Here is my first FGB one shot, written for ciaobella27 and antiaol. They demanded a strong Bella, a big peen and a motorcycle. Well, here we go.
Thanks to my betas for editing this monstrosity. I love you two.
There's a lady in our town we all call 'Karm.' She's not old, I don't think, but she has the defeated look of someone who has lived many hard years. She's had a sad life – she cheated on her husband with a man twenty years her junior and ran off with him, much to the shock and scandal of this old town. He died in a car accident not even a year later.
I'm not even sure of her real name. It's not Karmen, even though it's easy to let outsiders think it's short for that. The cruel gossipers in this sleepy part of the Pacific Northwest dubbed her Karm, short for Karma.
It's of her I'm thinking when I hear a rumble outside of the restaurant. I had just finished serving her the cup of coffee she gets every morning at the diner I work at in downtown Forks. I never finished my AA degree at the community college down the road, and this little place doesn't have much in the way of opportunities. I've become pretty complacent with life, and my fiancé doesn't care if I come home smelling like grease each night.
But anyway, the rumble of an engine makes me look up. I'm washing down a table – the bus boy is taking a smoke break – and I watch a flashy, black crotch rocket park in front of the diner. I raise my eyebrow – what crap is this? I can hear the mutters of the old men in the back, groaning about young nutters on their death machines.
A tall man steps off the bike, and something prickles along my neck. I swipe at my collar, thinking a hair has come loose from my bun. Nothing is there except intuition, rippling across my shoulders. This man is familiar, even though he is head-to-toe in leathers, not to mention a screened helmet.
He turns around and bends to check something along his tire, and the old women who work with me all cluck appreciatively. It is a nice view, but I roll my eyes, teasing them for being sexually deprived.
"Just because you have that young thing at home doesn't mean the rest of us do," Shelly Cope, the owner of the restaurant and the town's resident busybody, natters at me.
"Young thing," I laugh. "He's only two years younger than me! And I'm only twenty-five. Don't be ridiculous."
But she's no longer paying attention to me. She's all but dropped her washcloth against the counter and is lounging against the bar, a dreamy smile on her face. "How does one man make smoking look so perfectly indecent?"
"Because it's a disgusting hab – " I turn as I speak, and then I do drop my washcloth, but for a much different reason.
The man has removed his helmet and is looking straight into the restaurant, staring at me through the glass front of the building.
I'm instantly furious and upset and angry and I see red. I grab my serving tray and stomp outside, completely oblivious to the whispers of all the men and women, standing on their toes to watch what I'm about to do to this – this -
"You piece of SHIT!" I screech, and the serving tray goes flying against his head. "You stupid son of a bitch – you're really going to show up here?"
I can hear his stupid, beautiful voice telling me to stop, but I can't. Two years – two YEARS – and he's just going to show up like it's – like it's –
"You think just coming up here is going to – what are you – I can't believe you – I'm going to fucking KILL you – " Every syllable is punctuated with a smack from the tray, until he wrenches it out of my hands, and my fists become the weapons of choice instead.
"Bella. Bella!" He's shouting. "We're making a bit of a scene – "
"These petty gossip mongers can talk about me until the end of fucking time, and as long as I break every bone in your body, I won't give a shit!"
He grabs my fists in his rough hands, so I kick my foot out. The first kick lands directly between his legs, and he goes down hard. The second kick lands on the side of his stupid motorcycle, and even though it's heavy, the adrenaline and anger coursing through my veins gives me Hulk-like strength to kick that ugly piece of metal over onto the asphalt.
"Fuck you!" I shout, heaving one more kick into his ribs.
I leave him on the pavement, coughing and holding his stomach. I walk back into the restaurant, straighten my hair, and burst into tears.
Mrs. Cope rushes up to me. She pats my shoulder and demands I take the rest of the day off. She asks if I want her to call the police to pick up the 'yummy man,' and I laugh through my snot and tell her no. My Chief of Police father doesn't need to get involved – yet.
When I walk back outside the next time, he's sitting on the bed of my truck. He's black and blue, and his motorcycle looks extremely scraped up on one side. I smile in triumph, ignoring him all the while.
"Bella, please," he wheezes. I stop at the note of desperation in his voice. Turning to him, I open my mouth to tell him something – anything – when he grabs me in a hug so warm, so tight, so familiar, I start crying all over again, right into his leather shoulder.
"Hi, baby," he whispers against my hair. "I've missed you."
I'm not going to lie and start this montage off by saying, "It's been a long time since I've thought of Edward Cullen." The truth is, I've thought of Edward Cullen every day since I fell in love with him, four years ago.
I was working as a secretary at the police station when my dad dragged him in one afternoon. Edward had a huge grin on his face, and even my dad was laughing a bit, but very grudgingly. I had seen my fair share of petty criminals come in and out of Forks Police Department - it was a small town and kids got bored. But he was much older than a kid, and no one made my father laugh during an arrest.
Edward Cullen went to high school with me. I knew the name, but it had been three years since I graduated, and he looked completely different. In school, he was quiet and nervous, always wearing hoods that the teachers made allowances for to hide the bruises left by his drunken father.
Then, a year after graduation, Edward Sr. turned up dead. It was ruled a suicide, but rumors revolved around Edward Jr., and despite how very nice (if not rough around the edges) he was, the town labeled him a murderer. My dad had championed him, much to the fall of his own reputation, and he had to endure much talk of the police chief "going soft."
Edward was in and out of trouble after that, but my dad was able to keep him out of jail for the most part. But on the day that I met him – re-met him, I guess – he had spray-painted the side of old man Hutchinson's barn. That in itself was a crime my dad couldn't ignore, but the kicker was what he had painted. It was a cruel rendition of the old man fucking the nubile young thing seen coming and going out of his house when Mrs. Hutchinson was in town for the day.
He sat in the tiny jail cell all day, charming everyone in the small station. I stayed away from him, because I was deathly shy, especially when it came to good-looking men. He was beautiful in a dangerous way. I had been friendly with Jacob Black all my life, and he was a handsome boy, but he had soft suede skin, crinkled eyes and a warm smile. Edward Cullen had sharp angles, sharp eyes, and a sharp wit.
He caught my pants' leg through the bars as I walked past for the umpteenth time and asked me for some water. I gave him a cup against my better judgment, and he spent the rest of the day telling me stories about he and my father, and how they went way back.
At one point, Edward whipped out his cell phone and showed me the photo he had snapped of his artwork on the broad side of the barn. I had stammered that he was very talented, being too mortified by the pornographic painting to say much else. Then he looked at me, and I looked at him, and we fell in love.
I was in love with the town outcast, but I couldn't have cared less. Things were wonderful with him.
Until they weren't.
My keys clang against the counter as I drop them with more relish than I should. Jacob Black, the softly handsome boy from my youth, is the man I come home to every night.
"You're home early," he comments, standing up from the couch and stretching. He's only in boxers, and I'm pretty sure he's just woken up. It's a little after one PM, so that isn't too bad, but it annoys the crap out of me for some reason.
"Any luck on the job search?" I snap, opening the fridge to grab a coke.
He pauses at my mood, and then treads carefully. "I answered a few ads on Craigslist, and then called over to that auto shop in Sequim."
"I told you I didn't want to move."
"We don't have much choice, Bella. If there's an opportunity for me to work somewhere close, we have to take it. The economy is bone dry – "
I start imitating his voice in a display of my worldly maturity. "Blah blah blah, the economy is bone dry, I don't want to work for my father, I need to support you so I can still justify being a man and getting erections every night – "
He puts his strong hands on my shoulders and kneads. Something pops, and my whole body relaxes against his chest.
"Wanna talk about it?" he whispers against my hair.
Remember Edward Cullen, Jacob? The guy you – and every other person in this backwards town – wants to kill and/or thinks is a killer? Remember how I was in love with him, so deeply in love, and you howled to the moon each night, and I never noticed your pain?
"No, I don't want to talk about it. Just a long day… difficult customers. I might have spazzed out, and Mrs. Cope sent me home."
"That's a nice ol' lady," he murmurs, kissing my neck. "You hungry? I was gonna get some eggs and bacon going."
I nod and run my fingers through his scruffy beard. "You need to shave."
"I know," he says, kissing me on the mouth, and then moving to the stove.
I opt for a shower, scrubbing myself until the water runs cold. I have a good life, a stable life, if not an overly happy one. But women like me, ones bred in small towns know that glamour and passion and love take second place to hard work and practicality.
I was a fool for once thinking those rules didn't apply to me, too.
Jacob comes home late the next night. I can smell the alcohol on him, and I scoff quietly, knowing he's been at the bar with his friends. I close my eyes and wish for sleep, because if we're both awake while he's drunk, an argument is inevitable.
As I'm contemplating this, his voice rumbles from across the small bedroom.
"I know you're not asleep."
"Barely," I whisper, trying to make my voice sound gruff with sleep. In actuality, I've been lying awake for hours, thinking about the person I shouldn't be.
"I saw someone very interesting at the bar tonight," he says after a moment. I hear his pants drop to the floor, and then his big body makes the old bed sag dramatically.
"Oh?" I ask, my heart picking up speed. "Did old Harry Clearwater make it out?"
"No, but old Jimmy Cope did. Mrs. Cope's husband, you know. Wanted to know if you were okay after seeing your ex after all this time, that murderer, he called him. Said he gave you a real shock, showing up at the diner."
The old bats in this town with nothing else to talk about but other people's misery – I hate them, and I should have remembered that Mrs. Cope's kindness always came at a price. She sent me home because she couldn't wait to talk about me.
"I see," I hedge carefully after a moment.
"You lied to me about why you came home early," he all but snarls. He takes a hold of my shoulder, not roughly, but with enough force to turn me to face him. "Why?"
"What would be the point?" I'm resigned. "Yes, I saw Edward. I beat the shit out of him, and I didn't want to talk about it. It would have just started a fight, Jacob. It upset me, so Mrs. Cope sent me home. That's the story." I didn't add the part about us embracing for five minutes by my truck, before I slapped him again and drove off.
Jacob isn't finished. "So, guess who shows up about an hour after Jim's story? Edward Cullen himself, looking every bit the murderer – "
"Stop it, Jacob – "
"And Sam Uley refused to serve him. Kicked him out of the bar. Good fuckin' riddance."
The indignation I feel about old prejudices against Edward rise up inside of me. He might have flaws and a temper, but he isn't violent. He never so much as punched a wall whenever we fought back in the day – and oh, did we fight. But this stupid small town - god, I'm so mad I could cry.
"That wasn't very nice of him," I say, much to my own detriment. Defending Edward is inane, second nature, and it slips out of me before I can help myself.
Luckily, Jacob misunderstands. "Well, Edward Cullen never knew much about nice, did he? You're right about that – showing up in an establishment full of good people, like he's welcome… disrupting the peace like that. What an asshole."
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you," I whisper, peeling his shirt off his back. "It just upset me so badly – "
"Ah, Bella – " He scrubs at his face. "I don't want to listen to these people, saying things about you two running off together now that he's back… but it's hard, knowing you didn't tell me. Makes me suspicious, and I don't like to be suspicious of you, baby."
"I'll tell you from now on," I murmur against the smooth skin of his back. "Come kiss me."
He's drunk and male and horny, and it's a cheap trick, but just the diversion he needs to forget all about Edward Cullen.
I wish forgetting about him was that easy for me.
An unknown number pops up on my phone as I'm buying tampons at the drugstore. The girl behind the counter is the little sister of someone I went to high school with, and she can't stop asking me questions about Edward Cullen. She's too young to really remember the taboo surrounding him, but instead talks about him like he's some sort of elusive rock star.
After dodging her questions and paying, I answer the buzzing. I pull my hood around my face to keep the rain from soaking my phone, and I run to my truck, asking 'hello' all the while.
The person on the other end finally speaks up. "Can we talk?"
He doesn't even introduce himself, and the spark of arrogance in him that used to cause endless fights makes me rage. "We're talking right now and you're lucky I don't hang up the phone on you, you bastard."
"I knew my father, Bella. I didn't much care for him, so I had to do away with him – "
"That's not fucking funny." He always uses disparaging humor against himself, and I hate it. I guess he hasn't changed at all – pretty disheartening, to be honest.
"Will you please come to talk to me?"
I tap my steering wheel. My heart is pounding in my chest, like an old wound with blood brought to the surface. I can't deny that I want to see him, but I'm not sure why. Do I want to beat the shit out of him again? Do I want to talk to him? Do I want to demand answers from his mind, heart, and body?
I twist the small engagement ring around my finger. "Where are you?"
"My house, of course." He pauses. "Mom really wants to see you."
"Don't you dare use my affection for your mother as a weapon – "
"I'm not; it's the truth!"
We bicker back and forth for a good thirty seconds before I scream at him not to move a fucking inch and that I'll be there in fifteen minutes and he better hope to God I don't find a shotgun on the way.
Twenty minutes later, I pull into the driveway. There are so many memories in this crooked old house, and my throat clogs with all of them, the cognizance choking me in my seat. Edward and I lived in the back room of the house for two years, and it's more home to me than where I grew up, all because of the man who planted my heart firmly in its foundations.
His mom walks out onto the porch, wiping her hands on a dishrag. She waves to me, and I can see the tears streaming down her face, onto her lips. It starts my waterworks, and I run up to her and she holds me and we cry like only two heartbroken women can.
Wiping my tears away from my face, she presses her cheek against mine. "Hush now," she whispers. "He'll hear us crying and get a big head."
She leads me inside, and the house is spotless, just like it always has been. They never had much, but Esme Cullen made sure she kept a nice home.
"I missed you," she tells me. "All of our talks, our secrets – "
The tears start again. "I'm sorry I stayed away. I didn't think about how hard it must be for you – "
She pats my hand. "Why would you want to come back to this place?"
I shake my head. "It's no excuse. I loved you separately from him – I promise, I swear I won't let us grow apart any longer."
"I really missed that," Edward says from somewhere behind us.
I turn, and he's standing in the kitchen, watching his mother and I embrace. Esme stiffens in my arms and pulls away, but not to cold shoulder me. She's furious at Edward, and it makes me want to laugh.
"Maybe you would be seeing a lot more than a reconciliation if you hadn't decided to take off – " she starts. I can tell it's an old argument.
"Come on, Ma – "
"Get out of my sight."
Edward slumps. "Okay, have it your way." He passes her, doubles back, and gives her a huge hug that lifts her up off the ground. He whispers that he loves her, and she pats his cheek in a motherly way before shoving him off. "Come on, Bella."
I follow him through the small house, the familiar sights and smells washing over me like the tide. He opens the door to the back room and motions me inside.
I sit down on our old bed, thinking of all the love that was made, all the fights that were lost, all the tears that were shed, all the laughter that was shared. I shiver a bit, running my hands up and down my arms.
He closes the door behind him and leans against it, looking at me through half-lidded eyes. "This is so surreal," he breathes.
I mash my lips together to keep from replying in the affirmative. "Just get to talking so I can leave."
"Can I not look at you for just a second?"
I turn away. "No. You gave up that right two years ago."
He drops to his knees in front of me. "Bella, I don't understand – what happened? Why didn't you wait?"
"Why didn't I wait?"
"All the letters I sent – "
"You take off on that god forsaken thing because you want adventure – "
"I wanted you to come with me. Bella, we have to get out of this poisonous town – "
"We aren't doing anything!"
"There are so many better things out there! I will never understand why you want to stay here. Neither of us will ever be members of this little Podunk – "
" – because I'll always be a murderer and you'll always be the crazy whore who is going to be murdered next! And you know it! Why do you feel allegiance with these backwards people?"
It's the same old argument, the one that caused him to leave me behind. He wanted out, and I didn't. He wanted a better life, and I couldn't bear to leave. For the past two years, I've hated him for leaving me, and I've hated him because I know he's right.
"But what I don't get – Bella, the letters. The postcards. All of them. I must have sent hundreds, one for every town I stopped in. I kept telling you to wait, to hold on, that I was sorry, that I loved you, that I was coming back – that I was searching for a place for us, and Bella, I found a place for us. I work on a mill, and it's not good work – it's back breaking, to be honest, and god, I think I have grey hairs, but the mill owner, Carlisle, is a good man. I'm renting a small cabin on his property, and it has a small kitchen and a small bedroom with a big bed and an endless yard, so green it hurts my eyes in the sunlight, and can't you see it, Bella? Can't you?"
My head is in my hands, and I'm hiding the tears, because it's his voice, his beautiful voice, and he loves me, and there were letters I never got, and I don't understand, and I can see it, being poor but waking up deliriously in love every morning, but I can't, I can't, I can't.
"What's wrong, baby?" His strong, rough hands are trying to pull mine down away from my face, but he's too gentle and I'm too stubborn. Then his fingers are no longer gentle, and they're yanking at my left hand, the fourth finger, and his breath is in harsh and out on a cry, and he backs up, lands on his ass, and hits his head on the dresser.
I look up at him through teary eyes, blurry and unfocused. His head is shoved between his knees, and his hands are yanking out his cropped, adult hair – a far cry from the mess it used to be – and he's heaving and banging his head against the drawers over and over.
"You're engaged," he whispers against the rough denim of his jeans. "Engaged. I don't understand – Bella, my letters."
"I never got any letters," I hiss finally, standing up from the bed. "All I remember from you is the way you flicked me off when you rode away on that motorcycle my dad salvaged from a drug bust for you, and me crying every night, and wondering where you were every second of the day, whether you were happy or missing me or dead!"
"I shouldn't have flipped you off, but I was pissed! It still doesn't make any sense, your attachment to this town – it's like you chose it instead of me!"
"And you chose to leave despite every single fucking tear you wiped away due to your decision!"
"You stubborn fucking girl – can't you just admit you aren't always right? Things can't always be compromises! This isn't a goddamn fairytale, and I don't think you ever really realized that. People in Forks, Washington aren't going to wake up one day and decide I didn't kill my father! People in this town will be born and die with the firm belief that I'm a murderer. We can have better. We can take your dad, who is about to be run out of this town if he does one more thing for me, and my mom, and start new. We're all still young, with tons of years left, and Bella, I can make you so happy. Do you remember how happy I made you?"
I do. Of course I do. I remember the stupid pranks we used to play on the townsfolk and each other. I remember the books I used to read against his knees in the sun, and the naps we took while the rain pounded against our little window. I remember the dinners I made for him – the success of the chicken casserole and the fail of the tuna. I remember having to be quiet every night so his mom wouldn't hear us, and the embarrassed smiles at the breakfast table when we didn't quite manage it. I remember how gentle his hands were as they combed through my hair, and I remember how I kissed every callous on his fingers. I remember the screams and the fights, the slaps I'd place against his cheeks and the slams of his hips against mine as I apologized with everything I had.
He's so close to my face, and his lips are wet and parted from tears and spit and I want to kiss him more than I've ever wanted anything. I have to physically back away from him so I don't. I can't be here – this isn't right. I thought my anger would be stronger than my love for him, but I was an idiot to think so. My love for him has always been and probably always will be the strongest emotion I'll ever feel.
"I never got any letters," I repeat, looking down at my shoes. For the first time, I wonder what he sees. I'm bigger than I was two years ago – wider in the hips, not by much, but enough. My boobs are larger, and my hair is a bit shorter. I still have the same freckles and abnormally long eyelashes, but I look more like a woman than I ever have.
"I sent them," he insists. "Can I touch you?"
"You shouldn't – " But I press myself against his chest and breathe in the cheap laundry detergent. He kisses my hair, and I close my eyes and pretend, just for a second, that I got those letters and we're about to reconcile here, on this bed, for the first time in two years.
I draw away from him. The years have been hard on him, and he's right, he has a couple grey hairs at his temples. It doesn't seem right – he's so young, only twenty-seven. I run my fingers down his cheek; he's clean-shaven, which seems odd. The last time I saw him, he had a full beard. His hair is cropped close to his head, and it's parted down the side, with a few fly away hairs standing up at his cowlick. I smooth them down without thinking, his hazel eyes watching every move I make.
"You look good," I say finally.
"I look old," he corrects. "You look…"
"Fat," I supply before I can stop myself. My own physical inadequacies against his physical perfection, combined with his emotional turmoil and my need to nurture have always been problem areas in our relationship.
"Don't," he says sharply. "Don't fish."
"I'm not," I say crossly, annoyed that he can still tell whenever I'm dying for a compliment. "I should go."
"Don't go," he whispers.
I bring my engagement ring close to his face. "I have other responsibilities besides you. In fact, you aren't even on my radar anymore."
He ignores this. "Is it Jacob Black? I'm going to die if you tell me it's Jacob Black."
"Gun, knife, or noose?" I call flippantly over my shoulder, opening the door and stepping into the hallway.
"Forget it, I'm going to kill him. I knew it – I knew as soon as I left he'd be sniffing around – always wanting what was – " He stammers over the last word.
I laugh at his possessive stuttering. "First thing you've gotten right all day, Edward. What was yours."
He grabs my arm. "I'm not giving up."
Our eyes meet in the muted light of the hallway. "Good," I whisper before I can help myself.
I barge into the Forks Police Department, my eyes still red and puffy from crying. My dad is on the phone, but hangs up quickly when he sees me. He ushers me into his office and closes the door.
"What's the – "
"Where are my letters?" I seethe.
"Sit down for a second, Bell. You're hyperventilating. What's going on?"
"I saw Edward," I snap, "and I want to know what you've done with my letters."
"One thing at a time, honey. I figured you might see him – everyone's been calling up here, reporting suspicious activity he's allegedly involved in. When did he get back?"
"A few days ago," I sniff, grabbing a tissue from a box off Charlie's desk. "You don't think he's a murderer, do you?"
"You know I don't," Charlie says softly. "What is this about letters?"
"Edward says he wrote me hundreds of letters, for everyday he was gone, practically. But I never got them – why are you shaking your head? Where are they?"
"I don't know, Bella. You've never gotten any letters from him."
"Nothing handwritten with no return address?"
"Nothing that I haven't given you. It's a federal offense to tamper with people's mail – you know that, honey. I wouldn't do that."
Charlie isn't lying. He wouldn't do that, ever. No matter what people think of him because of his allegiances, he's not a crooked cop. He's a strong man, a quiet man, but a good man. The same can be said for Edward – he's had his moments in the past, but all I see when I look at him is a defeated but good man.
"Someone has to be lying," I sigh. "But, Dad – you know Edward. You loved Edward, didn't you? Like a son."
"Yes, I did. I reckon I still do, but I haven't talked to him in a long time." He looks away as he says this.
"He wouldn't just tell me he sent me hundreds of letters if he hadn't. I know it sounds like some ploy to make me feel guilty, but Edward isn't underhanded."
"I know he isn't."
"I just don't get where my letters have gone!"
Charlie heaves a great sigh. "And he didn't get the address wrong?"
"There's no way. We have the simplest address in the world. 123 Maple Road."
Charlie rubs his mustache. "I'll see what I can find out. Maybe someone's been taking them out of the mailbox – who knows? I wouldn't put it past anyone in this town if they got wind the Cullen boy was writing to the poor Swan girl." He gives me a sad smile. "Did you go see him?"
"Yeah, he said he wanted to talk."
"Don't play with fire, Bella."
"I deserved answers, Dad."
"Answers, yes. But did you really find what you were looking for, or do you have even more questions now?"
I pause. "I hate it when you get all parent-y on me. Only parents say things like that, you know."
"Don't avoid the question, daughter. I can smell a rat."
"I'm not a rat."
"You're engaged, Bella. My feelings aside, it just isn't right to love one man while being engaged to another."
"I'm always going to love Edward," I whisper. "I've always known that. But it's not about love all the time. It's about being practical."
"Yes, I agree… to an extent. But what's practical about Jacob right now? No, don't look at me like that – you know I like Jacob, and his dad is like a brother to me. But honestly, let's think about it. Jacob is still looking for a job while you work doubles five days a week at the diner. Edward went and found a job and wants to take you out of this hell hole."
I stare at my dad for a few seconds. "How do you know that?"
His lips twitch under his mustache. "Well, how the hell do you think Edward got your cell number?"
I avoid leaving my apartment for the next few days. What do you do when your life picks you up, shakes you around, and then dumps you back to the ground in a heap? I had faced that before with Edward, but I didn't have a choice then. I had to move on. But now, I was faced with a choice. Maybe even the hardest choice I've ever had to make.
While I hem and haw and cry and decide and don't, I try to be the best fiancée ever. I make Jake meals I haven't made since the days of courting, and then give him an after dinner mint (blowjob) each time. He's been in a whirlwind of happiness, and it's easy for me to get caught up in our easy banter and quiet affection. But when he rolls away snoring, my mind is trapped once again.
It's still not any special day when I crack. It's a Tuesday, and it's raining, like it always does. It's late, and I'm cold, and I want so badly to feel warm again. I'm selfish. I'm stupid. I'm impulsive and ridiculous. But I always have access to keys and the knowledge that the man I'm stupidly in love with is only a drive away.
I sneak out of my apartment, my heart stuttering broken promises the whole way. It doesn't take long to get to Edward's mom's house, and I see the light on his room. Just knowing he's there, behind those doors, cools my adrenaline into peace. He's the biggest truth I've ever known.
I knock on the back door, the one connecting directly to where he sleeps. I hear his footsteps, and I try to arrange my hair into something sexy – something pretty. I'm still fixing it when he opens it.
"Bella?" His shock is colored in his voice.
"Hi. It's late… what are you doing here?"
"Um… I'll just go. Never mind."
He catches my elbow. "Sorry. That was rude. I meant, it's great to see you, but I'm really surprised."
He looks it. I don't think I've ever knocked him off his balance like this. When we were together, things were good, but predictable. We watched the same movies, hung out with the same people, ate the same food. We had sex and we slept, we argued and we made up. It was a rotation, a life rotunda, and I was so scared of deviating because I didn't want anything to knock us out of our perfect little balance.
When he left, he sent all of our comforts into the stars. I didn't even want to try to get them back; I didn't want to burn up before landing. I wanted to start anew – friendship, random phone calls, happy memories. Anything but the bitter aftertaste of my first, and maybe only love.
"Come in?" It's a question from him. Not a demand. I can't be certain with one unsure statement, but he really does seem different.
He closes the door on the rain. The big bed takes up the whole little room, and I sit down on it with a bounce.
"I was about to get in the shower…" He gestures to his sweaty undershirt and boxers that I've just now noticed hug everything on him I tried to forget. "Excuse me for a sec, okay?"
"I'll be here."
He's in there for a while, so I look around. There are pictures shoved up in his mirror, yellow and fading, curling in the corners. There's a calendar that shows "November 2008" as the last month it was flipped. I rub my arms, the nostalgia creeping up my spine, causing little shivers in my marrow.
He comes back in the room after ten minutes or so, threadbare pajama pants on his hips. I can see the wiry hair of his knee poking through a hole. I feel like a man in the Victorian age; this little peak of skin seems indecent. I remember kissing those knees, every inch of his skin, and basking in being loved by a beautiful man.
He sits down on the bed next to me, running a q-tip through his wet ears.
"So, what brings you?"
"I want to talk," I say slowly, even though I'm not sure if there's all too much to say. But there's been so much time since I've seen him, and he's here, finally here, and I think it's probably weird to just say, 'I want to stare at you. Sit still.'
"Okay." He mashes the q-tip in the other ear, shaking his head.
"What have you been up to the past few days?" I ask stupidly. There are so many issues to confront, but I need to avoid them for now. I need to learn to like him again. I need to remember why I fell in love with him. That feeling of being in love with him has never gone away, but I long ago stopped liking him as a person. I want that back. I probably shouldn't.
He flicks the q-tip into the tiny mesh trash can. "Packing," he answers, pulling his damp hair out of his eyes.
"Yep. Mom and I are leaving in a few days."
"You're leaving again?"
He laughs. "Rest assured, Bella. You're coming with me."
Oh, I really don't like him. This isn't good at all. This mask of arrogance he paints over his good heart has gotten him in so much trouble over the years – it makes me angry instantly.
"I'm not even going to dignify that with a response. You have no place to waltz back in my life and make demands. I'm not the same girl, Edward. I don't have stars in my eyes whenever you come near me."
He sighs, planting his head in the heels of his hands. "Look. I know you're angry, and you have a lot of reasons to be mad at me. I shouldn't have left like that. But just drop the bitch act and try to think of it like I'm seeing it. I had all but been chased out of town for something I didn't do. Leaving was this… accumulation of all the shit, and I was so angry at you – "
"For not getting up off my ass that second you decided you had to leave? My whole life is here!"
"Everything but me."
"You were never my whole life," I hiss. "I think that's what the whole problem was, to be honest. You wanted me to be consumed in you, you, you. I always had other things going on – friends, books, the ability to entertain myself. When you fell for me, nothing else mattered. You had nothing else, not even a good reputation. You envied me, hated me."
"I never hated you." But he doesn't deny anything else. "What do you want from me, Bella? I had no phone. I was constantly traveling. I wrote to you all the time, telling you not to respond because I'd be gone from that place by the time you could write back. After I got over my anger, I started working for something better. I kept looking for work – that's why I went place to place, rural areas mostly, begging for work. I have a high school diploma to my name and no credit. No one wanted me – but then Carlisle – "
"I've already heard this."
"Look, Bella. I'm a man. I don't know what else to do. I'm a problem solver. I saw problem, and I tried to find a solution – "
"Without including me!"
"I tried. The letters – "
"Oh, fuck the letters!"
He scoffs a laugh. "Okay, fuck the letters. Yeah, fuck them. You'll never read them anyway, so what's the point? But I remember what they said, most of them. I think if you heard them, you would feel differently."
"I don't want to hear them – "
He suddenly drops to his knees in front of me. "Dear Bella," he starts, taking my hand.
"Today was a hard day. Everything hurts – my bones, my joints, and the fact that you aren't here with me. I miss you more than I know how to say. I never read the pretty books you drown in, so I can't pretend to have great words to win you with. All I know is when I wake up in the middle of the night and reach out for you, getting the cold side of the bed is the saddest I've ever felt. I hope you will forgive me when I see you again. I hope that day is soon, but I'm glad that day is one day sooner than yesterday. All my love, Edward."
"Edward, for god's sake – " I'm choked up, but I'm refusing to let the tears fall.
"Dear Bella," he whispers, his voice softer, like the flash of candle giving light to shadow. "I had enough money to get McDonalds today. I got off work late, and the closest one was forty miles away, so I drove like a mad man to get to it in time. While the wind whistled against my ears, I could practically hear you screaming at me to slow down. I missed the taste of a Big Mac so much, I didn't care. All the way there, I thought of how you'd buy me one after your shifts at the station, and you'd give me all the pickles because you hated them. I got there five minutes too late, and I sat in the parking lot, trying not to cry. I haven't cried since I was a boy. I realized, while trying not to lose it, that it wasn't the Big Mac I wanted. It was you. All my love, Edward."
I can't help it. I've been strong for two years, and he's reciting the most heartbreaking things I've ever heard. To think that he's written these things from a heart I rarely got a good glimpse at for me – it's too much. I wrap my arms around his neck and make this awful, keening noise, like everything is being ripped apart.
He guides me onto my back, his weight comfortable against me. We fit together even better than before, with all of our exhaustion, heartbreak and confusion lining up perfectly.
He guides his lips to my ear as I cry and speaks softly, like he's reciting a lullaby.
"Dear Bella," he chokes, "today, one of my friends at this temp job I'm working got engaged. He invited all of us to dinner, and then surprised his now-fiancée in the middle of her cheesecake. She nearly swallowed the diamond, and his face was a funny sight to see. They kissed, and we all clapped, but something inside me hurt more than indigestion, more than eating a million jalapeños. I started thinking about how I would ask you to marry me if you were here, and I'm still not exactly sure how I'd do it. But I know as long as you said yes, I'd make up for my shitty proposal for the rest of my life. I love you, Edward."
He drew away from my ear, his lips brushing my cheek. My breath caught in a great big sob, like everything I had been living for the past two years was exorcised from me in one huge upheaval, and I was her again, and I loved him without reason.
"Please," I whisper against his eyelashes. They flutter against my lips, and then I feel them close again. He heaves a great sigh, and then presses his mouth against mine.
I sob against his lips, wrapping my arms more firmly around his neck. I feel like I'm laying down my arms after a great battle, and with every pass of his mouth against mine, my heart is being cracked wider open, begging for his needle and thread.
Edward has never been tentative. He takes things he's given without question, holding them close to him like gifts, or discarding them like trash. So I'm shocked when he backs away, his lips wet, his breath hard.
"I can't do this," he groans, moving to sit up.
My arms lock around him, so he can't lift his head without hurting me. "Don't. Please."
"Bella, you don't know what you're saying."
"Yes, I do!"
"I can feel your engagement ring pressing into my neck!" he hisses. He detaches my arms and moves away.
"I should go," I whisper, realizing where I'm at, and what I've just done. The shame is creeping up my neck – for what happened, and how much I wish it would happen again, and more.
"Yeah," he grunts.
He doesn't say anything else, so I show myself out. I'm an idiot – a total moron! What is it about this man that turns me into a fourteen-year-old slut? I have a promise to another man – sure, I'm not deeply in love with him, but he's good to me. He might not have a job right now, but he will.
I make it out to my truck, double-pump the clutch when I put the key in the ignition, and listen to the impressive noise it makes – the sound of death. I look at the gas tank, and a shiny red E is glowing at me.
I bang my head against the steering wheel. I walk the one hundred feet back to Edward's door and knock on it.
When he answers it, I mean to say, "I'm out of gas." Instead, I take off my engagement ring and throw it at his face. It hits him in the forehead, and then I launch myself at him.
He groans, defeated, when our lips meet again. He holds my face tightly, so tightly it's almost painful. My shirt goes overhead, and I'm worried about the couple sizes I've grown since he last saw me like this. But his wonderment over my bigger breasts keep that insecurity at bay.
My bra is popped off, and he sucks a nipple into his mouth while using his monkey toes to pull down his sweatpants by the hem. I moan and laugh and help him, his taut skin firm and warm against my belly. He's so hard – so wonderfully hard. His scratchy pubic hair brushes against my thighs as he lays me down onto the bed.
"I've never stopped loving you," I tell him, stopping his frantic motions for a moment. My jeans are halfway down my legs, but he aborts that mission to look up at me.
"Ever?" He sounds more vulnerable than I've ever heard. Who would have thought Edward Cullen had the ability?
"Not one second. I've hated you, but I've still – oh."
He pushes inside me while I'm still speaking. I'm so distracted by my speech I didn't notice until he was buried, the familiar few inches of him that didn't fit deliciously pink and hot against me.
He doesn't waste any time. He fucks me so deep, so hard. He grabs my face and kisses me with a tongue that's panting, licking, with sharp teeth and gaspy noises. He wraps our hands together and places them over my head, using his strong hips as the only point of leverage. I wrap my legs around him and lift off the bed, giving him access to the deepest parts of me, but this isn't anything new, because isn't that what love is all about?
He doesn't last long, and that, more than anything makes me cry. When he drops and buries his face against my sweaty neck, my tears catch in his damp hair. The fact that I've so emasculated him to the point of awful stamina – it's stupid, but it rips me open.
I don't like him. But I want to. I love him. And I always will.
I wake up the next morning with my cell phone blaring. Edward groans and rolls over, griping at me to shut it off. It's early, and I want a few more hours of sleep, but when the name on the caller ID pops up, it stops me in my tracks.
The whole night comes back to me, and what I've done – three times, the duration of the night – doubles me over.
"Bella? Where the fuck are you?"
"I'm… at Charlie's."
"That's horseshit! I don't know what you and your dad are playing at. I called him this morning and he told me the same thing, but I just rode by and no one is home!"
I love my dad so much – covering for me, knowing where I probably was. His loyalty has always been to me and my happiness. "Um…"
"Just tell me, Bella."
He knows. Of course he knows. I bet the whole town is looking for me. Word got out that Bella Swan didn't return home last night. The police were called. Someone was bound to see my truck at the Cullen's place, and I know he knows.
"I'm at Edward's."
I peek over at the man in question, and he's staring at me, wide-eyed. His fear is so tangible, it slices my heart.
"And just what are you doing out there?"
I take a couple beats to answer. "Jake, I…"
"I see. It's all clear to me now. Fucking him, aren't you? Everyone warned me about what a slut you were for Cullen, but I never wanted to believe it. I thought maybe with a ring on your finger, you wouldn't open your legs for him. Guess I was wrong."
"It's not like that!" I protest. Even though it kind of is – but it meant so much more than just a fuck. It was a reconnection of everything I'd lost, and a promise that I'd get it back if we worked for it. We certainly wanted it bad enough.
"Oh? So you didn't fuck him?"
My silence says everything.
"Fuck you, Bella. You two-cent whore. Keep that piece of trash ring – I bought it at Wal-Mart on the sale rack."
The line goes dead.
I cry. I cry and cry and cry. I cry so much that Edward starts to get concerned, thinking I regret last night. I can't explain to him that despite my insistence last night that he was never my whole world, he's now all I have left.
I have a shift at the diner at four. I go, thinking that if I show up with a brave face, the kindly patrons of the restaurant – the old men and women I serve nearly every day – will understand that these things just happen, and that I'm human, and I love a man no one else will ever give a chance in the world.
It's a quiet shift. Mrs. Cope is polite to me, if distant. I don't notice anything strange – the mill-workers of Forks, Washington are never great tippers. I go out to my truck at around eight to check my phone and stretch.
"WHORE" is scratched into the side of my rusty vehicle. I drop to my butt in the middle of the parking lot and start sobbing. I've been trying to hold it together all day, but I've been through this whole life-upheaval in less than twenty-four hours. I don't know how long I'm out there crying. All I know is that I hear whispers, but no comforting arm to help me off the pavement.
I try to get to my feet and stumble. A warm hand shoots out to steady me. I turn and face Karm, who has a sympathetic smile lighting up her perpetually sad eyes.
"Don't let them hurt you," she whispers to me. "Hold your head high for having a mind of your own, and the bravery to reach out for what you love."
I wipe my tears on my sleeve. "I'm afraid I don't have a mind – I seem to lose it whenever he comes around."
"But you always gain it back," she reminds me. "Passion is fleeting, chemistry can fizzle – but love, no, that never dies. It changes, molds, switches, engages, spikes and dips. But it never, ever goes away. Do you have that kind of love?"
"Yes," I whisper, knowing without a doubt, I'll love Edward Cullen for the rest of my life.
"Is keeping your pride in tact worth losing him all over again? I've heard your story, Bella Swan. You love a man no one else knows how to. That takes a special kind of woman. You tamed the untamable."
"I didn't tame Edward," I protest. "He rode away on his motorcycle two years ago."
"But he looked back every day," she answers easily.
"How do you know that?" I question.
"Because you've just told me." She pats my face. "The things in life you can't explain are the things that are most precious. If you knew exactly why you loved him, where would the fun be? If you knew exactly why your heart beats for him like that, you'd be able to talk yourself out of it. Don't do that."
I nod, and she gives me a hug. She's frail, frailer than I've ever noticed in all the years I've been serving her at the diner.
"What's your name?" I ask her as she turns away.
"Renee," she tells me with a sad smile.
"We're running away, Renee," I tell her, only now just sure that I'd follow Edward wherever he decides to lead me. "Come with us."
I'm throwing random things in my suitcase when my phone rings. It's Charlie, and he sounds frantic.
"Bella, I need you to come down to the station."
My heart leaps into my throat. "What's wrong? Is it Edward?"
"No, but he's down here, too."
Ten minutes later, I'm bursting through the doors of Forks Police Department. There's an old lady sitting in a chair, handcuffed.
"Dad? What the hell is going on?"
"I figured out where all of your letters went, Bell." He throws a thick stack of envelopes at me, and I catch them against my chest.
I eyeball Edward, who's leaning against the wall, eyeballing the old woman. I recognize her from the post office. No – it couldn't be…
"Mrs. Grady here has been withholding your mail," my dad continues, "for the past two years."
"Well, not all of it – just the letters from Edward."
"I was doing Bella a favor," she croaks, struggling against the handcuffs. "She's a nice girl – didn't need to be mixed up with this piece of riff-raff. It was the best news this town's ever got when we finally ran the murderer out of town. When he started writing her, I knew it couldn't be good. I was happy to go to jail for the rest of my life, knowing he was kept away. But from what I hear, that's no longer the case." She holds her face up high, defiant.
"It's none of your business," I hiss. "I can't believe you – I've known you since I was a little girl!"
"Exactly," she continues. "It's our job, as townsfolk, to protect each other. This murderer here – "
"I didn't kill my father." Edward speaks finally.
"Ha! Sure you didn't, boy. It's a crime, how Chief Swan here has covered your tracks for years. Lock me up then, Chief. But if you do, the outcry for locking up an old woman just trying to protect an innocent girl will bring more sympathy to my case than yours."
The three of us exchange glances. I hug the letters to my chest, hoping the words in them will seep into me and tell me what to do. She's right. This injustice can only be served, be helped, be made better in one way.
"Marry me," I say to Edward in front of my father, the two other officers on duty, and the old crook. "And take me away from this place."
"Are you serious? Don't joke around about this stuff, Bella."
"What happened to Jacob?" my dad asks. He's smiling a bit behind his mustache.
"Apparently, he told everyone that I slept with Edward, and that I'm in love with him, and I'm stupid. All of those things are true, but I don't care. We're leaving this town tomorrow."
Edward strides toward me. His hands cup my face and he kisses me wildly, picking me off the ground. He digs into his pocket and pulls out a small box.
"It's not much," he tells me. "But I've been working towards buying this for you for years now." He opens the box, and there's a pretty ring with a small stone.
My dad lets Mrs. Grady go. The protection of a small town, the media and the potential threat are enough to make the case – federal offense or not, we slide it under the rug, vowing to never think of it again.
All is well, anyway. It's an injustice to be sure, but I have my letters and a ring and Edward. He reads all of them to me that night, and then he makes love to me all night, breathing those words into my skin, tattooing them on my heart. We have a long way to go, but he loves me, and I love him, and we're trying with all of our hearts to make it work. Sometimes, love isn't based on things that make sense, like respect and compassion. Sometimes, love is finding the reason to be with someone even if they make you insane, even if they call you a bitch when you're being one. Maybe love is about learning, not about teaching. Maybe we're not meant to know all the answers, but just love freely, wholly, without reservation.
Maybe, like Karm – Renee - says, if we figure out why we love crazily, passionately, without reason, all of those wonderful things will go away. I never want to know exactly why I let Edward hurt me, and why I took him back. I don't want to know what that says about me, whether that makes me weak or strong. Maybe things are just meant to be wild and free, crazy and impulsive, never to be tamed or explained away. Maybe he'll always think I'm a bitch, and maybe he'll always be an arrogant asshole, but my life was a bleak world without him.
Charlie quits his job as Chief of Police. He takes over my old truck, laughing at the looks he gets for the 'WHORE' written down the side. He pulls up to the Cullen house the day we leave and announces he's coming with us.
"This old town… well, let's just say you're all I have, Bell. I don't want to spend the last years of my life a bitter, jaded old coot." He shrugs and tosses some of our stuff into the bed of the truck.
We're almost ready to go when another car pulls into the Cullen's driveway, beeping her horn. Renee waves from inside. My dad waves back, flushing a little.
"I, uh… invited her to come with me – us."
I grin at him, and Edward laughs. I pat my dad on the shoulder. "So did I."
My dad leaves with the truck first, Edward's mother riding with him. Renee drives behind them, pulling out onto the dusty road.
"All these people," I remark, leaning against Edward's motorcycle as he ties some things down. "They're all taking these leaps of faith, leaving Forks." I hedge carefully on a question I've been waiting to ask for four years. "Edward – what happened to your father?"
He takes a deep breath, stopping his fiddling to stare up at me. "My mom," he says simply. "She hit him over the head with a bat. I still don't know what she did with the body… I don't want to know."
So many things cross my mind – the strength of Esme, the horrible secret she's been carrying, all the reasons I want to high five her. But mostly, I think about Edward and the way he's let this town shit on him for years to save his mother.
"Your dad knows," he continues, a little too casually. "I don't know why he helped me, or us. But this is my chance to repay him. Carlisle said he's got a job waiting for him," Edward responds, smoothing hair away from my face. He plunks a helmet over my head.
"No, not that." I pop up the screen. "It's like we're all these vagabonds, you know? Chasing the wind. Chasing love. Following love. Finding something better… or maybe, finding something worse than before, you know?"
"Nothing can be worse than here, Bella."
I make a frustrated noise. "You know what I mean."
He stops and looks at me. "Yeah, I know what you mean. But all of that is just junk. You were made for me, every fucked up, rude, misguided inch of me. And I was made for you, every stubborn, bitchy inch. It's not supposed to be perfect. This isn't some love story with a perfect beginning and end. It's just a story that we keep on living, hoping we can fill it with good stuff before the end is decided for us. And Bella, I'm gonna make sure to fill your story with plenty of good stuff." He grins at me and kisses my ring. "Now straddle the bike."
I take off my helmet with a comical suction noise. He looks annoyed at first, but quickly gives into my kiss. He whispers that he loves me and that he's so glad that I'm coming with him. I know he's not good at showing his emotions, but I try to imagine coming back for him, thinking he's waiting for me, and then realizing he's engaged to someone else. My heart would have been ripped in two. He's brave, I realize, and stupid and arrogant, but he's mine, and I love him so much it hurts.
"I love you, too, Edward."
He squeezes me tightly to him, and then puts the helmet back on my head, demanding it stay there this time. I straddle the bike after he does, putting my hands around his warm waist.
I don't know what's going to happen when we leave this garage, but that's okay. And not just because I'm with Edward, but because I'll have my dad, Edward's mom, and Renee, who just might become important. I'll have people who love me despite all my mistakes and want me to succeed. I'll have love and warm sheets and a man who gave up his pride just to return to me, no matter how wrong his methods.
But most of all, I have faith. Faith in myself, faith in him, and faith that we'll find a way to make it work, one ride at a time.
The title comes from "Halfway Home" by Jason Mraz. "I'm halfway home, and I'm still out on my own…" it's a great song.
Thanks again to ciaobella27 and antiaol for trusting me enough to actually pay for me to write. I love them, and I love you. Thank you. xoxox