Special thanks to my wonderful beta, writeontime, and my dear friends ciaobella27 and contreplongee.

I don't own Twilight

"I want," he continues, "I want to tell you to do this, that you need to pursue every opportunity..."

"You don't have to—"

"I'm not going to." He turns around, and he's leaning back against the window, his eyes closed, taking deep, slow breaths. He rubs his forehead with the back of his hand before opening his eyes and looking at me.

"Tell me what you want," he says.


The smile on his face is full of amusement, sarcasm, a little bit of madness. Like he's finally lost his mind. Like I've pushed him over. The loud bang I hear when his fist hits the window behind him makes me jump.

"Which part of me do you want? Or do you just want to dress me up in things you buy behind my back and make me escort you to weddings to show me off? Do you want me to hold your hand in Forks, every time you need to buy eggs, or shampoo, or whenever you're craving pancakes at the diner? Do I get to take longer trips with you? I get left behind. I know... I knew you were going to leave eventually, but I really didn't think you'd find a way to leave so soon. I'm so fucking pathetic, Bella. Tell me, to my face. Say it."

He's grabbing my wrist, and it hurts, but his thumb is moving along my skin, back and forth.

"Don't be mean," I whisper. "You're acting like I've been using you. I love you. I can't..."

"What do you want? Please. I swear, I'll let it go. We won't discuss this again until we're back home. Just be honest with me."

I've always been honest with him. Honest about wanting to leave, honest about not knowing what I want now, and honest about the ambitions and dreams I'm always going to hold onto. He knows everything. And he's with me because deep down, he's so much like me. I know this because he tells me. Edward is always honest. He wants to leave. He doesn't want to go back unless it's a quick trip to celebrate a holiday or a birthday. He wants to learn things, meet people, take part in discussions. He doesn't want to be average, and he doesn't want to be stuck somewhere only because his job his fine, his family's there, and things could be worse.

So why is he asking me what I want? He knows what I want. Does he really think I'd lie to him? And if he doesn't like what he hears, will he really be able to let it go? No, of course not, but this conversation is happening, and I'm going to say the same things I've said over and over, even though I know now that he hasn't been listening.

"I hate Forks. God, I hate being there. It's not home to me..."

"Did I ask you about Forks?" he shouts.

"Are you going to listen, or are you going to keep interrupting?"

"I already know you hate Forks, Bel—"

"Yes, I do. It's not my home. And I want to say you're my home, but we've known each other for how long? I can't put that kind of pressure on you. I know I love your place, and your bed, and your arms, but when you're working full-time again, and you're not home all day, I... I need something."

"Do you think this job is what you need?" he asks me.

"I need to move forward. Yes, it's easier to walk around Forks, to be here at this wedding with you by my side, but I can't hide in a small town and use you as a crutch forever. I need to go back into the world."

He nods, but I don't hear the usual words that calm me down or reassure me.

"I just want you to support me, to give me your advice," I continue.

"Is this something you've wanted to do? Does the position interest you?"

I shake my head quickly and run my hands through my hair.

"No... not particularly. It pays very well, and I can quit and go back to school if I decide I hate it."

"Is it worth leaving what you have?" he asks, staring at the floor. The words come out so fast, it's like he wants me to forget he asked them.

"You? No."

"Not me. Your life."

"What life?" I laugh. "You are my life. Right now, I have nothing else."

Edward sighs. He knows I'm right. So when I rest my head against his chest and ask him to hold me, he does, and he's sweet, and I have a thousand things to say, but my head is pounding. I'm tired. I'm desperate to end this conversation, but I can't imagine returning to it anytime soon.

"Bella, if you want to do this..."

"I don't know if I do," I admit. "I'm so scared."


"I want my next step to be the right one, but I also know that I don't want to work for him. Something... something about the way the conversation went, you know? He asked me if I still kept in touch with Gar—with him, and it was, like, I'm here with my boyfriend, I've said a thousand times that that was over way before... Why would I keep in touch with him? Do you think I've been lying? I mean, I don't know. And even if... How is it any of his business who I keep in touch with? The only person who gets to ask those questions is you. I'm sick and tired of having to answer questions, and it won't end. It's like Jasper and his father think—"

"Of course they do. Bella, I'm telling you this because you need to hear it. You cannot accept anything more from these people. I'm not saying their intentions aren't pure, because they have no reason to want to hurt you, but you—"

"Is this about Jasper?"

"Yeah," he says, with a shrug. "You're fairly intelligent, you know I don't want you to move across the country and live in the same city as him, work for his father... I can't wrap my mind around—"

"You're jealous!"

"Stop and listen for a minute, Bella. You've said it yourself—you've taken too much from them. You're intelligent, educated, and there will be other opportunities."

"I hate ultimatums," I tell him.

"Me too."

"So if I accept this job and move to New York, we'll still be together?"

Nothing. Just cold hands on my hips. I'm too tired for this. Too naked, standing here in front of him. I walk over to the suitcase we packed together, because he didn't have one and I didn't want to make a big deal about it, and I find a t-shirt. It's his, and he'll have to sleep shirtless tonight, the spoiled brat who won't wear the same t-shirt to bed two nights in a row. I put it on and lie on the bed, waiting to fall asleep, hoping he stays there by the window.

But he follows me to bed, his shirt still on. He lies down beside me and reaches out to touch my shirt.

"You want it back?"

"No, of course not."

"You're sleeping in that?"

"I'll take it off."

I decide to help him with the buttons. He finally shrugs it off and throws it toward the suitcase. It hits the floor. No one cares. I remember wanting him like this. I wanted to kiss and lick. My tongue on his jaw, down his chest, all the way down to my favorite trail, so good. But I don't want these things right now. I have no desire. And yet, within a minute, my hand is on his abs, moving down, feeling, or not. It's just there. And my nose is touching his bicep. I ache for him, even though I don't want to do anything about it. I think I mostly just ache for his touch, for him to care enough to touch me, say something, want me enough to forget about real things, important things.

Or do I want him to want me so much, in so many ways, that sex wouldn't be enough to make him feel better right now? Because it won't make me feel better. I need so much more. But how do I ask? And what am I asking for?

"Baby," I whisper, like a purr, like I know he'll react in the best way if I speak like this. "I want you to kiss me before we fall asleep."

The kiss I receive on my temple, and then the one I feel just a little lower, on my cheek, these kisses are so full of something, they're so real... they break my heart. It's the way he presses his lips and the force with which he kisses me, and the way his lips linger for that extra second, and the breath he takes against my skin before resting his head back on the pillow. I think if I were to ask him to say in words what he put in those kisses, he would be confused. He doesn't get it, and sometimes I do, and when I realize how much he loves me, it blows my mind. He's the one feeling what he feels, but he acts like it's no big deal. Like every man cares about a woman the way he cares about me. Like every man takes something broken and heavy and dirty and cast aside and looks at it with eyes that would make the ugliest things feel worthy and gorgeous and perfect.

How can he expect me to make decisions based on our relationship when I'm forever struggling with believing that this is real and possible and sustainable?

I look at his face and I'm so relieved that I didn't ask for more words after the kiss, because when he's open and real like he is tonight... everything hurts. Inside me, my stomach, my chest, my throat. I can't breathe, and I'm paralyzed, and the pain makes me want to go back to the day I decided to start running every morning, and take it all back, and it's all for him. All my pain is for him.

But because he's a thousand times better than me, he's the one comforting me. I hurt because I know he hurts, but I do nothing to make him feel better, so it hurts even more, and I cry and cry, and he has to be the one taking care of me. And because I'm selfish, the second I'm calm I start thinking about everything that happened tonight. I start making decisions.

"You're not gonna make it all day if you don't get some sleep soon," he says.

"I'm not a child."


"I'm not a baby. I'll be fine."





He makes a sound. Like he's annoyed, or bored.

"I can't wait to go back... You don't have to say anything, I know you're mad. Let's not talk about this until Monday. Maybe I can blog... write a column... I don't even know what she wants from me... and I won't have to move?"

He stretches and yawns and moves around.

"Say something," I snap.

"You told me I didn't have to."


"Right now, I just want to sleep," he says, "or drink. Wanna go down and see if the bar's open?"

"We have the bottle of tequila Ja—"

"That motherfucker is good for something, huh? Come on..."

"Oh, so we can drink his tequila, but I can't accept a job from his father? Stop taking, Edward. You took the burger, and the fries—animal style, too! And now the tequila. Oh, not to mention his girlfriend..."

He's on top of me for a few seconds, shutting me up, before he's off the bed in search of the bottle Jasper dropped off earlier today.

Edward and I get wasted. I decide to give a speech about life, and living, and experiencing things, and not merely surviving, and how I want to live and experience and be with him. I promise a blow job every morning if he leaves everything and follows me around the world, or just to New York. He tells me to show him that I'm worth it, so I start, but he's laughing, and I'm angry, which he thinks is so, so funny, and I actually grab him by the balls, and his eyes are big now.


"Why not?"


"I'd never."

"Let go."

The way he responds to my kisses after I let go proves to me that I still have all of him, every single part, right in the palm of my hand. The things he tells me about going anywhere, doing anything, make me soar. They also terrify me, and the bottle is between my lips again. And then he is. And my eyes are on him, and his fingers are on my cheeks, and one finger twists a strand of my hair and tugs so hard, and I'm breathless and excited and stupid, and he enjoys it so, so much. And then I watch him lie on his stomach, between my legs, and I watch his tongue, and his fingers, and I don't care that he's just playing, with no end in sight, sloppy, no purpose, just taste, taste, play, drive Bella crazy. I let his tongue go up and down, up and down, and his finger follows, and then it's in and out, over and over and over, and I close my eyes and feel and feel, and if he wants to stay, if he wants to continue, I'll never be the one to leave.


Edward knows what I'm thinking. Our eyes meet and I know and he knows and he's not happy, because he still thinks parents ought to be decent to their children, which baffles me because I've met his mother.

"Charlie, I agree with Edward and Bella. This is a wonderful opportunity," Mom repeats.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to get her name dragged through the mud again. You put yourself out there and people will come after you."

"Charlie," Edward starts, "I think Bella can handle it."

"I can also handle this conversation. Dad, this is something interesting and different. I realize it will bring some extra attention that you guys may not want, but my gut is telling me to go for it. I'd be using my brain, finally, after so long, and I'd be making some money, which is always a great thing. I can survive nasty comments, I can survive criticism—"

"I don't know about that, kiddo. You need to think about this some more." Dad sighs and shakes his head. "They're gonna be tough on you. You don't need any more of that."

"Charlie, I think our daughter knows what she wants, and we should respect her decision. You're the one who keeps saying she ought to get a job."

"A job here, or somewhere nearby, so she's not bored out of her mind, not a job with the media—the same people who did this to her."

"It's her decision," Mom says again.

"Well maybe she doesn't make good decisions. She decided to stay in New York and be on her own last year, and what happened? Did you recognize your daughter when she walked back into this house this summer? I listened to you then, Renee, and I stayed out of it—"

"You listened to me? I said we ought to go to New York and make sure she's all right and you refused!"


"A trip to New York wouldn't have done a damn thing," Dad barks. "We should've put her on the first flight back here."

"She didn't want to come, Charlie. She didn't want to be here. You don't know her at all."

"And you do?"

"I do. I think I know my own daughter. Don't you dare blame me for not forcing her to come back home. Don't you dare, Charlie. We both made mistakes—"

"If we let her go now, we'll just be making another mistake," he says.

"Let me go?" I cry. "I'm not a—"

"She doesn't want to be here, Charlie!" Mom shouts. "Why would she? You ignore her and—"

"You don't even come out of our room."

My head is spinning and I can't even keep up with this conversation. It's the last thing I expected to be hearing or discussing when Edward and I decided to tell my parents about my plans.

"Please," I whisper. And I hate it, so I repeat the word, but this time my voice is loud and hard. "Please. Stop."

But no one's listening. Just Edward, with his red face and wild eyes, squeezing my hand in his.

"Don't talk to me about being a good parent, Charlie. I can't face the two of you when you're in the same room anymore. It kills me." Tears are rolling down her cheeks and her fingers are gripping the edge of the table, so white.

"And your solution is to let her pack her bags and leave? This is a bad idea. She's gonna be back here in no time, and you'll be wishing we'd kept her here. Is that what you want? Someone to accompany you on your trips to Port Angeles to see Dr. Banner? She's not ready, Renee."

"Who's Dr. Banner?"

"Your mother's therapist," Dad replies.

"What are you talking about? Mom?"

"Nothing, sweetie. Dr. Banner is just someone I talk to."

"When did this start?" I ask.

"A while back, it has nothing to do with you. Charlie, tell her—"

"She's a grown woman, I'm not lying to her to spare her feelings. Bella, your mother had a hard time accepting things last summer, and we thought it would be a good idea for her to talk to someone."

Of course. The pills. Anxiety. Of course she's been talking to someone.

She's exhausted. She's a mess. She's never around. She's in her room. She's sleeping. She doesn't want me here. I make it worse for her.

"Mom, I'm sorry..."

"No, no, don't say that. I'm fine, sweetheart. Things were a little, you know, but I'm fine now. Seeing you looking so happy, making plans, such a wonderful young man in your life. I probably won't be back to see Dr. Banner anytime soon." She smiles, but her face is puffy and her hands are shaking and I'm going to throw up.

"Mommy, I'm so sorry. I..." I'm selfish, and I don't think, and I can't think, and I won't start thinking now because my head is a constant mess and if I think about her and Dad and Edward and us and work and my future and the past and mistakes and more mistakes and being in her situation someday and the pain she must have felt and what I've done to their marriage, their lives, what I'm doing to Edward's... I can't.

Dad reaches over and places his hand over mine. "It's okay, Bella. She's fine."

"You didn't tell me... What's wrong with you? No wonder you didn't want me here. See? This is for the best. I've basically ruined all of your relationships. Your wife is a mess who hides in her room because she wants to avoid... us. Or just me. I don't know. You lost your best friend and I know it had something to do with me. You probably hate me so much, Dad. I don't blame you. So just stop... this. It's better if I leave."

"I want the best for you," he says. "You're my daughter. You're my pride and joy. Watching those people attack you, it kills me. Maybe I'm being selfish here, but I'm asking you not to do it because I can't stand it."

I hear a "wow" from the man sitting next to me, holding my hand. I look over at him and wait until our eyes meet. I'm a little more familiar with his anger now, and he's right there, about to explode.

"Guilt, Dad?" Are the first words out of my mouth. "Really? I finally decide that I want to do something, and you're telling me not to because you don't like hearing bad things said about your daughter? Dad, I'd sit in a room and hear all those words over and over again, everything, all the insults and the names... they can't ever compare to the way you've hurt me. I'm sorry, but I don't care. I have a thick skin. I survived. How it affects you isn't my problem.

"You abandoned me. Both of you did. I hate what your lives have become because of me and I want to take away your pain, but don't ever try to use guilt that way again. By the time you told me to come here, I was numb, but before that, I was just sad. And it was never about Garrett or Alice or the media... when I cried, I cried because I was alone. I had no one. And I ignored it, and talked to you, and came back, and... because you're my parents. When I have children, I don't know... I'll never do what you did... I want to hold them and tell them they're the best, and everyone else, the whole world, is wrong, and they're good, and loved, and they'll never, ever be alone. I was so alone. Strangers helped me, strangers whose son's name was dragged through the mud because of me. And you know why? Because they love him so unconditionally that when he begged, he asked, they didn't turn their backs on him, and they helped me. I'm sorry it was tough for you, Mom, but maybe you should have asked me once if I had been speaking to someone, if I was getting any help. And you..."

Edward stands up. "Bella, let's—"

"I'm not leaving. This isn't over."

"It is," he insists. And I look across the table at my parents... he's right. They have nothing to say. And if they do, they're still not going to say it. Probably because they think their words will kill me. And they're right. But what I will never understand is why they can't just lie to me. Once. One lie. Lie to your child. Because she's going to believe it, and accept it, and let go of so much anger, because she wants to believe it so badly.

"Anyway, no one asked, but the move is most likely temporary. I'm going out there for a little while because she wants me there, and then I'll probably be able to work from anywhere. I'll probably come back here until I make a decision about returning to school."

"Of course, you can come back anytime," Mom says quickly, seizing the perfect opportunity to be the perfect parent. "This is your home, we want you here with us..."

"Not here. I'd be living with Edward."

I watch my father push back his chair, stand up, and walk away from the kitchen table.


"Let him go... he'll be fine," Mom tells us. "It's been hard on him, too. I like talking to people about my feelings, but your father isn't much of a talker. Believe me when I tell you this, he loves you so much. He's not the most affectionate, perhaps, and you take after him, you know. I picked it up too, living with him for so many years... We didn't want to interfere... You never liked it when we called too often..."

She stops. She says a few more things, but doesn't complete any of her thoughts. She's trying to come up with reasons, explanations. She knows they can be cold sometimes. I can be cold, too...

"Mrs. Swan, with all due respect... Bella's one of the most affectionate people I know. And it's not just with me. I've seen her around her friends, around my family. When you say she's not, when you try to place the blame on her for your lack of compassion and your mistakes, this deeply offends me."

My fingers curl around his arm, right above his wrist, and I dig my nails into his skin. It's me telling him thank you, I love you, you made my heart burst, you're silly, you're too good, please stop now before I die, or something.

"Well, I don't know how Bella treats the men in her life—"

"Really fucking well, Mom. Thanks. Come on, let's go upstairs. My head hurts," I say to Edward.

"Are you going to be okay? Please don't be upset. We need to pick up Sue before the game, so we'll be leaving soon. Will you be staying here tonight?" she asks.

"No, probably not. You're going to La Push?"

"Yes, why?"

I shrug. "Don't you want to avoid running into Uncle Billy?"

"He knows when we're there. He stays away."

"I want to know what happened. I'm serious. Now."

She sighs. "Can't you use your imagination? I'm not even sure what exactly happened that day, since I wasn't there, but your father walked in, furious, his fingers bruised, because he'd punched the living daylights out of Billy."

"I know that part..."

"Your father defended you," she explains. "Billy had said some ugly things, and I'm not going to repeat the ones your father shared with me, and he's not going to share them with you, so don't even bother asking me for details. None of that matters. What matters is that he would do anything for you, including hitting his best friend and ending a lifelong friendship. Go easy on him, Bella."

"And I'd do it again." I watch my father as he walks back into the kitchen and stands behind my mother.

It's a small comfort, and it makes me feel something warm inside, and also toward him. He stood up for me. He didn't want to hear insults about his kid. Insulting me is like insulting him. As usual, I'm downplaying everything anyone has done for me, coming up with reasons why, any reason but the most obvious one, that they care. I want to give my father a hug, and squeeze my mom's shoulder, but I don't forget my own words. I said them. I got nothing back.

I'll always return to this house. I'll always pick up the phone and call. They will always be on my mind, with each success and failure, because no one's opinion will matter more, no one's disappointment will destroy me more, no one's praise will thrill me more. I will always hope that someday I'll be enveloped in warmth and love and sweet words, and they'll be the source of all of it. And when they fail me again, I'll turn to the man who is holding my hand. And when I fail them again, I hope they'll at least have each other.


It's nice out, which is why we're here. After a week of endless rain, I didn't have to beg Edward to get out of bed early and join me outside. He came willingly. We don't have a swing out here like his parents do, but I bought an old rocking chair I found at a garage sale, because it would look funny out here, and we're not old enough to be rocking away on the porch. It amused Edward, and it's amusing him now, sitting here, rocking back and forth in his underwear and an old t-shirt that's so, so thin, and an almost-beard and too-long hair. He pulls me down, and I'm on his lap, and we need to be careful, but who cares? Falling off the chair would be a memory, and we'd talk about it and remember it and giggle and argue and I love him a lot, the man sitting under me. I love him fiercely, and it's the kind of love that's stupid and blind. And I let myself get here. I did it willingly. It was so, so easy.

That's what we talk about a lot when we're saying silly, deep, ridiculous, amazing things to each other. How easy it was. I know he was a little obsessed. He knows I was incredibly lonely and desperate and sad. Maybe we used each other. Maybe he wanted to piss his mother off, rebel. Maybe I needed a distraction. Maybe, but who cares? At some point, somewhere, very, very quickly, maybe way too fast, it happened. It's strange, and thinking about it makes me anxious, but I love him. Like, actual love. Like, I would do anything. And it's a big deal, and it exists somewhere so deep inside me, so deep that it's a part of me. So I get it now. You care so much that it's all about him. Sometimes when I wake up in the morning, he's my first thought. And it's not about sex, or wanting someone, or missing them, or wondering if they're up to no good, or why they haven't called. It's more of a... I'm awake. It's morning. How is he? I want this to be the best day for him. If he smiles, I win. I get to try and make him smile.

Maybe I'm being silly and feeling too much because I'll be on the opposite side of the country soon. New job. New people. Alone again. I've changed my mind about it at least twenty times since I accepted the offer. And each time I told him I couldn't do it, he changed my mind right back. I could. I can. I will. And if it sucks, and if I fail, I get to run back and throw myself into his arms. And if I succeed, or even just survive, I'll be doing something for our life, the future we're always vaguely referring to. He tells me his successes belong to me, and he'll gladly share my failures, and that it's easy to tell me that because he doesn't anticipate any. Sweet words are easy to say when your girlfriend is so desperate to hear them, feel them, make them part of her reality. But the honesty in his eyes? You can't fake that.

"It's chilly out here," I tell him.

"Let's go back inside."

"No... the sun is gorgeous."

"What sun?" He laughs. "Look at the clouds."

"No rain means sun. Clouds don't exist."

He smiles big, and I'm proud because he likes my words.

"I need to pack..."

"I can drive you over to your parents'..."

"Don't make me do this," I say in the smallest voice.

He smacks my butt and pushes me off him. "Come on, inside."

Inside is nice, because he can do things here that no one will know about. Like the way he looks when he pulls off the thin, thin t-shirt. No one knows what that looks like. The movement of his muscles, the mess that is his hair after he does that last yank and throws the t-shirt aside. The kisses I place all over his chest, the spot on his shoulder I bite down on when I'm riding him and I'm about to come. Always the same place. And I can look up from there and see his face. And I always have to reach out and touch it. And my heart aches when I think about how far I'm going and it makes no sense. Why? Why leave this for something that will never compare?

"Because this will still be here when you get back. And this is going to come out to visit you. And you'll be back soon enough. Come on, Bella, don't do this again."

"I'm so nervous..."

He runs his hands up and down my back. "I'm nervous for you."

"You're supposed to say there's nothing to be nervous about."

"There's nothing—" he starts.

"It could be bad. Really bad. Like, so bad. Especially at the beginning. My first... they're going to be brutal."

"What do you want me to say?"

He's said so much, he's out of words. I know. I get it.

"Say you'll have things to say when I call crying," I tell him.

"Here we go again..."

"Fine, I'll stop, because I know it's going to be okay. Something inside me... you know when you know? I have a good feeling about this."

"Great. Do you have a good feeling about me getting into a decent grad school?" he asks with a laugh.

"The best feeling... If you ever send in your stuff... early... do it early..."

"I will, this week, promise."

I'm pretty sure I'll be the one submitting his applications right before I leave. It's fine. I love doing that stuff. And it's the sort of stuff that makes him sad. He has a pretty sad face, but I don't like the way it makes my chest ache. I wrap my arms around his neck and smile at the way he's staring at my chest, the way his hands always end up there, how his fingers never leave.

"People are gonna be like, 'What does your boyfriend do?' And I'll be all, 'He's a historian. He knows everything about everything that's ever happened...' And you'll wear tweed. And maybe glasses. And I'll just make sure you've got everything you need for a wonderful day at work, teaching, molding young minds. Professor Cullen... mmhmmm."

"I like when you tell me stories," he says.

"Maybe you can write a book about me. A historian's perspective."

"Always you, you, you."

"Me, me, me."

"You," he whispers, and his mouth is on my skin. "So what would I say? In my book? What's it about?"

"I don't know. You're the one who's into history. Blah, blah, big, huge scandal, impeachment proceedings, resignation, blah, blah. And there was a girl..."

"Tell me about the girl."

"Hmmm..." I touch my nose to his, then kiss his mouth. Smack. So good. "She was born... she grew up, but not too much... she met Edward Cullen... the end."

"That's it?" he asks.

"My life begins and ends with you."

He's quiet, but his arms are strong and his body is warm, and his eyes are closed, and I hope my words made his day. Minutes pass, and I want to lie down with him next to me, just lie around and be nothing, do nothing, say nothing. So when he moves me off his lap and walks out of the bedroom, I'm annoyed. I complain, and he shuts me up. He'll be right back. I believe him. And then he's back. Still naked. Carrying his phone and a Sharpie and my laptop.

"What are you up to?" I ask.

"I have nothing to give you right now, but I want things from you."


"I shouldn't be asking, so pretend I didn't, but..." he takes my hand, takes the cap off the Sharpie, and I inhale deep and good, of course, and while I'm sniffing and being ridiculous, he's doing stuff. I finally stop and look, and on my finger, or around it, he's drawn a circle. And he's drawing other stuff, but he's so confused and pink and can't draw, so I stop him.


"Come on, you liked it the last time I wrote on you," he says, his voice all weird.

"Is this a ring, Edward Cullen?"

"Yeah, and look, it's huge."

I giggle. My heart is pounding so fast and hard, and I'm dizzy, dizzy, dizzy.

"You're crazy."

"I already told you," he says, "pretend I didn't do this."

"Yeah, I have to. Because, wow, otherwise I'd have to say 'yes' and you'll be running for the hills. I hate hills. I'd never run after you."

He finally looks up, into my eyes.

"So just a sweet gesture, right?" he says, kissing the finger he drew on.


"But you would've said 'yes' if it had been anything more..."


"And I would have had to leave everything to come with you and be with you."


"Ask me," Edward says.

Okay. My hands are shaking, but I do.



I nod. "Maybe not right away," I tell him, "but once you figure things out? Once you know where you're going to be next year... I hate asking, Edward, because you have a job, your life..."

"Just ask." He gulps. His Adam's apple moves up and down. He's nervous and terrified and young and wonderful. "There's pretty much nothing I wouldn't do..."

"When you're ready, when you decide, I want you to come to me. And if you're not, but you miss me, I'll come back. And this better not fade," I tell him, pointing to my finger.

He bites my hand, bites the finger, draws some more, kisses me, kisses me again, and a lot. He stops and says something about my laptop and dates and flights. It's sweet, because I've been nagging him about booking his first trip out to see me. I tell him later, not now, draw on me again, please. We're laughing and playing. It hurts less now. I think less now. I smile when he says something about the night we met.

"Best night of my life," he tells me.

And he probably believes it.

I think I'm still waiting for the best night of my life, which means I'm considering a future, a life, something more than the present and the ugly past. And I have no doubt that Edward is there. And I want to be where he is. He'll be there, and I won't know it's happening, that it's that night, the best night of my life, but he'll remember every detail. And when I'm too scared to look back because my mind always goes too far into the past and gets lost in the dark, he'll look back for me, and he'll come up with a memory, or two, and I'll remember. And I'll smile. And the past will be bearable.

"Of course it was," I reply. "You met the love of your life, mother of any and all future children—all geniuses and prodigies, by the way. The best sex you'd ever had, will ever have... Your best friend, lover, confidante... So lucky."

"Her hair smelled of cigarettes, the gestures she made were obscene—"

"So vulgar," I add. "But—"

"But when I woke up the next morning, and saw her face, and the way your nose and your lips... right there... yeah... and your shoulder, the skin..."

"You thought, 'that's the girl I'll fool with a Sharpie ring and sweet, sweet lies.'"

I'm shrieking by the end of the sentence, because the Sharpie is back and it's all over my skin, and words make no sense, and then they do, but only when I write six letters that make up two words on my belly. A request. It makes him laugh, and then he's all serious, and he's inside me, and I can pretend he did ask, and my ring is real, and who cares, because he's coming to New York, and then I'll go wherever he wants to take me, and this rhythm is perfect. Perfect. It's time to stop thinking and just listen to breathing and grunts and wait for the occasional word. The sun isn't out, but the sheets are soft, and I hold him close with legs, arms, and lips, and I'll have to tell him when it's over... this is my favorite morning. The best morning of my life.

so this is the last chapter. i wanted to thank all of you who read this, rec'd it, shared your thoughts. and thanks so much to the people who put up with the nonstop blah blah bs i kept throwing at them while i was writing this: nina, tracy, indira, hj, ebs, lisa, michele, lauren, belle, shelley, tor. and thanks to monica l because i'm sure she's awesome and i've been obsessed with her since i was, like, fourteen, and talking about my obsession made me write a story and it's been fun.

writing this chapter drove me a little crazy, but I'll probably be back with something new really soon. let me know your thoughts. i'd love to hear from you.

thanks so much.