DISCLAIMER: Twilight and its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. The remainder of the words, plot and lackluster formatting belong to me.

Thank you to my betas Scorp112 & LightStarDusting for all their support and advice. And thanks to everyone who is reading and reviewing.

Chapter 17: The Status Quo

"Everything is in a state of flux, including the status quo." ~ Robert Byrne


My talk with Bella didn't go exactly as I'd planned, but it turned out fine. She didn't reject my lunch invitation or ignore me. I don't think she could have even been considered angry, maybe stubborn or upset, but not mad.

I'd tried to wave her over to my table as soon as she'd walked into the cafeteria, but she didn't look my way. That kind of threw off my whole plan. As I sat there trying to re-formulate it, she was suddenly beside me, and I'd forgotten everything I'd planned to say. The words bubbled up out of nowhere, sounding more like verbal diarrhea than the well thought out position I'd prepared. Instead of explaining how I'd screwed up and proposing my fix, I got stuck on why I'd hit Mike, something she understood better than anyone else.

As I'd suspected, she was concerned that people were talking about what he'd done to her, and I made sure she knew they were actually talking about us. Instead of calming her fears, the news set her off all over again. In a classic case of transference, she redirected her frustration with the general situation at me, pressing me about how I would feel if people knew we were hanging out. I wanted to say more; I really did, but the middle of the cafeteria was not the place to have that conversation. Her upset was more than obvious, despite my reassurances. I could see it in the slump of her shoulders and her drawn mouth. Getting through to her would have to wait until the end of the school day. At least I'd have more privacy to explain myself when I drove her home.


I absent-mindedly tapped the beat of the radio's song on the steering wheel as I impatiently waited for Bella to arrive. Eventually I saw her peeking out from the windows of the double doors by the gym. Her eyes darted around the area in search of something. Seemingly satisfied by what she saw, she opened the door a crack and stuck her head out, looking from side-to-side. Her behavior was rather ridiculous given that I was in her direct sightline and she had yet to make eye contact with me. I honked to get her attention, thinking she'd somehow managed to miss that my Volvo was the only car in the entire parking lot, and earned a scowl from her. She rushed out of the building, run-walking to my car, and jumped in suspiciously.

"What is with you?" she demanded, glaring at me with her eyebrows knit together.

"With me? You're the one whispering, looking around, and hurrying. Did something happen? Mike didn't try anything, did he?"

"Of course not. I just… well, I… I mean…"

"Spit it out, Bella."

"I just don't want anyone to see us, okay?" Her voice was a mix of harshness and embarrassment. Part of her demeanor matched the blush on her cheeks, but I didn't understand the edge to her tone.

Hoping she didn't mean her words with the acridity they were delivered, I let logic prevail. "And why would that be?"

"Will you just drive? Please!" She looked out the window, checking nervously over her shoulder.

I pulled out of the lot without another word, hoping if I did as she asked that she might relax enough to let her guard down and talk to me. I couldn't imagine what was bothering her.

Instead of taking her home, I drove to the park near her house. The chances that we'd be disturbed there were substantially lower than if we went anywhere more public. I was determined to have this conversation, even if she felt contrarily. Once I parked the car, I asked her about her comment again.

"You didn't answer my question."

"Do you really need an answer?" she snapped, crossing her arms over her chest and looking out the window.

I reached out and put my hand on her shoulder, trying to separate her from whatever worry was consuming her, in a way that didn't involve words. She tensed and shrugged, closing her eyes as if I'd caused her pain. I pulled back, folding my hands into my lap, and looked down.

"Is it the gossiping? Because that won't last. People will get used to seeing us together and forget there was ever a time that we weren't friends."

She didn't respond in any way. Not even a nod. So I went on. "Did I do something? Please tell me, if I did. You know I don't know the first thing about being a good friend."

I watched her eyes study the playground equipment in the distance, tracing the squares of the jungle gym in a non-sequential pattern. She was working hard to keep her expression blank, but I could sense the upset she was hiding.

"Have you reconsidered the experiment?" I quietly asked. There was a chance that she simply wasn't comfortable telling me what I'd done. Or maybe what I'd done was too big—a deal breaker—and she was no longer at ease around me.

She remained silent.

I had only two choices: wait her out or give up. Hoping I wasn't pushing my luck, I chose the first, because giving up was unfathomable.

The sun sank lower on the horizon while the wind whipped around us, hurling dead leaves and whistling past the windows. Every moment of silence was defeating, dragging on endlessly only to meet with the next. I was stuck in a state of suspended animation. If not for the feel of my pulse in my ears, I might have been convinced I was dreaming.

When the last rays of sunshine disappeared below the horizon, I surrendered to the inevitable. She wasn't going to talk to me, and I was wasting her time and mine by waiting for her to do so.

Somewhere between putting the car in reverse and arriving in her driveway, she started to cry. Though I wanted to comfort her, I didn't dare. She'd already shown me exactly how much she didn't want me to touch her. I was helpless, utterly inept in every way.

"I just wanted to protect you," I started, my voice cracking under the tension I felt. "But it was incredibly stupid of me not to realize what I did might be tied to you. I thought it would be simpler to let them think we were together than allow them to dig deeper into the situation with Mike, even though I knew it went against our agreement. Just know that I never meant to hurt you or make you do anything you didn't want to do."

I watched tears stream down her face, selfishly wishing she'd get out of the car so I wouldn't have to witness her sorrow. The silence was maddening enough, but it paled in comparison to how dire her sadness made me feel, knowing the blame for it was entirely mine.

A few minutes passed, and I wasn't sure how much more I could take. I was on the verge of making an excuse so I could leave when she finally spoke, her voice so quiet it was barely decipherable.

"I don't want to lose you over this."

Her admission sucked all of the oxygen out of my lungs, and I sat dumbstruck for a few moments, trying to string together words that didn't sound like an accusation or censure. Had she not heard a word I'd said?

"You can say what they think doesn't matter, but that's just not true. If it were, we could have hung out at school from the very beginning. It matters, Edward, just like it'll matter when the truth comes out. It'll be your worst nightmare come to life, and I'll lose you all over again."

"Staying away from you had to do with my hang-ups, not you. You have to understand, I'm used to being by myself. I like being alone or I-"

"Which is exactly why going public to combat gossip is a bad idea. If you did it because you wanted to, that's one thing, but you're putting yourself under a lot of pressure to thwart rumors that have nothing to do with you. What if it's too much?" She rolled her eyes and shook her head, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "What am I saying? You know it's going to be too much! You're you, Edward: hater of social situations, avoider of connections of any kind. I had to watch you pull away once. I'm not sure I can do it again." She choked the last few words out, covering her face with her hands as a fresh round of tears started.

"If there were an award for handling every situation wrong, the lifetime achievement would be all mine," I grumbled under my breath, frustrated and angry with myself. "Look, this is my fault. I shouldn't have touched Mike without talking to you, and I should have found a way to speak to you about it last night. I swear I tried to do the right thing as soon as I'd realized what I'd done." Not knowing what else to do, I patted her knee, hoping against hope the gesture would somehow soothe her.

"You're wrong; it's my fault for not pressing charges. If I had, then you wouldn't have had to fight my battles for me, and you wouldn't feel forced to hang out with me to keep my secrets."

"I don't feel forced, Bella. I'm actually looking forward to hanging around with you more."

"You are?"

When she looked into my eyes for the first time since lunch, it felt like I could finally breathe again. I was too tired to acknowledge the gravity of the feeling, fearing it would send me into a panic all over again, so I pushed it away. I needed one moment where I wasn't worried about why I felt a certain way.

"You said it yourself: we're friends first. Why shouldn't we be able to act that way?"

She gave a small smile, which I was grateful for, even though it slipped from her lips too quickly for my liking.

"Is there something else bothering you?"

"No." She hesitated, turning away from my gaze. "Not really."

"It's better to get it all out in the open," I advised hypocritically. My justification for keeping my own secrets was weak, but unlike her, I was in control of my emotions. Since she wasn't, I'd rather she get whatever it was off her chest so we could clear the air between us, once and for all.

"I think, after lunch and everything else, I just got ahead of myself, and I just… well, I'm feeling overwhelmed."

"That's understandable… but we're okay, right?" I asked, needing the confirmation to quiet my doubts.

She sniffled a few times and dried her cheeks with the backs of her hands, taking a few moments to compose herself before she answered me. "Yeah, we're fine. It's gonna be weird for a while though, you know? People are going to be expecting to see us together. I'm not sure I'm ready to be watched twenty-four, seven." She laughed weakly, poorly disguising her dread.

"Don't let other's expectations warp your perspective. It's still just you and me in this…" I awkwardly pointed back and forth between us, searching for a word to describe our situation that I was comfortable using. "Well, this friendship or experiment or whatever this is."

"We could always coin our own term. How about experiship or friendiment?" she offered, a soft giggle bubbling out of her.

I despised portmanteaus. Ours wasn't an experimental friendship or a friendship experiment. Better she'd called it a sexperiment; at least the term more closely approximated what we were doing. Somewhere in the English language a word existed that would perfectly describe our relationship, even if I didn't know what it was. It certainly wasn't the bastardization of two inferior terms that, when combined, meant less than either on its own.

"I thought you said the labels between us didn't matter."

A blush exploded on her cheeks at my words. "Touché."

While I'd meant to use her words against her, I didn't want to make her feel uncomfortable again. It was better to end the afternoon while things were still positive between us. "So I'll pick you up tomorrow morning around eight?"

"You were serious about that?"

"Sure. Let's give them something to talk about," I joked, making light of her reference to being watched. I wanted her to understand that everything would be okay. The change in the way people saw or treated us was only temporary.

"Closet Bonnie Raitt fan, are you?"


She laughed at some inside joke I didn't understand. "Never mind. Eight is fine, and don't be late. We wouldn't want to keep our adoring fans waiting."

I waited for her to get inside before I drove away, just to make sure she was safe.


It was easy to adjust to our new routine. I actually enjoyed chauffeuring Bella. It gave me something to look forward to that didn't involve schoolwork or music. She always had a smile or an encouraging word for me. It was comforting to know that no matter how poorly my day might go, I had an ally waiting for me at the end of it.

Even though our lunches were often rather short on conversation, it was still nice to share the silence with someone. When we were around others, especially when we sat at her friends' table in the cafeteria, she was quietly observant and generally introverted. I wondered whether she was normally like that with them or if my presence had altered her behavior. She wasn't like that when it was just the two of us. She was her normal jovial and talkative self.

The most unexpected part of our new arrangement was the change in me. The more time I spent with Bella, the calmer I felt. It was a relief to see her at regular intervals, to know when, where, and how much time we'd spend together. I didn't have to wonder if she was okay; I could see for myself that she was safe and happy. Consequently, the roller coaster emotions of the last few weeks were gone—a welcomed absence—and I found myself on a much more even keel. I was content, going with the flow of things for the first time in my life, and I had no desire to rock the boat.

I'd learned from my mistake. I wouldn't take the chance of alienating Bella again by going over her head or overriding her ideas. I stood behind what I'd done to Mike but not the manner I'd done it. It took seeing Bella crying in my car to understand just how intensely she was affected. I never wanted to see her cry like that again, and I certainly never wanted to be the cause of it.

The new balance that we'd achieved at school came at the expense of our time outside of school. We still hadn't found an opportunity to discuss our latest experimental activity, and there was a part of me that would be happy if we never did. I wasn't particularly anxious to relive what had happened to me in the bathroom that afternoon, and I had no clue how to explain it to Bella without admitting what I'd realized. The separation from that day had quelled the intensity of what I'd felt watching her, thank goodness. I'd made peace with my feelings for her the best I could. They existed, and despite my wishes otherwise, in my eyes they changed the experiment and our relationship. I was, however, determined that they would not ruin our friendship.

The fact that Bella hadn't brought up the experiment since that afternoon made me wonder if it was dead in the water. I had mixed feelings about it. On one hand, it meant that I wouldn't have to deal with feeling exposed or worry about whether I could hide how I felt about her. On the other, I no longer had a justification to touch her. If Bella didn't want to experiment with me, it was improbable that she would be interested in a relationship with me. To be fair, I wasn't sure that I wanted something that real either. The instability of our friendship was challenging enough. Trying to manage something more intimate seemed almost insurmountable.

Most of the time I refused to think about it, holding on to the hope that the experiment was just stalled.

The upside of a delay was that it was easier to ignore my feelings for her because I wasn't thinking about touching her. There was something to be said for the status quo; our relationship was effortless. It was a pleasure to spend time with her.

Downtime became my enemy. She was frequently in my thoughts, and my mind progressed down a natural path past what we'd done to things I wanted to explore with her. It was as enthralling as it was confusing.

I thought about something as simple as kissing her, curious whether it would feel different now that I'd acknowledged my feelings. Would it be more intimate? More intense? Could it rival how I felt watching her touch herself or even surpass it? I wanted to experience that intensity again to determine if it was a one-time thing, to learn how it could amplify, wane, and change the interactions between us.

My mind didn't stop at kissing. I'd made a list of places on her body that I wanted to touch. The fact that I was unsure and nervous about actually doing it didn't stop my brain from imagining. It was no longer just to experience the acts or learn about how the female body worked. It was a deeper curiosity about what it would be like to experience these things with Bella.

Logically I knew that performing such intimate acts would emotionally and psychologically complicate things for me, and because of that, I should have been balking at the experiment. The fact that I still wanted to move forward knowing this made little sense to me. The situation was endlessly confusing to me, missing some key element that prevented me from reaching a full understanding of the matter.

Maybe that's why I appreciated the status quo the way I did. There was no awkwardness in it. I felt a secure sense of belonging within its confines. I didn't have to worry about what had been or what was to come, and just enjoyed our time together for what it was.

It wasn't that I was calm and happy all the time. I had bouts of doubt and desperation. Sometimes I thought I'd go mad if I didn't get to touch her again. In those moments, I reminded myself of one simple, powerful truth: what happened between us was beyond my control. The experiment's ultimate goal may have been set by me, but every step from beginning to end belonged to Bella; her agenda, at her pace. I wouldn't dream of pushing her into anything she wasn't comfortable with, especially after the fallout from hitting Mike. She would come to me if and when she was ready for things to move forward. Until then, out of respect, I was patiently content in the status quo.


I don't remember much after Edward's offer to drive me home, like how I got to my first class after lunch or my others, for that matter. I was lost in a bemused dream state that had quickly become my happy place. Not only did Edward have feelings for me there, he wasn't afraid to show them. I'd perused many delicious possibilities in my head by the time Emmett McCarty sidled up next to me on the way to my last class.

"Hey there, Bella-You-Smella," he crooned quietly, putting his arm around my waist and pulling me down the hallway with him.

"Hey, Em."

"What, no nickname? No Chem-Em or my personal favorite, Em-phlegm?

"You're only Chem-Em in chemistry, and I was always kind of partial to Semi-Emmy."

He snorted and ruffled my hair. "Only because Rosalie has a big mouth and liked my-"

"Enough!" I insisted, plugging my ears to show him just how much I wanted to avoid hearing the rest of his comment. "What can I do for you, big guy?"

"Do I need a reason to check on you?" His teasing tone was just a put on. His face was deadly serious.

"You know about what Edward did, don't you?" I hedged.

"I was there. I… helped." He proceeded to spill everything, starting with Edward's request for help during his calculus tutoring and ending with the drive home from Port Angeles. I resisted the urge to panic, hating that he knew the truth about Mike but comforted that he'd had Edward's back. The details left me dumbstruck, in particular how out of control Edward had become when fighting Mike. It was hard to imagine him that far gone.

"Why exactly are you telling me all of this?" I was completely missing his point and laughed to hide my confusion.

"I just want you to be careful with him, is all."

"You want me to be careful with Edward?"

"Well, yeah. I mean, he's a good guy, a little strange at times, but his heart is in the right place. I told him he should absolutely go for it with you."

"Oh, God, you didn't." I closed my eyes and took a deep breath to ward off the sick feeling in my stomach.

"Of course I did. I'd much rather see you with an upstanding guy like Edward than the butthead we beat up."

"Mike is… just no! And things aren't like that with Edward." The idea was already there, pushing hope through my veins like a drug. With the self-control of an addict, I let the words slip out. "Wait, did Edward say they were?"

"Nah, he seemed really against the idea, to be honest. He was kind of loco about it, in fact."

Of course he was against it, stupid girl.

I frowned and then quickly rearranged my expression to feign indifference. "Yeah, he can get pretty intense."

"This was like a whole other level, especially for him. I've never seen him adamant. Personally, I don't know what his problem is. You, my friend, are incredibly hot. He'd be lucky to have you, but if he's leaving you on the market, that's more for the rest of us."

Emmett and I had been friends forever. It was strange to hear him actually acknowledge that I was a girl, let alone be complimentary about it. "Thanks. It's too bad Rosalie snagged you first. You and I would have made a hell of a team," I teased.

"Does she ever mention me?" he asked suddenly, his tone void of the cockiness it regularly held.


"What? It's no different than you asking what Edward said about you."

He was right in his own candid, fucked up way, except that what he had with Rosalie was real, a connection between the two of them that lived and breathed. Inserting myself into the middle of it felt disrespectful. Edward and I were nothing but microbes in a Petri dish, independently capitalizing on an opportunity provided by the situation.

"It's not the same. You and Rose cared about each other. You said yourself that you don't think Edward's interested in me."

"Are you interested in him?"

"He's against the idea, so what does it matter?"

"I just don't want to see you get hurt."

"Too late." I smiled sadly and gave his arm an affectionate squeeze. "I've gotta go before I'm late for class."

Emmett could see that I was in over my head without knowing any of the details. His attitude about my chances with Edward echoed everything Edward had ever said and done. The naïve hope from lunch collapsed, and the shame of knowing better had its way with me, gutting me until I was an empty shell.

One thing was crystal clear: I couldn't be a part of the experiment in front of people. The secrecy helped to hide the truth. At least behind closed doors no one but me would see that Edward didn't care.

The insulting assumptions Jessica made about me in last period were the cherry on top of my shitty day. I didn't have the will to defend myself and knew there was really no point in trying. I took to watching the clock, anxious for the bell and the end of pretending that I was okay. I most certainly wasn't. I just wanted to go home, curl up in a ball, and give up.

When class finished, I escaped to the bathroom. I was at my breaking point, unable to handle another snide remark or nosy gawk without falling apart. The sound of footsteps made me hold my breath. Fragile and overwhelmed, I dashed into a stall to hide. Tears threatened so I tilted my head back and stared at the ceiling to keep them from spilling, too stubborn to allow them to fall. This would not break me. I wouldn't—couldn't—allow it.

Edward's ability to deal with the unwanted attention on us scared me as much as it surprised me. His tendency to internalize the way he felt about things could be disastrous, if he were actually feeling like I was about the gossiping. If it built up on him and got to be too much, he would shut down and pull away from me, maybe even permanently. Going public just wasn't worth the risk.

Part of me wanted to convince him to keep things between us a secret. I just couldn't decide whether I was being selfish or afraid to be out of my comfort zone. He seemed happy enough that we didn't have to hide our friendship anymore, but I couldn't shake the doubt that he was hiding something from me. This was a big change for him, and he never did things without a reason. To have faith in his choice, I had to know what was behind his decision. Until then, it would be hard to trust his motives.

By the time my eyes were dry and back to normal, the school had emptied out. That didn't stop me from checking carefully before I left the stall, the bathroom, or even the building.

I was feeling raw and exposed—vulnerable to my very core—and I should have known better than to speak honestly to Edward when he asked why I was acting strange.

He was my breaking point.

I lashed out at him rather than explain why I didn't want people to see us together. I should have taken the words back as soon as they left my lips. Instead I let the guilt for uttering them take me further under, struggling with my desire to keep what I had with Edward behind closed doors and being honest about my fears.

When he placed a gentle hand on my shoulder to console me, I was too afraid to let my guard down and shook it off. I wanted his comfort so badly that I was ashamed of myself, but if I accepted it, I knew I'd fall apart.

I sat in silence and choked on the words that came up as he offered me excuses to explain my behavior. I couldn't trust myself to speak without breaking down. It wasn't just the gossiping, what he'd done, or the experiment; it was all three. It was how they fit together and what they said about me.

Again and again I counted and breathed deeply, searching for the calm that eluded me. The longer the silence stretched on, the harder it was to break. There was no logic to my thoughts or feelings, and the feeble words of explanation crumbled before they reached my lips.

The moment his hand moved, faltering once then again as he reached for the gearshift, I knew what it meant. He was done. Done with our non-talk, our experiment, me; it didn't matter which. They all felt the same, and I deserved it. He was clueless and had given me more than my share of his patience. My silence was as bad as my half-thoughts or illogical ramblings would have been. From his perspective, it might have been worse.

Without meaning to, I'd made matters worse and for nothing. The tears came anyway. When he noticed, he offered an explanation for his behavior over the last few days. I understood why he'd done things his way, but I needed him to know why I was so dead set against it: I didn't want to lose him. In spite of his claim that he didn't care what others thought, on some level it mattered to him. Otherwise, we would have been hanging out ever since I'd asked him to be my friend.

I knew he preferred to be by himself; I'd always known. The reminder made me feel stupid all over again for thinking that I could break into his intentionally isolated existence.

He turned the tables on me when he tried to take the blame for the state of things between us. I just couldn't let him do it. I was the one who'd taken the coward's way out by not pressing charges. I'd allowed my father's doubts to make me feel responsible for what Mike had done to me. The only thing I'd accomplished by ignoring Mike's behavior was to set myself up for a repeat performance. It was because of me that Edward felt forced to fight my battles and hang around with me at school to protect my reputation. He was a good friend; I was the one faltering in that department.

I felt like I didn't deserve his kindness when he told me he was looking forward to hanging out with me. Part of me still doubted him. His choice was at odds with everything I knew about him. Instead of focusing on that, I decided to take him at his word and look at going public as an opportunity to do something for him, to give him something he seemed to want. Getting used to the staring and gossiping would be hard, but I wanted to try to be the kind of friend he deserved.

School was strange; there was no two ways about it. My friendship with Edward was on full display for everyone's scrutiny, and it was a place I never thought I'd find myself. I constantly worried that people could tell I had feelings for him. There were times I felt so obvious that it must have been written all over my face. I found myself second guessing every response to him, checking and rechecking my tells to perfect my poker face.

Alice and Rosalie were wonderful. Alice invited Edward to have lunch with us and did her best to include him in the conversation. Rosalie wasn't exactly warm to him, but her sacrifice was no less sincere. When Eric Yorkie made a smart-assed remark about Edward's presence at our table, she put him in his place with the ferocity of a lioness protecting her young. Eric didn't know what hit him, and while I doubted that Edward understood the gesture for what it was, I knew it was her way of making it clear that he was welcome to sit with us.

Most days we ate by ourselves. Lunches were quiet. He didn't talk a lot, and I talked even less. Even after the staring died down and most people had accepted our friendship, I still felt more comfortable with my guard up. I was protecting him as much as myself. All it would take was one wrong move—a laugh-snort or goo-goo eyes—for someone to get in his face about me. I didn't want him to have to deal with any negativity as a result of something I'd done.

Lunch was our only contact at school. We didn't walk together in the halls or speak between classes. The last thing he did each time we were together was make arrangements for the next time we'd meet up; mornings and after school, too. I figured the separation was his way of dealing with our overexposure.

Our drives to and from school were my favorite parts of each day. It was the only time where I could truly be myself around him without worrying about who might be watching.

He didn't bring up the experiment, and it didn't feel right to push him, at least not at first. We weren't spending any time together outside of our new school routine, and after a couple of weeks, I found myself getting antsy. The subtle hints I dropped fell on deaf ears. He seemed content to coexist in this bizarre version of our former relationship.

I started to watch him even closer, trying to decide for myself whether he was ready to get back to our experiment. The downside of my pursuit was that it made me hyperaware of how many ways I was attracted to him, making me all the more anxious to pick up where we'd left off. I began dreaming up scenarios using triggers from our past that might force the issue; things like my red bikini or walking away from him that had compelled a physical reaction from him. The problem was that I needed him outside of school to use any of them, and I couldn't seem to make that happen.

I asked him to come over a couple different times. The first invitation coincided with his mother's trip home, and my father got in the way the second time. Edward made no attempt to reciprocate my invites. I was beginning to think he might be done with the experiment. In three weeks time I'd gone from thinking I'd lose my virginity to him, to wondering if I'd ever get to touch him again.

I hated the direction we seemed to be moving in and couldn't accept it without a fight. I had to at least try to do something about it.

All along we'd discussed each step before and after we did it. It felt like I could afford to do that now. He'd had plenty of time since our last undertaking to figure out things on his end. Either he'd made peace with what had happened or decided he'd had enough. If the latter was the case, then I had one chance to reengage him. Whatever I chose had to be big and of the no-regrets variety. If ever a situation required my all, this was it.

To make something happen, I had to get him alone. Inviting him to my house left the decision up to him and was too passive for my liking. I had to go to him. Once I was there, I couldn't take no for an answer. I wasn't going to force the situation or myself on him, but I wanted him to be certain that I was ready to take the next step.

On Friday, I fished for details about his weekend. Aside from some tutoring with Emmett on Sunday afternoon, his weekend was pretty wide open.

"Do you ever go to Seattle to visit your mom, or does she always come to you?" I asked, curious if his mother might be part of his weekend plans.

"She doesn't like me traveling during the school year, but I go in the summer sometimes. And I never miss the homecoming concert."

"What's that?"

"The first concert back in Seattle after the winter tour is over. There's nothing like the enthusiasm of musicians that have finally come home after so many months away. They pour all their relief into the music, and the results are breathtaking. You should come with me this year, I mean, if you'd like to… if you're interested in that sort of thing."

"Would it be okay if I came?" I asked, caught off guard by his unexpected invitation. "I wouldn't want to get in the way of you and your mom. I know you don't get to spend as much time with her as you'd like."

"She's pretty busy that weekend, so I don't really get to spend that much time with her. We usually go to lunch, but you'd be more than welcome to come along. I'd like you to meet her."

"Really?" I was surprised to hear that he wanted me to meet his mom but quickly tamped down the hope that bloomed in the pit of my stomach. The introduction had nothing to do with any special place I held in his life and everything to do with the fact that he was proud of her. Knowing this didn't prevent me from feeling disappointed that the traditional meaning was completely absent.

"We're not at all alike; she's wonderful with people. You'll feel like you've known her your whole life after just a few minutes with her, or so I'm told."

"I've never been to the symphony," I admitted quietly, mulling over the idea. Charlie would be my greatest obstacle. Without parental supervision, he wasn't likely to agree to let me go.

"Well, think about it. I'll go ahead and arrange things with my mother, and if you can make it, great. It would be nice to have someone to share the music with."

I smiled in response, wondering if he'd feel the same way once tomorrow was over with. He'd just confirmed that his Saturday was empty, and I had every intention of filling it up.

A/N: Edward hates portmanteaus and thinks a word exists somewhere in the English language to perfectly describe their relationship. Does anyone have an idea what that might be? ::giggles:: ;)

How do you feel our dear Cluelessward is doing with coming to terms with his feelings? Want to kill him for not being honest or for hiding his feelings from Bella? Do you think he's doing as good a job hiding his feelings as he does?

Do you think Emmett did the right thing by coming clean with Bella or should he have kept his opinions to himself?

Did you think Bella had lost her marbles before you read her POV? Is she going about things the wrong way with respect to the experiment? Any idea what she's got planned?

Let me know what you think. Click the review button and tell me!