long have we known each other Edward?"

I pretended to think about this for a moment, counting on my fingers the years in which she had graced my life with her smile. "Four years," I said finally.

She nodded, gazing at me again as if deep in thought. "Come with me?" I could tell her question was meant to be a statement as she stood up and reached a hand out to take mine.

I took her hand and slid out of the booth. "Where are we going?" I asked.

"Out."

"Out? Where out? We don't go out," I responded dumbly. It was true, though. All our time spent together had always been within these four, nicotine stained walls.

Bella ignored my halfhearted protest as she dragged me to the door and out into the cool, fresh, night air, swaying slightly from the effects of the vodka.

"Walk with me to the pier," she said, releasing my hand and slowing her pace to match mine.

A sheet of inky night stretched across the sky, decorated with tiny pinpricks of dancing starlight. With the lights of the city behind us, and nothing but a large expanse of the ocean's glassy surface before us, the stars seemed to go on forever, reflecting off the water and back into the sky.

We walked in silence out over the bay, reveling in the sound of soft waves lapping at the pillars of the pier. Bella paused at the end, tilting her head back and closing her eyes as she smiled. I watched as the breeze whispered gently through her hair, sending the faint smell of strawberries my direction. She inhaled deeply before turning her attention back to me.

"Do you smell that?" she asked, taking a seat on the edge of the dock. She motioned for me to join her as she kicked off her shoes and pulled her knee socks off.

I watched her in awe, unable to answer coherently. It wasn't that I hadn't seen the free-spirited side of Bella before, and she had always seemed so relaxed and comfortable in my presence, but this was definitely a different situation than the two of us usually found ourselves in.

She dipped her feet down into the water before extending her hand to me once again. I took it without hesitation, lowering myself down beside her.

"Well, do you?" she asked, enthusiastically unlacing my boots and pulling them off along with my socks.

"Do I?"

A soft laugh escaped her. "The smell, Edward."

"Oh, right." I had been so captivated by her energy that her question had slipped my mind. "I smell…" I inhaled deeply before continuing. "Salt, cigarettes, strawberries and vodka." I nudged her thigh playfully with my toe. "What's going on, Bella? Why are we out here?"

"Because I'm a little drunk, and a lot tired," she replied cryptically, sighing before she went on. "When I come out here, I smell freedom and opportunity." I arched an eyebrow questioningly waiting for her to continue.

She took a deep breath and smiled at me sympathetically. "My mom insisted my dad move us here when I was two. She was adamant that I grow up in a city bigger than the town of Forks, Washington, where she and my father are from. There wasn't enough to do there. Not enough opportunity to make something of my life and she refused to let me waste it." I noticed the way she smiled when she mentioned her mother, proud and loving, with a tinge of sorrow in her deep, brown eyes. Looking back out over the water, she went on, "I used to play the guitar and she would tell everyone that I was the next Chrissie Hynde." Glancing over at me again, she smiled sadly. "I love you, Edward." My breath caught, nearly choking me on the silence I had been contributing to the conversation. "I know that sounds ridiculous since we really don't know a lot about each other, but you're my best friend. You're always here for me even if I don't open up to you the way I should, and I wanted you to know how much I appreciate it."

I swallowed hard, unsure of how to respond, but feeling like an ass not saying anything at all. Bella reached over, tapping my knee until I, too, dipped my feet down into the water. I hissed at the sobering chill of the temperature.

"My mom lost her battle with cancer when I was thirteen." I finally opened my mouth to respond, but Bella held her hand up to stop me. "Don't tell me you're sorry. I know you are. Everyone is and that's not why I'm telling you this."

I nodded, taking her hand and lacing our fingers together in a silent gesture of sympathy and support.

"She loved the ocean so much that my father spread her ashes right here in the bay. I always feel close to her here. I didn't have the normal mother-daughter stuff that other girls my age got; the shopping, the hair braiding, the sex talk. It all fell on Charlie, but I still felt that if I came out to the bay, and listened really hard, I could hear her whispering on the wind." She turned to me with a solemn expression, holding my gaze with her own for a period. I saw a twinkle in her eyes before her mouth spread into a wide smile and she began to laugh.

"I'm sorry," she said through her soft giggles. "I'm a little drunk, but I really did want to tell you that."

"Don't be sorry, Bella. I'm glad you did." I pulled her to my side and kissed the top of her head.

Resting her head on my shoulder, she sighed once again. "You don't have to tell me about your past, Edward. I know enough to fill in the gaps. I just want you to know that if you ever do decide to talk, I'll be right here." She sandwiched my hand between hers, the physical contact making my heart ache. It had been so long since I allowed someone to touch me this way, intimate, but not sexual; kind and caring.

I knew that Bella didn't expect me to open up to her, that she had offered her truth and honesty to me just as a way of letting me know that she trusted me, and I appreciated that. I wished that I could tell her that I loved her, too, but I couldn't. That word had been stained with hurt and betrayal and just the thought of it alone left a bitter taste on my tongue. I wanted her to know that I trusted her; that she was my friend and I appreciated her being there for me when no one else was.

"I don't want you to have to fill in the blanks, Bella." Her movement stilled for an instant, barely noticeable before she went back to stroking the side of my hand with her thumb. "My wife left me three years ago. You remember her, don't you?" Bella nodded against my shoulder. "We made a mistake that she couldn't live with, so she took matters into her own hands. She went home to Chicago one weekend for a visit, and instead of coming home, she sent divorce papers and a letter." It wasn't the entire story, and even if I wanted to tell it, I wasn't sure I'd be able to.

It's hard to admit that the woman I loved, whom I'd expected to spend my life with, had gone behind my back to rid herself of the baby our love had created. I wouldn't agree to an abortion, so she had gone home and had her father foot the bill for the procedure and the divorce all in one week. I would have taken the baby. I would have let Tanya go if freedom was what she wanted and raised the child on my own. She didn't have to do what she did.

I felt my heart clench in my chest as the weight of a thousand painful burdens lifted from my soul. Sharing that piece of myself with the one person I knew would never hurt me allowed me to feel the tiniest glimmer of hope. And in the darkest night, even a tiny glimmer is like a ray of promise.

Lifting her head from my shoulder, Bella released my hand and wrapped her arms tightly around me. "You don't have to tell me, Edward. I know what happened next... I know it doesn't help when people offer their sympathy for something that can't be reversed, but for what it's worth, I really am sorry." I felt a hot tear escape my eye and trail down my cheek into her hair. "I'm sorry about the baby, Edward. And I'm sorry that she left you so broken and alone."

I buried my face in her hair and breathed in deeply, willing the sent of strawberries and warm friendship to calm my nerves; begging for it to mend my broken heart.

"Thank you, Bella," I whispered. "For always knowing exactly what to say or what not to say."

"One of these days, Edward, you'll trust me enough to give me a chance and when you do, you'll see that destiny has a strange way of forcing its way into your life. Everything happens for a reason."

We both chuckled softly at her drunken philosophy, but I knew there was some truth to it. When I allowed myself to give life another try, Bella would be the first to know about it.

We spent the rest of the night on the pier, staring up into the stars and talking the way friends were meant to.

~Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ~

A/N

Thank you for reading this. Please don't get all huffy and squinky with me over the mention of abortion. I don't do this thing to spark argument, but just know that I don't support it as a primary form of birth control.

Also, I have ideas for this story and would like to continue it at some point. Let me know what you think.