I do not own any Character names nor do I own Twilight or anything pertaining to it.

.

.

.

.

"Isabella, get up."

"No." I groaned, snuggling further into my little womb of blankets and pillows.

"I've been up for four hours. I'm not going to wait around for you all day."

My foot was sticking out from under the covers, at the end of the bed, and I felt Edward's hand grab it and tug at it.

"Stooooppppppp…" I whined.

This had been going on for like a half hour now. Edward kept pestering me to get up, but it was cold and I was so comfortable. Though, in the more rational part of my mind, I knew that I needed to. We had a lot to do. It was three days before Christmas and, being the queen of procrastination, I hadn't purchased any gifts for anyone yet. Edward said he had a last minute gift to pick up as well, so we had plans to go to the mall. I was dreading it, because I knew it would be maddeningly busy, but I knew I'd brought it upon myself for putting the task off for so long. And Christmas shopping was just the beginning of the forthcoming craziness that awaited us. The next morning my dad would be arriving from Forks to spend Christmas with us. Then that night was our Christmas party, and then it would already be Christmas Eve.

Time was going by so fast.

"Okay, okay, I'll make you a deal." I relented, rolling over onto my back to look up at Edward where he stood at the foot of the bed.

"I have to make a deal with you to get you out of bed?"

"Just go turn on the hot water in the shower for me."

"And you'll get up?"

"Yes, I'll get up."

"You are so dramatic sometimes…" He grumbled as he turned, walking into the bathroom.

I waited until I heard the water pattering in the shower and Edward confirmed that it was warm before I dared to throw the blankets off of me. I hopped out of bed and hastily squirmed my way out of my panties and T shirt while en route to the bathroom. I darted by Edward and ran into the shower, where I hummed contently in response to the hot water on my skin.

Satisfied that I was up and that I was going to stay up, Edward went back downstairs and left me to get ready. Edward had regulations about my appearance all the time, but I knew that I was supposed to look especially prim and proper to go out in public with him. They were his stupid rules, so yeah, I may have taken a decent chunk of time just to be spiteful. I took my time with my make-up and styled my hair so it was sleek and straight while still volumous, tossed over one shoulder. Thankfully, the expensive haircuts I could now afford came along with stylists who had shown me the proper way to achieve whatever look I was going for. That definitely came in handy.

Seeing as we were just going to the mall, I figured jeans should be acceptable, as long I wore my nice ones. I paired them with a blue sweater and did a quick once-over in the full length mirror, determining that I looked decent enough. I didn't see why my appearance was of so much importance anyway. Girls really only dress up to impress other girls, and as long as I was with Edward, I was pretty sure no girls would be paying any attention to me.

Downstairs, I found Edward in the formal living room. He was pacing slowly back and forth in front of the massive windows, looking out over our backyard that was gorgeously dusted in a thin layer of snow as he talked on the phone.

"Well, he's exaggerating. It really wasn't a big deal."

"It was more of a trial experiment. At least, that's how I looked at it."

"No, I don't think it's a good idea at all."

"No, especially not for you. He's…difficult. He thought that I was unreasonable in my demands. I can't begin to imagine what he'd think of your intensity."

"Let him have it, then. Trust me, you're not interested."

He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair, looking exasperated.

"There's no money to be made there, Rosalie. Don't call me for my advice if you're not going to take it. Don't waste my time."

Rosalie? Why the hell was Edward talking to that witch?

"I don't have time to deal with your attitude right now. I have to go. I'll see you at the party."

With that he hung up, turning to face me and appraise my appearance. I noted that the way he spoke to Rosalie was far more informal than he normally spoke to people. The way he talked to her reminded me of the way he talked to me, which was a little weird.

"You look nice." He commented as he slipped his phone into his pocket.

"Why were you talking to Rosalie?" I asked, saying her name like it was something disgusting.

Well, it was.

"She called to get my advice on some business."

"I can't stand that woman."

"I know." He smirked. "…not that you have a reason…"

"I don't have a reason? She's a total bitch to me, Edward."

"Don't take it personally. Her hostility is directed at me and simply projected on you."

"So fucking what? That doesn't change the fact that she's a bitch. And if she's so hostile towards you, why is she calling you for advice? That sounds pretty friendly to me."

"True, but she tries."

"Tries what…?"

"To be hostile. She tries very hard to hate me." He said with a shrug, as if that was a completely normal thing to say. "Come on, let's go. I have a feeling this is going to turn into an all day ordeal."

.

.

.

.

I convinced Edward to stop at my favorite little bakery on our way to the mall so I could get some breakfast and a big ass coffee. He yelled at me for getting crumbs inside of the Range Rover.

I told him to suck it.

He said he would if only I'd let him.

"I have no idea what to get my father…" I complained as we entered through the sliding doors into the mall. "He's like the hardest person ever to shop for."

Actually, I imagined that Edward would be the hardest person ever to shop for. Thankfully, we had agreed not to get each other Christmas presents. When the slightly awkward conversation came up, I told him that it would just be ridiculous for him to buy me a present when he'd already given me pretty much everything I could ever think to ask for. He said that if he wasn't getting me a present then I obviously couldn't get him one either. And that was the end of that.

"Well, did you have a particular store in mind to find something for him?"

"No. Do they have a fishing store here?"

"From the sound of it, your father fishes all the time. It's not a complicated sport. He probably already has everything he could want."

"True. I got him a new fishing pole last year."

"What else does he like to do?"

"Umm…well, he likes to eat."

Edward laughed, looking over at me to flash me that drool-worthy smile.

"I'm sure your father is a bit more dynamic than that, Isabella."

I groaned, looking around at the stores surrounding us in hope of finding some inspiration.

"Where did you need to go? We can go there first. It will give me more time to think."

"Alright" he agreed, gesturing which way we needed to go.

We started walking in silence while I raked my brain for ideas of what to get my father. Every year seemed to get harder. I felt like I'd used up all my good ideas. I was going to have to start repeating them soon. On the bright side, at least I didn't have to come up with a whole bunch of gift ideas. I'd never been happier that I didn't have very many friends.

"So," I started after a while as I followed Edward. "You already did almost all of your Christmas shopping then? When?"

"Well, it's not like it was complicated. I had Veronica to help me, after all. She sent gift backsets to all of my associates and picked up a Chanel bag for Alice. Normally I try to get gifts for my family myself, but Alice is so fashion oriented that it's hard for me to shop for her as a man."

Ugh…Veronica. I personally thought that the name was appropriately trashy for Edward's skanky secretary…or assistant, maybe. I wasn't sure exactly what her job was. I just knew that she was always all over Edward's dick while she did it.

"I could have helped you with a gift for Alice." I answered with a frown, a little put off that he'd rather ask Veronica to do it.

"I know, but you and Alice aren't on the best terms."

"She didn't have to know that I helped you. I'm not that fashion retarded…"

He looked over at me curiously, a slight trace of a smirk touching the corner of his mouth.

"I'm sorry. I didn't think that you'd really care."

I shrugged, keeping my gaze ahead of me though I could still feel his eyes on me.

"It's fine. What did you get everyone else?"

"Well, I got my parents tickets for an Alaskan cruise, and I ordered Emmett some fancy new television that he'd been dropping hints about all year. And that was pre-"

"Oh my gosh, that's perfect!" I gasped, feeling my eyes widen as I looked over at him.

"What?"

"I'll get my dad a T.V. for Christmas! That's perfect! The one he has is such a piece of shit. He'd love a nice, new big one with HD to watch his baseball on!"

"Well, good, I'm glad I could give you some inspiration." He answered, chuckling softly.

"I should probably order it from the electronics store in Forks, huh? That way I can have it delivered right to his house and they can set it up and everything. On Christmas morning I can just wrap up a picture of it or something. They should have pictures of it online."

"I'm sure he'll love it. Ah, here's the store I was looking for." He said, gesturing over somewhere to our right.

I looked over to see what store it was as we veered off in that direction, doing a double take when I saw that it was a toy store. What the hell were we doing at a toy store?

"…a toy store?" I asked, clearly confused.

He grinned, seemingly amused by my reaction, and put his hand on my back to guide me inside. The store was huge. There were little electronic gadgets going off everywhere, creating chaotic noise all around us. The entire back wall was filled with massive bins and shelves of stuffed animals, ranging from tiny to just as big as me. There was also an entire aisle dedicated to candy, which immediately caught my attention.

I was fucking feigning for some sour gummy worms.

"What are we doing here?"

"We're here to buy a gift. Or…gifts, I suppose."

"For who…?"

"Cecilia's children."

I whipped around to face him, completely surprised.

"We're buying gifts for Cici's kids?"

"Well, I do every year. I don't see a reason to stop now."

It's not that I was surprised in a bad way. I was just surprised in general. I'd never even met Cecilia's sons, so I definitely hadn't thought to include them on my Christmas shopping list. And because I'd never met them, I was surprised that Edward had. For all I knew up until that point, he'd never met them either.

"You buy them gifts every year?"

"Since she started working for me, yes."

"Why? I mean, not that it's a bad thing. It's actually…really cool. I'm just surprised. I didn't know that you even knew her kids."

"Cecilia and I are close. You know that."

"I do know that. But I didn't know that you were close to her kids."

"I'm not. But Cecilia works very hard for us. Sometimes I feel bad knowing that I take time away that she could be spending with her family."

"We pay her well, though. And she likes her job. If it wasn't time spent working for us, it would be time spent working elsewhere."

"I know that. And we do pay her well, but I'm sure it's still a struggle for her to support three young boys. She loves them with a passion I've seen very few times in my life. I know she wishes that she could give them the world. So if I can help her give them a joyful Christmas, I'm more than happy to do so."

I just stared at him for a long moment, giving myself a chance to digest this information. Every time I thought I had Edward figured out so perfectly, he threw something like this at me that made me completely reassess the kind of person I had pegged him as.

"You do this every year?"

"Yes."

"And you pick their presents out yourself?"

"Yes."

Without giving myself a chance to over-think my actions or the feeling behind them, I reached out and took Edward's hand in mine. Then I shuffled towards him to close the distance between us and stretched up to kiss his jaw, because I couldn't quite reach his lips without him turning his head down towards me. But then he did turn his head down towards me, so I made the effort to move the rest of the way over and press my lips against his gently.

"That's really sweet." I said as I pulled back.

I felt myself blushing slightly, but I wasn't sure why.

"Cecilia deserves it." He answered simply.

"She does." I agreed.

The toy store was surprisingly fun. Of course, in true Edward Cullen style, my husband had to go all out…even when it came to toy shopping. I should have known that of course we couldn't shop like normal people. Edward spoke to the manager and, once she realized that we were pretty much guaranteed to be spending a lot of money, she was more than happy to assign someone to follow us around and take note of everything that we wanted to purchase so that they could gather and gift wrap everything after we left and then deliver it the next day. It reminded me of a wedding registry, which made me laugh. The whole thing really was ridiculous, but endearing at the same time. It was for the sake of Cecilia's children, after all, so I didn't mind Edward's extravagance for once.

Before leaving, I just had to get my hands on some of that candy. So while Edward waited in line to pay, I went and filled up a bag. They had the cool containers that let you pull a lever and fill a bag up with whatever you want to pay for by weight, so I mixed a little bit everything. I met Edward in line and we settled the bill, making delivery arrangements before leaving the store. I munched on a sour gummy worm as we reemerged in the main part of the mall and I tried to decide what store to go to next.

"Did you need to go anywhere else?" I asked Edward.

"No, Cecilia's children were the last to conquer on my list."

"Did you um…we, I guess….did we get Cecilia a gift?"

"Yes, we did. Veronica was kind enough to arrange a spa treatment for her at the salon that she goes to."

"Well, wasn't that nice of Veronica."

"Are you jealous of Veronica?" He asked point blank.

"What? No, I…no, definitely not." I answered, maybe overemphasizing my point a little bit. "Why would you think that?"

"Because of the way you say her name."

"I'm not jealous."

"Alright."

"Um, I meant to ask you something else concerning Christmas gifts."

"What's that?" He asked, looking over at me as we strolled along.

"Um, am I, like…supposed to get something for your parents? Or is it a my name on your gift kind of deal?"

"I assumed my gift would be from both of us, yes. Don't married couples normally give one gift together? It seems off to do it any other way."

"Yeah, I agree. I was just wondering…"

"I thought that would be the case for my family as well as yours. I didn't get your father a gift."

"I didn't expect you to." I shrugged. "I just didn't want to look stupid if you wanted your gift to be just from you or whatever."

"I don't think marriage works like that…at least, not in the gift-giving department."

"Duly noted." I answered with a nod.

"Who else did you need to get gifts for?"

"Well I guess I don't have to worry about my dad anymore. Um, there's Holly…and I guess I should mail my mother something. I thought about it, and I think I should get Alice something from just me. She'll probably expect it and I really don't want to add any more tension to our relationship if I can avoid it."

"Well I guess we better get on it, my little procrastinator." He answered teasingly, placing his hand on my shoulder.

Shopping really wasn't quite as long and torturous as I thought it was going to be. It sucked, yeah, but once I got down to business it wasn't so bad. We stopped off at a high end electronics store and they actually ended up having a location just outside of Forks that would be able to deliver to my dad, so I decided to go ahead and purchase the T.V. there. I got to mess with one there in the store and I was pretty fucking stoked for my dad to get it. I was relieved to finally find a gift that was so simple and, well…totally Charlie Swan.

Niemen Marcus was next, where I killed not two, but three birds with one stone. For Alice, I picked out a couple pairs of shoes that I knew she would die for and a cool little gift set of the perfume that she always wore but was hard to find. Coincidently, I happened to know that Esme wore the same kind, so I picked one up for her as well. Then on the way out I spotted a display of some chic, bohemian style jewelry that looked right up my mother's alley. I got her a necklace, matching earrings, and a couple bangles. Niemen Marcus was a total success, and the only person I was left to really worry about was Holly.

Thankfully, Holly was easy. She'd been going on forever about how she wanted to get a Hookah to use at home because Hookah bars, especially in Seattle, were ridiculously overpriced. She thought it would be cool to have one on hand for parties, which I couldn't deny. And since I knew that there happened to be a little hippie-ish smoke shop at the mall that we were at, my next destination was a no brainer. Edward laughed when I told him where I was headed next, and although a smoke shop was definitely not his scene, he was a good sport about it. He browsed the shelves curiously while I consulted with the guy behind the counter. He was a total modern hippie, complete with dreadlocks. The dreadlocks grossed me out, but he was a cool dude. He directed my straight to the best Hookah they had in shop, upon my request, and was really helpful with all the little things I would need to go with it. It wasn't cheap, but when I ran the price by Edward, he pretty much waived me off without an ounce of concern. So I swiped my card and my new Rastafarian looking friend was even nice enough to give me a coupon.

Who knew smoke shops gift wrapped and hippies were so friendly?

"Alright, I think I'm all set." I told Edward as we left the shop. "I am so ready to go ho-"

"Bella!?" I high pitched voice screeched somewhere to my right.

I turned and, although it was rude, I think I actually cringed.

I absolutely hated running into people from high school or people that I hadn't spoken to in years for whatever reason. I mean, who actually enjoyed that? It was always so damn awkward. I personally felt it should just be an unspoken rule in society to pretend you don't see each other and walk the other way in those situations. But of course, not everybody could be as rational as I.

"Hey…Jessica…" I said, my discomfort evident in my tone.

I was never good at hiding my true feelings.

Jessica was your typical high school frenemy. She was everyone's friend to their face, but shit seemed to spew uncontrollably out of her mouth behind everybody's back.

"I haven't seen you in forever!" She squealed, flinging herself towards me in some sort of overbearing hug.

I felt myself tense. I used my hands full of shopping bags as a reason not to hug her back.

"How have you been?" I asked, though I couldn't care less.

"I'm sooo good, girl! You know my friend Lauren, right?" She asked, gesturing to the bitchy looking blonde girl beside her.

I didn't know the slut, but I knew of the slut.

"Yeah, I mean, we've met…yeah." I responded, forcing a smile.

I looked back over at Jessica to find her gazing at Edward curiously. She was a little whore-ish herself, so she probably wanted to fuck him. However, she'd also gained about twenty pounds since I'd last seen her, so I didn't feel threatened.

"…and who is this?" She asked as she looked at him, sticking her tits out and twirling a piece of her hair around her finger.

Fuck discretion, apparently…

"Oh, uh, this is my husband...Edward. Edward, this is Jessica and Lauren. I went to High School with them."

"It's a pleasure to meet you." He said politely, extending his hand first to Lauren and then Jessica.

He flashed them that panty-dropping smile of his and I rolled my eyes.

"Husband?" Jessica demanded, turning back towards me now. It was amazing how her tone was suddenly much less friendly. "…you're married?"

Her tone implied that the idea of me being married was just so fucking hard to believe. I wanted to tell her to go eat another doughnut.

"Yup, sure am."

Lauren was texting on her phone, clearly disinterested in the conversation.

Yeah, that makes two of us, honey…

"Wow. Well, um, congratulations…" Jessica answered.

I saw her eyes drop down to look at my wedding rings and I smiled smugly. My patience with being polite to her was running out rapidly.

"So how is Forks community college working out for you? Did you finally transfer? Or are you just visiting?"

She scowled at me, clearly picking up on the bitchiness in my comment that was fully intended.

"No, I haven't transferred. I'm uh…taking a little time off, actually."

Jessica is a fucking college drop out? Epic…

"I just moved here. She's here to visit me." Lauren finally spoke up, though she sounded just as bored as she looked.

"Oh, that's co-"

"Well, well, well…little Bella Swan…"

I froze. My throat began to close up. My heart stopped. My palms began to sweat. I didn't need to turn around to know who had spoken from behind me. I would know that deep, monotone voice anywhere. I closed my eyes for a moment to will my heart to start beating again. When I opened them again, sure enough, there he was…standing in front of me.

Jacob Black.

He was fucking smiling at me, his strikingly white teeth contrasting perfectly against his deeply tanned skin. He reached out, evidently having the audacity to think that he could hug me. My mind comprehended what he was doing, but my reflexes were too slow. His fingertips touched my shoulders and I immediately flinched back, inhaling sharply as if I'd just been burned.

I felt like I had.

"Don't touch me." I snapped, more aggressively than I'd intended it to come out.

"…what the hell?" Jessica mumbled, reaching for Jake's hand.

I stared at them, standing there holding hands. Were they a couple? How the fuck did that happen?

"What's wrong baby Swan?" Jake laughed, taunting me. "Never did learn any manners, huh? I guess some things never change."

I shook my head.

"I'm not doing this…" I said with determination, slowly taking a couple steps back away from him. "I'm just…not."

"You two know each other?" Jessica asked, sounding surprised.

We both ignored her. Jake was still smiling at me, and it made me want to spit in his face.

"I don't know what you're doing here, Jacob. But you stay the fuck away from me."

I whirled around, taking Edward's hand, and tugged on it for him to follow me as I briskly walked away. I caught a glimpse of him looking at me with concern as I turned, but I couldn't think about that at the moment. I was seeing red. I was storming past people left and right, so I must have been walking fast. All I could think about was getting away from that place, away from him.

"What was that abo-" Edward began, clearly baffled.

"Please don't." I cut him off, my voice unexpectedly flat.

Thankfully, he didn't. He didn't go there. He didn't push. He didn't ask questions.

He was a good friend.

I'm sure that we were out of that mall in no time at all with as fast as I was walking, but it felt like an eternity to me. It almost felt one of those crazy dreams where you're walking down a hallway or tunnel that never ends and there is a door that you can see at the end, but you can never reach it. That's how it felt trying to get out of that mall.

I was breathing, but I didn't actually feel like I was getting any oxygen until we were in the parking lot. I breathed deeply in and out, also becoming aware then that my eyes were swimming in tears. I just wanted to get home.

Edward was nice enough to remain silent on the way home, but I knew that it wouldn't last long. So I wasn't surprised when he looked over at me and spoke as he shifted into park in our driveway.

"Are you going to tell me what the hell that was that happened?"

"No."

"You're really going to leave me in the dark after that?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

I sighed and turned my head abruptly to face him.

"I'll show you mine if you show me yours, Edward."

"What?" He asked, clearly and understandably confused.

"Scars. Clearly I have my issues, but so do you. You don't ever want to answer my tough questions, which is fine, but don't sit here and expect me to answer yours."

I got out of the car, gathered up my bags out of the backseat hurriedly, and bolted up towards the front door.

.

.

.

.

I wasn't surprised that I couldn't sleep that night. It always seemed like either Edward or myself had sleeping trouble, and I guess that night was my turn.

Edward knew enough to know to give me my space, which he had done the rest of that day. We each did our own thing. He worked in his office and I sat outside for awhile, chain smoking while I lost myself in thought. It was cold as fuck, but I needed to smoke so I dealt with it. I went to bed early, hoping that sleep would help me escape my own mind, but of course…that was just wishful thinking. I lay awake for hours, staring at the window. Edward came to bed eventually, and I pretended to be asleep. I'm not sure if he actually believed me or not, but if he didn't, at least he didn't call me out on it. He went to bed in silence, and his even breathing came quickly.

I guess I would suffer from insomnia alone tonight.

Around two, I gave up. I wasn't getting any rest just lying there, so I figured I might as well at least find something to entertain me. I got out of bed and ventured downstairs to go outside and smoke a cigarette. It did help me relax a bit so that I wasn't so jittery, but I was still wide awake. When I was finished I went back inside and into the kitchen, looking for something to drink. I poured a glass of orange juice and leaned back against the countertop as I drank it, staring blankly at the marble floor.

When the orange juice didn't satisfy me, I went into the pantry to gather up some bread, cinnamon, and sugar. I placed it all down on the counter and then turned to the refrigerator to get some butter.

"What are you ma-"

"AGHH!" I screamed, dropping the tub of butter as I was completely startled by Edward's velvety voice.

I turned to find him standing behind me in the doorway in his boxer briefs, scratching his stomach.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you." He said with a smirk

"You nearly gave me a damn heart attack…" I sighed, placing my hand over said organ as I bent over to pick up the butter. "I thought you were sleeping."

"I was, but I woke up and you weren't there."

"So you felt the need to come investigate?" I asked, quirking an eyebrow at him.

"I guess so." He answered with a slight shrug as he went to sit down on the bar stool across the counter from me. "I just…well, I knew that you were really upset today. I just wanted to make sure that you were okay."

I stared at him for a moment, not sure what to think of that.

"I'm fine." I finally responded before turning to close the refrigerator.

I turned back to the counter and reached up into the cabinet to take down a plate. Then I opened the drawer next to me to grab a knife and a spoon before reaching to untie the bread.

"What are you making?" Edward asked curiously, watching me.

"Oh, uh…it's just this…bread…thing." I stammered as I fumbled with the bread to plop two pieces on my plate. "I'm not really sure what you'd call it, but my grandma used to make it for me when I was younger. Her family was really poor when they were growing up, so it's like a poor man's dessert I guess. It's really good, though."

I glanced up at him as I began spreading the butter over my bread. He was leaning against the counter with his elbows, his head propped up in his hands under his chin as he watched my actions intently. He looked so…boyish. It was odd.

I shook my head at his weirdness and went back to my task. Once both of my pieces of bread were buttered I put the knife down and reached for the cinnamon, shaking some out over the bread. Then I grabbed the sugar and pinched some in my fingers to sprinkle it over the cinnamon until it all together covered the butter. It looked delicious, so I eagerly picked up the first piece and took a bite. I looked up at Edward again as I pulled the bread away from my mouth and found that he was still staring at me like a fucking creeper. I frowned as I put my bread down slowly, chewing unhurriedly before swallowing my delicious concoction down.

"Did you…want some?" I asked awkwardly once my mouth was no longer full.

"As a matter of fact, I think I would like some." He answered with an amused chuckle.

Edward could be so damn weird sometimes.

I picked up the piece of bread that I'd eaten off of and then pushed the plate with the remaining piece towards Edward. He smiled at me as he picked it up and took a bite. I took another bite of mine as well, and we stood there looking at each other as we chewed.

"Mm," He hummed as he swallowed. "That's pretty good."

I nodded as I put my bread down and turned back towards the refrigerator again in search of a glass of milk.

"Yeah, it is." I agreed. "It makes an awesome late night snack because it's so quick to make and it's all stuff that any kitchen is pretty much guaranteed to have on hand all the time."

"Is this my wife cooking for me for the first time?" He asked teasingly as I poured myself a nice big glass of milk.

"I don't think that constitutes as cooking." I answered with an eye roll.

I took a big gulp of my milk as I turned back to the counter and then put it down to go back to my bread. Edward grabbed it as soon as my hand left the glass and took a big sip as well.

"Get your own milk, asshole…" I laughed as I snatched the glass back from him and took a second sip.

"But what's mine is yours and what's yours is mine, honey." He answered with a smartass grin.

"Gah, look at me…I am so good at matrimony. I mean, I've cooked for you and shared with you all in like two minutes."

He laughed and reached for my milk again. This time I passed it to him willingly.

"Well you seem to be in a much better mood now."

Ironically, that little statement actually put a damper on my mood. It reminded me of all the reasons I'd been in a less than pleasant mood earlier.

"I was never in a bad mood." I sighed after a moment of silence, looking down at counter. "I was…just…"

I let my sentence trail off there because, quite frankly, I had no idea how to finish it.

"I'm not asking about this just because I'm nosey."

I looked back up at him and bit my lip.

"I never said that you were being nosey."

"I know you didn't say it, but I don't want you to think it either. I want to know because, most of the time, I feel close to you. But it's strange to feel so close to someone one minute and then the next, you realize that you know nothing about their past. You say that we're supposedly best friends, but moments like what happened at the mall and you being so distant from me afterwards make me remember that I don't know you nearly as well as I feel like I do."

I shook my head, unable to help the laughter that escaped me.

"Why is that funny?" Edward asked.

"I just…I feel the exact same way, Edward. You act like I know all about your past and I'm the only one keeping you in the dark. You don't tell me anything either."

"What I don't tell you is irrelevant to my life today, with you. It's in the past. But what happened today, at the mall, is clearly not. Your reaction to that man made it very evident that whatever issues you have with him are very much in the present."

"It's not." I disagreed, shaking my head.

"It is." He retorted. "You're not an emotional person, Isabella. But your reaction to seeing that man was an extreme one. He really upset you. If I really am your best friend, then I would assume you wouldn't have a problem telling me why."

"You are such a hypocrite, Edward." I sighed, shaking my head again. "This is the same exact conversation that we had after we almost hit that car. Now our roles are just reversed. You told me that you didn't want to discuss whatever happened to you in the past because you didn't want to go back to that place. What makes you think that I want to go back to my issues?"

"You already went back there, this afternoon."

"Why do you even care, Edward? I leave you alone about your car accident. I leave you alone about whatever past I know you must have with Rosalie. I leave you alone about your stupid diaries. So why are you so persistent to do the opposite with me and my past?"

He looked down for a moment, looking thoughtful. I stared him down insistently, waiting for an answer. Each passing moment that he was quiet, I grew more irritated. He never wanted to talk about his shit, so I left it alone. Why wasn't he doing the same?

"I feel very protective of you, Isabella."

"…excuse me?"

"I don't know why." He continued. "I didn't expect to ever feel this way when we first agreed to this arrangement, but I do. I don't even really know how to explain it. But, when I try to make sense of it, I just know that I feel protective. You are my best friend. And I see so much of myself in you. I know that doesn't make a lot of sense to you now, because you're young, and you don't see yet what your path is. You're still finding yourself. But I see very clearly the woman that I know you're going to be. That potential and that strength that I see in you, reminds me of a younger version of myself. I genuinely want the very best for you. And like I said, I feel very protective. So I guess I didn't like seeing someone upset you so much and having no idea why."

Edward's little mini speech made me uneasy, and I wasn't really sure why. Any rational human being would be flattered, but I was annoyed. And on top of that, I was annoyed that I was annoyed. I should be happy, but I didn't want to hear that.

"I don't need you to protect me." I said flatly as I turned around to go put the now empty plate in the sink.

.

.

.

.

I was awoken the next morning around seven by a phone call from my dad. He was letting me know that he was about thirty minutes away. This didn't surprise me. My dad had always been an early riser. When he told me he was coming for Christmas, I figured that he would arrive early as fuck. That was just his style.

I groaned and rolled out of bed to pee and brush my teeth. Of course, Edward was already up. I wondered why the men in my life all seemed to function on no sleep. I fucking loved sleep. It was probably my favorite pastime.

I pulled my hair up into a loose ponytail and then put on my fuzzy socks, some baggy sweatpants, and a hoodie. If I had to wake up early for my dad, I was at least going to be comfy doing it.

As I walked downstairs, the strong aroma of coffee pleasantly struck my senses. I followed the scent into the kitchen, where a fully dressed and freshly showered Edward was pouring himself a cup.

"Good morning." He said as he glanced over his shoulder at me.

"Yeah…morning…" I mumbled through a yawn as I rubbed at my face.

"You're up early." He commented cheerfully, annoying me.

"My dad is going to be here soon." I explained as I shuffled over to sit at one of the bar stools across the counter from him.

"Cecilia will be here soon as well."

She normally wasn't there until the afternoon, but I assumed she would be arriving early to help prepare for the Christmas party that night.

"Are you working today?"

"Maybe a bit here and there, but just from the house. No one will be in the office all week." He answered before taking a swig of his coffee.

"That's so gross, Edward." I said, scrunching my face up at him. "Who the hell drinks their coffee black?"

"I do." He smirked, taking another sip. "Did you want a cup?"

"Yes, please." I answered longingly.

Edward knew me well enough to only fill my mug half way before he slid it over to me. I put so much shit in my coffee that I couldn't start with an even close to full cup. I smiled at him appreciatively as he pushed the sugar towards me and then went to the refrigerator to retrieve the creamer and give me that as well.

"Do you want the chocolate as well?" He asked as I started dumping sugar into my cup, clearly amused.

"Mm, yes."

Edward and I couldn't be more different in the way we drank our coffee. It was almost comical. He shook his head at me, but he knew that I was damn serious about the chocolate. So he went back to the refrigerator and brought me my squeeze bottle of Hershey's chocolate syrup. I squirted a bit onto my mug and followed it up with creamer before I pushed both containers back to him to put away. I was just about to ask for a spoon when he went and got one, so I didn't need to after all.

I smiled to myself as I stirred my concoction and then hummed happily as I took a sip. I was in a much better mood now.

"You might as well just drink hot chocolate." Edward commented as he watched me. "It must taste the same."

"I want the caffeine." I explained, gulping down some more.

It burned my throat, but I didn't care.

"Anyway, as I said, I may work a bit here and there throughout the day. But the house is probably going to be a little chaotic. The party planner and the caterers and so forth will be running around here most of the day, but Veronica will be here to deal with them."

"Oh, wonderful." I said flatly, my tone full of sarcasm.

"I assume you'll be occupied with your father most of the day, anyway. He does know about the party, correct? He'll have something to wear?"

"Of course he knows about the party. I'll have him all dressed up and looking pretty, don't worry. He didn't even want to be here for it at first, but I think he felt better about it once I told him that your family would be here too. I think at first he thought it was like just our friends or something."

"Hardly," Edward smirked. "I hope he won't feel uncomfortable, though."

"Nah, he'll be fine."

"He gets along with my parents, yes?"

"Yeah, they've met a few times, even before we were married. They don't have much in common, but your mom is so damn friendly that she always manages to find something to talk with him about."

"She certainly loves to talk." He nodded.

"Are you sure I can't invite Holly?" I asked with a sigh.

We'd already had this conversation, but I didn't see any harm in running it by him one last time.

"Isabella, we've already discussed this." He reminded me.

"I know, but…" I pouted as I took a sip of coffee. "I won't have any friends here. Unless you count Alice, which is a big stretch…"

"It's not that I don't like her. You know that. But we've both agreed that she would in no way fit in with my scene of people."

"Yeah, I know." I answered with another sigh.

He was right, and it was his party, so I couldn't be upset. It just sucked.

"Even if you tried to contain her…exuberance, she's just a little too wild for this type of gathering. We could tell her to tone it down, and I fear she would still be trying to do body shots off of you and trying to start a beer pong tournament."

"You know what beer pong is?" I teased, raising an eyebrow at him.

"You act like I've never been to college."

I laughed and nodded, seeing his point.

"Yeah, you're right. She probably would be a little too out-there for your crowd."

"I don't mind when you two like to have a good time around here, just not in the company of my business partners and associates."

"Yeah, I understand."

"Good. Now, do you know how to wrap Christmas presents? I normally just stuff them in bags, but this morning I discovered that all I have leftover from last year is actual wrapping paper."

"…what a man." I laughed as I hopped off the barstool, grabbing my coffee.

So we set up shop in the living room, wrapping up gifts on the floor while we waited for my dad to arrive. Thankfully, our haul was actually pretty easy. All the gifts for Cici's kids from the toy store were being delivered pre-wrapped, so we didn't have to worry about those at all. The papers for Carlisle and Esme's cruise we just stuck in a little box, and then did the same with the user manuals for the T.V.s for Emmett and my dad, so they were really quick to wrap. We placed them under the huge tree that the decorator Edward had hired had put up and then tackled the gifts that we each got for Alice. Mine came in boxes, so they were easy. We had to track one down for Edward's, and then we wrapped them all in matching paper. Well, I wrapped. Edward sucked at it and I didn't have the patience to teach him, so he pretty much just watched me.

"How the hell am I supposed to go about wrapping a hookah?" I asked with an exasperated sigh once I got to Holly's gift.

"Just put a bow on it." Edward suggested.

"I can't just put a bow on it, dumbass. She needs something to unwrap…"

"I'm sure we can find a box around here somewhere."

"When are the gifts from the toy store being delivered? Maybe those guys will have an extra box on their truck or something."

"They should be here in just a couple hours."

"And how are we getting them to Cici's kids?"

"Well, they'll be at the party tonight."

"They will?" I asked, surprised by that. "I didn't even know Cici would be here for the party."

"She won't be here working, no. But of course I invited her family. She's bringing her husband and the children."

"Well that was sweet of you to invite them."

"Of course I invited them. Cecilia is family."

"Yeah, she is." I agreed, nodding.

I smiled to myself as I moved some more presents under the tree, laughing slightly.

"What's funny?"

"Nothing, just…you." I sighed, grinning.

"I'm funny?"

"You always surprise me."

"Is it really so surprising that I would invite Cecilia to our Christmas party?"

"No. Well, I mean, it's not just that. You invited her whole family. And that's not even as big of a deal. I'm more surprised that you made the effort to get all those kickass toys for her boys."

"Contrary to popular belief, I do have a heart."

He smiled at me as he sipped at his coffee and I laughed.

"Clearly so," I agreed. "But I never said that you don't have a heart, Edward. It's just that you're often times very…" I paused as I pondered how to word my thought without sounding like a total bitch. I wanted to say cold, but that would just be rude. "You come across so introverted. You're very quiet. I think that people mistake that for coldness. I know I definitely did when I was first getting to know you. You're super reserved, so it's surprising when you make such a grand gesture of kindness."

He seemed to ponder that thought for a moment as I knelt down in front of the Christmas tree, arranging all of the gifts to look all pretty.

"It's really not a big deal." He answered humbly after a few moments.

"Sure it is. And you were surprisingly good at picking out some pretty awesome toys."

"Well I had to be." He retorted with a grin. "You abandoned me to go attack the candy aisle."

"Can you blame me? I'm pretty sure they had every candy imaginable. I don't know you resisted."

"It was difficult." He responded sarcastically, making me laugh.

I wondered briefly if my next question was an awkward one, but I decided to just ask it before I gave myself a chance to over-think anything.

"So, you don't ever want kids?"

I regretted the question as soon as I asked it. Maybe over-thinking wasn't always a bad thing. It took Edward a few moments longer than usual to answer, and that just made me feel even more awkward.

"What brought that question on?" I looked down to toy with the roll of wrapping paper on the ground, avoiding looking at him.

I didn't want him to think I was trying to insinuate that I wanted to have his babies or something. I was just making innocent conversation, honestly.

"Nothing. I mean, obviously something, but it's not a big deal or anything. I was just thinking you were good at picking out the toys, so I just…thought, you know…maybe you'd want to do that for your own kids one day?" I sort of mumbled the last half of my sentence, feeling kind of stupid.

Again, Edward waited a few moments before answering me. I hated it when he did that. I always felt like he was making fun of me in his head or something.

"I don't think I'd be a very good father." He offered in response to my question.

"Yeah, I hear ya," I nodded. "I'm pretty sure I'd be the world's shittiest mother."

"No you wouldn't."

"Um, excuse me?" I laughed as I looked up at him, raising an eyebrow. "Have you met me?"

"Yes, I have." He answered with a nod. "And I personally think you'd make a wonderful mother. You just have a little growing up to do first."

First? Did that mean that he foresaw me as a mother someday? Did that mean that he definitely didn't see this marriage as a long term thing? Did I? I wasn't sure how to answer any of those questions. I knew our marriage likely wasn't a permanent thing, but I'd never given much thought to how long I expected it to last. However, Edward's little comment had me wondering if he saw it as such a short term thing, that he expected me to leave this marriage with enough time to settle down with some emotionally welcoming man as opposed to him, and have children. I wasn't even sure that I wanted that at all. And to be honest, the thought of my marriage to Edward ending so quickly actually made me a little sad. I wasn't sure why I felt that way specifically, and I didn't even want to begin to try to analyze it.

I just knew that I was having fun, I was happy, and opportunity was in front of me everywhere I turned. Why would I want that to change?

Thankfully, I wasn't forced to try to think of something to respond with. The doorbell rang just moments later, and I jumped up quickly to go get it, because it must be my dad.

"Are you really going to let your father in with that hookah sitting there?" Edward asked, chuckling slightly.

"Oh, shit, you're right…" I answered, biting my lip.

"Go. I'll put it away somewhere." He offered as he stood up from the couch.

"Thanks." I gave him an appreciative smile and hurried off to answer the door.

My fuzzy socks slipped and slid against marble floor as I scurried from the living room to the foyer and over to the big doors. I yanked the left one open and grinned widely, because there was my good ole' daddy.

If there was anything that had ever been consistent in my life, it was that man. And there he was, standing there just as I knew he would be with his trimmed little mustache and that grumpy little frown that always seemed to be plastered to his face, even though he was the sweetest man I'd ever met. He had his hands stuffed in the pockets of his Carhartt Jacket, and I could see his breath in front of his face.

"Hi, dad!" I said excitedly, genuinely happy to see him.

"Hey there, kiddo." He grinned back at me.

"Get inside, get inside. It's cold."

I stepped out of the way to let him in and he shuffled past me, into the house. I closed the door behind him with a click and then turned around to face him, smiling up at him. He clasped a hand on my shoulder and used it to pull me into a hug, which I reciprocated happily.

"How are ya, kid?" he asked as he released me.

"I'm really good, dad."

"Good. You look good."

"Thanks, you look…" I paused to take a good look at him, and then I frowned. "…pale."

"It's winter." He said defensively.

"…and skinny." I continued, my protective daughter side totally coming out.

For a long time, dad and I were all each other had. We had to have each others' backs, and you know what they say. Old habits die hard.

"Skinny?"

"Yeah, skinny. Why are you so skinny?" I demanded. "Are you eating?"

"Of course I'm eating. I'm sorry I'm not a human garbage disposal like my darling daughter." He laughed, poking my shoulder playfully.

"You want some coffee?" I offered as I watched him wring his hands together. "It might help warm you up."

"Does he take it with chocolate and cream like you do?"

My dad and I both turned around at the sound of my husband's velvety smooth voice to find Edward standing in the doorway between the foyer and the hallway that led to the kitchen. He was smirking, lifting his coffee mug to his luscious lips to take a sip.

"She still does that?" My dad asked, grimacing.

"Oh yes, she definitely still does that." Edward chuckled in response. "It's good to see you, Mr. Swan."

"We've been over this, Edward." My dad scolded with a frown. "Call me Charlie."

"Right. I'm sorry, old habits die hard."

He flashed my dad his panty-melting crooked smirk, which was weird, but he didn't know that it was panty-melting…so I guess it wouldn't be weird to anyone but me and my panty-soaking self.

"That's better." My dad approved with a nod. "And it's good to see you too. You taking care of my girl?"

"Always." Edward answered, his eyes shifting to look at me.

I made a fresh pot of coffee and the three of us settled at the dining room table to drink it while we munched on some bagels and muffins. Thankfully, Edward had toned it way down since his first encounter with my dad. I had been quick to call him out for laying our act on way too think, and he was much better now. I knew my dad would never buy into that sappy lovey-dovey bullshit anyway. He knew me well enough to know that I would never actually be with someone who was constantly showering me with ridiculous praises and sappy lines. That wasn't me. So it was fortunate that just as Edward was much more relaxed around me nowadays, he was much more relaxed around my father as well. He actually acted like a normal fucking person. Who would have thought?

Cecilia arrived shortly after we were finished our makeshift breakfast and politely greeted my dad. They'd met a couple brief times before, but I think he had a hard time understanding her with her thick accent. Living in good ole' secluded Forks will do that to you. But of course, he was a gentleman. He was totally nice to her, but they made the small talk brief before she set off to work anyway. Edward quickly excused himself to go take some calls in his office, and then it was just me and my dad.

I quickly went into some weird kind of hostess mode, feeling the need to entertain him.

"So, you wanna do something? We could go to that cool fishing store you like."

"Actually, Bells, I kind of have a headache." He said with an apologetic tone, reaching up to rub at the back of his neck.

"Oh," I frowned. "Well that…sucks."

"It's no big deal. I was just thinking that maybe I'd take up a couple Advil and go lay down upstairs to close my eyes for a bit. That usually helps."

"Usually?" I asked, raising an eyebrow. "Since when do you get headaches?"

"I've had a few the last couple months. It's probably just allergies."

"Allergies? It's the middle of winter."

"Yeah, well, maybe dust or something. I really need to clean up around the house."

"Alright, well, I'll take you upstairs."

I ran into the kitchen to find some Advil and then led my dad upstairs to one of the guest rooms that we'd set up for him with fresh sheets, towels, and toiletries. I knew that my dad was completely blown away by our mansion of a home, but he didn't say a word about it. I think he was still a little shell-shocked by my marriage to Edward, to be honest. Fortunately for me, it was just part of my dad's personality to keep quiet about the whole thing and pretend that this new life of mine was completely fucking normal. So that's what he did.

"Do you want me to come wake you up at a certain time or anything?" I asked as I watched my dad kick his shoes off.

"Nah, I'm sure I'll wake up pretty quick if I fall asleep. I just want to nip this headache in the bud since we'll all probably be up late with this party tonight."

"Yeah, okay, well…I hope you feel better."

"Thanks, kiddo. I'll come find you later on, alright?"

I kissed him on the cheek and then left him alone, closing the door to give him some privacy. I thought I'd be spending my morning entertaining him, so I wasn't really sure what to do with myself now.

Actually, my day ended up being pretty boring. I spent most of it just walking around the house sipping on hot chocolate, alternating between chatting with Cecilia or Edward when he wasn't on the phone and walking around the house watching people set up for the party. My dad woke up shortly before lunch so we went out for soup and sandwiches before stopping by the fishing store I'd mentioned earlier. There wasn't a big selection of sporting goods stores in Forks, so he always liked to make a stop by the shop when he was in town. He picked up a few things there and then we headed back to our house with plans of watching one of the Christmas movies that was part of our yearly tradition.

"I know I've said this before, but this sure is some car you've got here, Bells…"

"Yeah, thanks…" I said awkwardly, tapping my thumb against the steering wheel as we sat at a red light.

"I'm glad that Edward is able to give you all the things I never could."

I felt my eyebrows pull together as I looked over at him, perplexed.

"What…?"

"I know that sounds dismal, but it's true. I supported you growing up, but I know I didn't give you a whole lot of extras, because I didn't have the money. I wish I could have given you everything as a kid. But now you're all grown up and married and, well, clearly Edward can give you everything. So even though I'm sad that you're not my little girl anymore, I am happy about that part."

"Dad…"

"No, no, don't dad me, Bella. I meant that as a positive thing."

"I know you did, but, you know I don't care about that stuff. I wouldn't trade my childhood with you for anything." I told him honestly.

"I know that. I'm just saying that I'm happy you have more now. And I'm glad that you're doing so well. You look happy."

"I am happy."

That part was also honest. I really was happy. I'd made an effort to go into this agreement with Edward without too many expectations, and I wasn't sure if that was why, but I definitely wasn't disappointed. I wasn't naïve to how good I had it. I would never regret my decision to marry him. Even if it was inevitable that it would end one day, I knew I had made the right choice. And I certainly wasn't going to take my time with him for granted.

"You know that's all I want for you, kid. As long as you're happy, I have everything I need in life."

I smiled at him, not really sure what to say. My dad and I were never really affectionate or emotional with each other, so moments like this could turn awkward rather quickly. I was opening my mouth to try to come up with something sweet to say back to him, but then the car behind me honked and I was distracted. Apparently the light in front of us had turned green, so I took off again for the house, deciding that maybe that was the perfect way to leave that moment anyway.

We spent the rest of our afternoon watching Christmas movies on demand in the movie room until it was time to get ready for the party. I took a shower and made sure to shave everything so my whole body was silky smooth. When I was done I waited until I cooled off before moisturizing and wrapping myself up in my robe. I plucked my eyebrows and then started on my makeup, since I knew it would take me a while. I was still learning how to do it properly, since I never really wore much before, so I was a little slow at it.

I was just finishing up my mascara when Edward came in and got in the shower. He didn't care that I was just on the other side of the glass door getting ready. That was one thing about our marriage that was actually like a normal marriage. We had no modesty with each other. We were both completely comfortable being naked in front of each other, which was cool. It would have been awkward to always try to remain covered in front of him anyway.

"How should I do my hair?" I asked as I grabbed my brush and blow dryer, reaching to plug it into the wall.

"Do I look like a fashion consultant?" He asked, laughing behind the glass door as he lathered up his hair.

"Well, you are a little metro sometimes." I retorted.

"Whatever you say, Isabella…"

"Up or down?" I asked as I began brushing out my long and damp locks.

"Definitely down. You know I like it down."

"Right…"

I smiled to myself as I thought of just how much I knew that he liked my hair down. I thought of all the times that he ran his fingers through it and wrapped it around his hand and tugged on it while he…

"Can you get my towel? I forgot to grab it."

"Yeah, I got it." I answered, still grinning.

I went over to snatch his towel off of the hook next to mine and carried it over to the shower.

"What are you grinning about?" He asked as he shut the water off.

"Nothing." I laughed as I tossed his towel over the top of the glass door.

I absolutely hate how boys can get ready so quickly and look like fuckable perfection while girls have to take a damn hour just to look presentable. It was kind of bullshit. And today was no different.

No joke, Edward was almost completely finished getting dressed before I even had my hair fucking dried. I guess it makes sense that boys don't take hardly any time when literally all they have to do is bathe, brush their teeth, and put on deodorant. They don't have to shave and moisturize and pluck and put makeup on and all that other shit. My husband was especially low-maintenance, because he was just naturally beautiful.

"Are you going to be dressed in time for the party?"

"It's not my fault my hair takes so fucking long to blow dry!" I complained, yelling over the noise of the blow dryer.

"Maybe you should have started getting ready earlier then."

"Shut up, Edward." I groaned. "Ughh, this thing makes me so damn hot. I'm fucking sweating over here…"

I turned off the blow dryer and put it down so I could take my robe off. I was wearing panties, so I was really only half naked. But of course, Edward looked anyway.

Once he was ready, looking all dapper in his suit, he decided to go ahead and go downstairs to see if everything was ready for our guests to arrive. I tried to hurry, but you couldn't rush something like hair, particularly when you were trying to deal with a curling iron.

I ended up curling my hair into big, sort of loose ringlets and let it hang over one shoulder. The strap of my dress went across and over one shoulder to leave the other one bare, so I thought the hair would compliment that well. That was really the most time consuming part, so I was relieved when I was finished with it. It also meant I could finally escape the heat of hair styling tools…thank fucking God.

After using some hairspray to lock my hair into place, it was finally time to put on my dress. It was gold and sparkly and form-fitting, and in my opinion, pretty damn perfect for a Christmas party. I applied some extra eye liner, some bronzer, and some lips gloss to put the finishing touches on my makeup. Then I slipped on my rings and put my diamond stud earrings into my ears. I stood in front of the full-length mirror to do a once over of myself, and I must admit I was impressed. I looked sexy, stylish, and sophisticated at the same time. Alice would be proud.

The only thing left to do was to find the right shoes, so I made my way into the closet and flicked on the light. It was times like these that the massive, lighted built in shoe shelves in the closet really came in handy. If I was at my old apartment, I would be digging through piles of shoes just to try to find two that matched.

"Isabella?" I heard Edward call, sounding like he was in the bedroom.

"I'm in the closet!" I called back.

"Are you almost re-"

His sentence trailed off there, so I turned around to look at him questioningly. He was just staring at me like an idiot.

"What?" I demanded.

His blank stare shifted into a grin as his eyes travelled first down my body and then up.

"You look…" He paused, seemingly trying to find the right word, but his face already made it clear what he meant.

"Thank you." I smiled. "Now come help me pick out some shoes."

"Is that dress new?" He asked as he walked over to me.

"Yes it is."

"I definitely approve." He nearly purred as he came up beside me and reached out to rub my ass.

"You don't think it's too short?" I asked as I tugged at it to try to pull it down further over my thighs.

"Absolutely not. It's perfect."

"Well, at least it covers my tits. I've always heard that the more boobage you cover, the more leg you're allowed to show."

"Well, I don't know anything about that. But whatever rules you followed with this outfit are definitely working for you."

He leaned in to kiss my bare shoulder and I shivered.

"Alright, settle down there, sparky. I need to find shoes."

"I can assure you that no one will be looking at your feet tonight. Not in that outfit, at least."

"I could wear those." I suggested, pointing at some mile-high black stilettos. "I'd probably be taller than you."

"Isabella, I have about a foot on you. None of those shoes will make you as tall as me."

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Which ones should I wear?"

"Wear those."

He pointed out a pair of gold Louboutin heels that matched the color of my dress. They were tall, but not outrageous. I would at least be able to walk in them, and that was good enough for me, so I snatched them up.

"Are people here already?" I asked, knowing it had taken me longer than I expected to get ready.

"Yes. You're father is downstairs mingling with my parents, and quite a few other guests have already arrived as well."

"Alright, well, let's get on with it." I sighed.

Edward was right. Downstairs, the party was in full swing. He held my hand as we walked down the stairs and then he led me around from person to person to mingle with his work people. It definitely wasn't my favorite thing to do, but it was part of our agreement. So I plastered a big smile to my face and made my rounds, giggling at the jokes of the men and complimenting the dresses of the women. They were all sweet to me, too sweet to be genuine actually, but it was fine because I dished the sugary bullshit right back to them.

When Edward finally released me to do my own thing, I went over to find my dad chatting with Edward's parents in the living room. I spent a few minutes fawning over my father, because he looked so damn adorable in his cute little suit. Then it was Esme's turn to fawn over my dress and shoes. I could definitely see where Alice got her passion for fashion from.

Edward came over to us after a few minutes and sat beside me, placing his hand on my knee. We talked to our parents for awhile about his work and my school. My grades had improved drastically since I married Edward, because I had more time to study, and my dad was obviously happy about that. Edward had been successful at his endeavors as well, not that he was ever unsuccessful, but it was clear that our parents were all very proud of us.

Marcus and Heidi arrived after hanging out with our parents for a few minutes, so Edward and I got up to go greet them together. Heidi was just as loud and sweet as ever, going on about my pretty dress and how cute the house looked all decorated for Christmas. I may not have had a lot in common with her, but I did like her. At least, I liked her a lot more than all of the other stuck-up people there, so I didn't mind hanging out with them for a while. Edward seemed content too as we stood by the Christmas tree, sipping champagne and laughing with them.

At least, he was content until she arrived.

I think I sensed her presence before I actually saw her. It was like an iciness seeped into the room, giving me chills. She always seemed to cause a tightness in my chest, and I wasn't even sure why. I didn't even really know her. Our interactions were always brief and terse, but somehow they always made me feel like shit. She intimidated me, and that wasn't an easy thing to do. There was just something about her that was unsettling.

This proved to be true yet again when Edward turned around and I followed suit just in time to see her flip that silky blonde hair over her shoulder. She was fucking gorgeous, not that I should be surprised. She was always so perfectly poised and put together. She was wearing a vibrant red dress that contoured perfectly to her sculpted body, complimented by sparkling jewelry, but in reality she wouldn't need any of that anyway. She would have been breathtakingly beautiful standing there stark naked without any makeup on. She was just one of those naturally sexy women. She had that full, bouncy, blonde hair that so many girls strive for and a voluptuously curvy body. Really, she was my polar opposite physically. She was tall, curvy, and blonde. I was short and scrawny with naturally messy brown hair. It was almost comical. When I got dressed that night I'd felt sexy and sophisticated. But somehow, Rosalie had a way of making me feel like a little girl playing dress up.

Edward excused himself from the conversation with Marcus and Heidi, and I'm not sure why, but I felt the need to follow him as he went to greet her. He looked over at me questioningly, clearly surprised, and I just smiled at him sweetly. That made him laugh, because of course, he knew that it was fake as fuck. He was clearly amused as he took my hand in his, which I held tightly. If there was ever a time that I felt the need to be physical with Edward in public, it was in front of her. I don't know why I felt that need. I just had such an intense impression that she wanted Edward, and I felt like she needed to know that she couldn't have him.

The thought that I cared so much was disturbing to me.

"Hello, Rosalie. I'm glad you could make it." Edward said politely as we approached her, leaning in to give her cheek an air kiss.

For anyone else, I would have done the same. Not for her.

"But of course." She answered with a sly grin as they pulled away from each other. "When the reclusive Edward Cullen throws a party, one knows better than to miss it."

"Maybe I'm not so reclusive anymore." Edward answered smoothly.

"Oh?" Rosalie quipped, suddenly looking irritated. "And may I ask what brought on that sudden change of heart?"

Edward laughed, and I'd seen him laugh at her the exact same way before, at our wedding. It was almost taunting, and it made my skin crawl.

"Better late than never, right?" He asked with a smirk.

"Right." She agreed with a single nod, glaring at him.

And this is exactly what irritated me about Rosalie Hale. Every time I was around her, which of course always included Edward, I always felt so left out in the dark. It was that awkward feeling when you're with two people and they're laughing at an inside joke, and you have no idea what's going on so you just sit there smiling stupidly because you don't know what to say. Except with Edward and Rosalie, it was like that every fucking second.

"Anyway, I brought a gift." Rosalie continued, seeming to snap out of her irritated state a little bit. "Veronica took it at the door to put with the others."

"Thank you, that was very kind." Edward answered politely.

"Yeah, thanks." I mumbled, taking a sip of my champagne.

"I received the gift basket you sent. Thank you."

"Rosalie! Darling!"

I sighed as Victoria approached us, her chunky body stuffed into an ugly black dress.

"Vic, how are you?" Rosalie asked with a sweet smile as she went to kiss her cheek.

I had absolutely no interest in standing there to watch Rosalie and Victoria fawn all over each other and pretend that I didn't exist, so I walked away. Edward didn't follow me, which was irritating, but I couldn't be mad at him. He wasn't really mine to control, regardless of how much I liked to act like it.

None of those people were my friends. And I wasn't going to act like they were. I had made my rounds with Edward. I had smiled and greeted everyone. I'd played hostess. I'd played wife. That was enough fakeness for me for one evening.

Esme appeared to be in an in depth conversation with some woman I didn't recognize, so I didn't want to interrupt her. I tried going over to Carlisle and my dad, but they were talking about politics and I was not about to get involved with that. Unfortunately, that was pretty much the extent of the people that I was friendly with at the party. I turned back to see if Edward had decided to leave the ice queen and her firecrotch friend yet, but the three of them were standing there laughing.

So I decided to hide in the kitchen, because fuck…that was better than standing alone in a party at my own home looking around awkwardly like a fool, right?

There were no guests in the kitchen, thankfully. It was kind of off limits, because that's where Veronica was bossing around the caterers and yelling at the party planner for the stuff she forgot to take care of. I wanted to tell her to put a fucking sock in it, but I didn't want to cause problems. Unfortunately, she was Edward's right hand man. She may be a bitch, but bitch did work. She knew how to get shit done, and I knew that Edward needed her. I wasn't stupid enough to mess up the work dynamic they had with each other. So, I sat my ass down at the table and sipped on my champagne alone, ignoring the questioning and bitchy looks she gave me.

I stayed there by myself for a few minutes; enough time to finish my champagne off. When I was done with that I looked down and toyed with my bracelet to occupy myself. It was times like these that I wondered why Edward had picked me for this. I knew from the very beginning that I wouldn't fit in with his scene of people, and I didn't. Why he thought I was the right fit for his fake wife, I had no idea. I didn't see what he saw. It was ironic, actually. When it was just Edward and I, I'd never felt more comfortable with a guy. He was the male version of me in so many ways. He was different when we alone, as was I. We were different people. We brought something out in each other that other people didn't see. whether that be a good or bad thing I wasn't sure. And yet in spite of that, when we were around his people like this…I'd never felt more out of place.

I was just about to throw myself a real pity party when a massive human being came barreling into the kitchen, voice booming.

"Little sister!"

I looked up to see Emmett and grinned.

"Dude, Emmett, I've never been happier to see you…" I sighed as I stood up.

"Why? What's wrong?" He frowned.

"Um, have you seen the people at this party? They're miserable."

"Yeah, all they have out there is champagne and wine. I came in here to find a beer. You got any?"

"Yeah, we have some." I laughed as I got up to go fetch him one out of the refrigerator. "I'm sure Edward will get a kick out of you walking around with that."

"Screw Edward." Emmett laughed jokingly as he popped the top off.

"You just get here?"

"Yeah, I came wit-"

"Hi Bella." Someone spoke timidly from behind me.

"Alice…" I smiled at her as I turned to face her, trying to remain as friendly as possible. "Hey. How are you?"

"I'm good. I'm really glad that you invited me."

She walked into the room and I saw that Jasper was behind her. Of course she was wearing a fancy dress, and she'd probably forced that fancy suit on Jasper as well.

"Of course we invited you. You're family."

She smiled and came over to hug me, which was mildly surprising. This was the most friendly we had been with each other in a while.

"The house looks so pretty all decorated." She said as we embraced each other.

"Okay, okay, this is sweet and all, but the party is out there." Veronica told us, pointing at the doorway to the hall. "There are too many people in here." She explained bitchily.

"Veronica, what are you yelling about?" Edward asked as he appeared through the other doorway at the opposite end of the kitchen. "Oh, excellent, you guys finally showed up." He added as his eyes flitted from Alice and Jasper to Emmett.

"I stole a beer, bro. Hope you don't mind." Emmett said as he went to give his brother a man-hug.

"It's fine. I should have known you wouldn't be up for champagne." Edward laughed.

I watched as he released his brother and went to hug Alice, who sidestepped away from him.

"I don't have anything to say to you, Edward."

What the fuck? Alice was actually being friendly to me, but appeared she wouldn't show the same mercy to Edward. Was he going to be taking her hostility alone now? And why?

"Excuse me?" Edward asked, clearly confused.

"I'm here to see Emmett and mom and dad and Bella. Let's just keep our distance, okay?"

What the…fuck? This was just getting weirder and weirder.

Surprisingly, Edward didn't even have a response. In fact, he smiled at her. He fucking smiled at her before reaching around her to shake Jasper's hand. Why wasn't he as confused by this as I was?

"Anyway, Bella." Alice sighed, as if she'd just shooed off an annoying bug or something. "I really like your dress. It looks good on you."

"Um…" I stammered, glancing over at Edward.

He gave me a subtle but meaningful look, just a slight shake of his head and a look in his eye that said be normal.

Maybe there was a reason why Edward didn't appear to be at all baffled by Alice's behavior. Maybe this was exactly what he'd warned me about. Maybe this was the bipolar disorder.

"Thanks, Alice." I said with a weak smile. "You look really good too."

This encounter pretty much set the tone for the rest of the party. It was boring as fuck, and downright weird. I stuck to Emmett like glue, because both of us pretty much didn't know anybody and I fucking loved the kid anyway. He could turn any awkward or boring situation into a good time, so he was pretty much my main man for the night.

Edward was all over the place all night, but it was understandable. He knew every single person there. So of course, he had a lot of mingling to do. He called me over a few times to talk to certain people, but other than that, he pretty much allowed me to do my own thing while he talked about work and other boring shit with his boring friends. My dad pretty much talked to Edward's parents the whole time, particularly Carlisle. They had seemed to really hit it off tonight, which was cool. I was worried he would feel out of place there, but he seemed fine to me. Really, he seemed more comfortable than I myself did. But that was just my dad. He could be thrown into any situation and just roll with the punches.

For some reason, I felt the need to always keep Rosalie in mind when she was around. It almost felt like I needed to watch my back around her, because she was just shady. So I kept my eye on her for the remainder of the night, and she kept her eye right back on me. She watched me like a fucking hawk, but surprisingly, it wasn't in a threatening way. It was more like she was observing me. It wasn't intimidating, but it was still damn creepy. And I didn't like it. I didn't like it that she had come into my own home and made me feel like an outsider. And I didn't know how she did that. I tried to hold my own and make myself as threatening as possible when I looked back at her, but I feared that she saw right through me.

Rosalie was the first one to leave the party, which relieved me. But the relief was short lived. Somehow we ended up crossing paths in the hallway as she slid her coat on and headed for the front door, and what she had to say to me was unsettling.

"Isabella." She spoke to me in a low tone to catch my attention and stop me as I walked past her.

"It's Bella." I corrected, sounding a little colder than I intended.

"Your husband calls you Isabella."

"Yeah, well, you're not my husband." I retorted. "What do you want?"

"I just wanted to give you some words of advice."

The way she spoke was eerie. Her tone was always so smooth and airy and feminine, as if she were from a different time.

"And what's that?" I asked, straightening up defensively.

"Stop trying so hard."

"Excuse me?"

"Stop trying so hard to act like you belong in this world. You're making it quite obvious that you don't."

I just stared at her, pissed off at myself for feeling shaken by what she'd just said to me. I didn't even have time to try to think of how to respond before she turned and walked gracefully down the hallway.

I was left standing there like a kid who'd just had their lunch money stolen.

Unfortunately, despite my hope, Rosalie's departure didn't help my mood towards the party very much. I just wanted everyone to leave so I could take the heels and dress and makeup off and go to bed. And besides, I still had to deal with Alice. The whole night she was just…weird. She kept being super nice to me, and super fucking mean to Edward. It didn't make sense. I didn't understand why she would forgive me or whatever and still treat him like crap. She was mad that we'd gotten married, but why let it go with one of us and not the other? I had no idea, but I was too tired of the whole thing to question it too much. If Alice was going to be nice to me, then I was going to take it without asking any questions. I just wanted things to be better between us, and I didn't really care how it came about. So, I brushed it off, and Alice's weird behavior continued.

.

.

.

.

The next day was Christmas Eve and Edward's family had come over to open gifts with us and my dad. Unfortunately, Alice was still acting weird as hell. She was still being a bitch to Edward, but after talking to him the previous night after the party, I was pretty sure that it was in fact the bipolar thing kicking in. I didn't really know how to act around her, which made me feel bad. Selfishly, I just wanted to act like nothing was wrong. She was acting like the best friend that I used to know and love, and I wanted to cling to that. But at the same time, my best friend side was also concerned about her.

Cecilia and her family had shown up late the previous night, but it was actually better that way. Most of Edward's guests had left by then, so we were able to actually spend some time with them. Her boys were cool as hell. It was so much fun to see them open all of their gifts, and my respect for Edward for doing that for them only seemed to grow. Thankfully, since they'd taken all of their gifts with them, we had much more space in the living room and under the tree for our little family Christmas time on Christmas Eve.

Carlisle and Esme were so cute when they opened up their cruise papers. They hugged and kissed and talked about how excited they were to finally take a vacation for just the two of them. They kept thanking us over and over, which made me feel a little bad, because I really had absolutely nothing to do with picking it out.

Alice being the little fashionista that she was, of course loved everything that Edward and I had picked out for her. However, she only thanked me.

We made Emmett and my dad open their gifts at the same time since they were pretty much the same thing, and they were both thrilled. My dad gave me a super long and extremely tight hug, going on and on about how awesome the baseball games would look on his new T.V.

Emmett went next to give everyone their gifts from him, and then Alice. She didn't even watch as Edward opened the watch that she gave him.

Christmas as a Cullen turned out to be much different than Christmas as a Swan. All the gifts exchanged were expensive and impressive.

"It looks like there's only one gift left." Emmett commented after pretty much everyone had exchanged presents. "Who is it for?"

"Oh, it's mine." I sighed.

"Who is it from?"

"Just a friend…" I answered, glancing at Alice cautiously.

I knew she really disliked the person that it was from, but she was smiling at me widely.

"Aren't you going to open it, kiddo?" My dad encouraged.

"Um…I guess so."

The gift was from Holly. It had been delivered that morning, which I totally wasn't expecting. I assumed that we would exchange our gifts in person the next time we saw each other, but I quickly saw why she was having it delivered. It was huge. It was skinny, but super long. It would have been a pain in the ass for her to try to bring over by herself. However, I was cautious to open it in front of everyone…because who knows what the fuck it could be.

I crawled over towards the gift and knelt beside it cautiously. It would just be awkward to tell everyone I didn't want to open it, so I would just go for it and hope for the best. I reached out and picked at the tape holding the wrapping paper together, chewing at my lip anxiously.

"Oh, come on, Bella!" Emmett reprimanded from the couch beside me. "Don't just peel the tape off! It's Christmas, dude! Rip the paper to shreds!"

"Alright, alright, I've got it Emmett…" I laughed.

I grabbed at the paper on the side facing me and scratched at the wrapping paper with my nail until it ripped enough for me to peel a big chunk of it off. There was a picture and a portion of the installation directions that were revealed. It took me a moment to realize what it was, but when I did, my heart sank.

Fucking. Awkward.

"Is that…" Emmett began excitedly, coming up behind me.

Don't. Please Emmett, don't even say it out loud.

His booming laughter was loud in my ear.

"It is!" He hollered excitedly. "Fucking sweet!"

"Emmett!" Esme scolded from the loveseat she was sharing with Carlisle. "Language!"

"What is it?" Alice asked impatiently, watching me curiously.

I felt my cheeks burning bright red. I could not possibly be opening this gift in front of a more awkward group of people.

"It's a freaking stripper pole!"Emmet announced, completely fucking delighted with the situation.

It was silent for a long time, other than Emmett's snickering.

"And who did you say that was from, Bella?" My dad asked in a clipped tone, clearly not amused.