Title: Forever

Rating: NC-17

Disclaimer: All characters and persons in this story belong to their respective owners. No copyright infringement was intended.

Summary: We can't always keep our promises of forever. Written for The Love Lost contest.

Special congratulations to the winners. Other entries can be found at .net/u/2458839/Love_Lost_Contest

Thank you to PTB for providing two wonderful beta's. SandiCarr and AGirlReckoning, I appreciate your time up into this. Thank you so much.

Eleven months, one week, three days. I was painfully aware of each day that I had to live alone. I balanced the shiny diamond bands between my forefinger and thumb, taking another sip of my whiskey as I looked at my only things left of him. Another tear slipped out of my eye. I didn't even bother to catch them as they fell anymore.

I put my rings down on the bar before me, staring at the contrast between the shiny jewels and the dull, scratched wood. I remembered the moment he gave me each of those rings. He was always such a romantic.

"Isabella Swan, may I have this dance?"

I stood from my seat at his parent's 25th wedding anniversary party, taking his hand and returning his smile.

"I suppose, Mr. Cullen." He kissed my hand softly and led us out to the dance floor. His musky, citrusy scent enveloped me, along with his arms. We swayed slowly to Tyrone Wells' 'Sea Breeze.'

"Do you know how much I love you?" he asked, kissing my forehead and holding me close.

I lifted my head and brushed my lips against his. "You do a great job of reminding me."

He smiled and kissed me again.

"Do you think we'll get here?" I asked.

"Get where, baby?"

"Twenty five years of marriage."

He laughed, the sight always warming my heart. "You're getting a little ahead of yourself, Isabella. I haven't asked you to marry me yet."

"Well, what are you waiting for?" I challenged, playfulness laced through my words.

He looked at me with a bemused expression, his smile widening. "You've read my mind, baby," he murmured before kissing me again.

Before I knew what was happening, Edward was down on one knee and had removed a small black box from his pocket. In the middle of the dance floor, eyes turned from every direction, to watch the scene that was laid out before them.

"Isabella Marie, I don't want to spend another day without you as my wife. You are my best friend, my other half. I promise to love you every moment of forever. Please, will you marry me?"

I could barely focus on his beautiful face, for my eyes were filled with tears. My voice decided not to function, so I opted to nod my head, instead. He slipped the beautiful solitaire oval diamond onto my finger, and kissed my hand before rising to his feet and lifting me off the floor. I swung around in his arms, marveling at my new ring and the new future set before me.

"Refill, ma'am?" the bartender asked in his thick English accent. I wiped my eyes and held out my glass.

"Yes," I said, the word burning a hole through my heart. I should have been able to say that simple word when Edward purposed.

I looked around at the hole-in-the-wall pub that I was in. I had no idea what it was called; it was just the first bar I could find when I left my new apartment earlier this evening. I still wasn't sure of what the hell I was doing. He and I always talked about moving to England one day. The publishing house I worked for had a company out here, and I finally decided to ask to be relocated. I tried to convince myself that I was doing it for him. He would have been proud of me. I guess I also couldn't bear to be in the same place for any longer. I thought moving here would take some of the pain away.

It hadn't.

"Isabella, why are you leaving? You know we want you to stay." Tears fell from Esme's green eyes. "You're all we have left of him."

It was hard just to look at her. People always said that he looked exactly like his mother.

I shook my head. Esme, Carlisle and I sat at their kitchen table. I had come to tell them goodbye. I wished so badly that they could understand why I needed to do this.

"I can't be here anymore," I tried to explain. "I can't wake up in that bed without him. Every morning, I reach out for him. I look around our room and expect to see him there. There are just too many memories.

"I'm not strong enough for this. I'm sorry."

I gingerly took a sip of the whiskey, the liquid burning my throat on its way down. I didn't usually drink the heavy stuff. The more I drank, the more it drowned the memories of him. I always wanted to remember. It was painful, everyday it hurt like hell, but I would always remember. I used to only drink with him, only feeling safe enough in his presence to lose myself to the ways of alcohol. I've never had much of a tolerance, crazy things always happened, but he was there to take care of me. I silently wondered who would take care of me tonight as I took another sip.

"Eddie!" I exclaimed from the top of the stairs of our house, leaning over the railing. "Eddie, come here!"

He left the den and walked to where I could see him. "Hi, baby!" I giggled.

"Isabella, honey, why are you drinking so early? The party hasn't even started yet."

"Well, I found my bottle of wine, and it was just sooo tasty." I puckered my lips and rubbed my belly. Edward laughed and shook his head, beginning to climb the stairs.

"You crazy drunken girl. What am I going to do with you?"

I skipped over to him when he reached the top step and threw my arms around his neck. "The party doesn't start for another hour. I can think of something you can do with me."

He laughed, leaning down to kiss my neck. "I would feel like I'm taking advantage of you. You're not really in the right state of mind."

I looked at him sternly, placing my hands on my hips. "Mr. Cullen, don't you know by now that I want you all the time? Drunk, high, moody, angry… especially angry…mmm, angry make up sex! Hey! Idea! Get mad at me, so I can get mad at you, so we can have angry make up sex!"

He lifted me up bridal style and walked me into our bedroom. "I'd rather just make love to you without the curse words and flying vases."

"Vases. Ah, which reminds me, you owe me a new vase."

"You're the one who threw it at me!" He placed me down on the large bed and moved on top of me, allowing me to feel the weight of him.

"Well, you're the one who pissed me off," I reasoned.

"Buy your own damn vase, woman," he muttered as he made his way down my neck, successfully taking my mind off of anything but him.

I was too lost in my memory to notice the person who now occupied the seat two stools down. I must have missed him coming in. He sat there, hat pulled down to cover his eyes, and his gazed fixed on his Heineken, already halfway gone. He must have noticed my appraisal of him, for he looked up and made eye contact with me. I smiled the best I could; smiling wasn't really my forte anymore, and looked back down at my own drink.

"You okay?" he asked, voice deep and smooth, sounding way too much like Edward's for my comfort.

I nodded and looked back at him. "I get that question a lot these days."

He smiled and nodded in agreement. I knew exactly who he was. It was impossible not to recognize him. I just didn't really care.

"What are you drinking?" he asked a few moments later, choosing to move over barstools so only one sat between us.

"Whiskey."

He laughed. "Yeah, I figured that much. What kind?"

I shrugged my shoulders and focused my eyes on my rings that still rested on the bar. "Beats the hell out of me."

He didn't really try to talk to me much after that. For a good while, he and I just sat in silence. He was finishing up his third beer when I spoke to him again.

"Do you usually come to bars by yourself and drink alone?"

He didn't look at me when he answered. "This is actually the first time I've gone out in a while. I just moved back to London last week." His voice sounded defeated.

I didn't press further.

I placed my rings back onto my finger and rose from my stool, pausing before walking away.

"I like this place. It's a good escape," I said without meeting his gaze. I felt his eyes on me for only a moment. I didn't wait for an answer; I walked out of the pub and back into the brisk London air, feeling like I was breathing in ice.

"Do you remember the day we met?" he asked as we sat on the bench outside the restaurant. We were escaping from our own rehearsal dinner.

"Of course, I do." Edward had his arms wrapped tightly around me. It was unusually cold for an August night in Forks.

"Besides just going to high school together…" he stated.

"Are you asking if I remember the day we met or the day you actually spoke to me?"

He laughed. "I remember both, baby."

"Oh yeah?" I challenged.

"We met freshman year. You had just moved to Forks and we were at Jessica's party. I saw you the moment you walked in. Jasper introduced us and I honestly couldn't fucking find my voice to say hi. I felt like such a fucking idiot," he explained.

I laughed, melting into him. "I thought you were ignoring me. I cried when I got home that night."

He kissed the top of my head. "I made up for it though, right?"

"Sorry, love," I said laughing, "I don't think junior year biology counts. You spoke, but you were a jackass."

"I didn't know how to act around you."

"I'm glad you finally got your act together." I playfully hit his leg with the back of my hand.

"Me too." He kissed me softly on the lips.

"By the way," I began, "I'm taking this weather as a bad omen. It should not be this cold."

He laughed, hugging me closer. "You're gonna jinx us, baby. I'm not all kept up on the rules, but I'm pretty sure stating that the night before our wedding is some sort of a bad omen is a big no."

I lifted my head to kiss him. "You're my soul mate, Edward. Omen or not, nothing can take you away from me."

He kissed me back. "I'm yours forever."

I woke up in a cold sweat. You would think I would have been used to the dreams by now. My subconscious knew that I needed Edward in my life, and if he wasn't here to be with me during the day, he made a grand appearance in my dreams at night. Some dreams were better than others. Some were happy memories, some weren't. Either way, it left the burning dark hole in my chest.

I put my hands over my heart, trying to ease the pain. I began to shiver, and I noticed that I had kicked all the covers off of me during the night. I remembered a time when Edward and I didn't even bother with covers. I would wake up sweating in the night with him and our blanket on top of me. I finally told him that it was either him or the duvet. He had won.

I turned over in bed and faced the empty side. I grabbed onto the pillow that wasn't even his and started my daily morning ritual – crying out the pain from the night until a soft numbness covered my senses.

It was pathetic, really, but I had no other way of coping.

"What do you want to do today, baby?" he asked, sitting down beside me on our couch.

"Edward, you know I need to finish this manuscript." I readjusted my reading glasses and continued to skim through the words on the page.

"Isabella, it's a beautiful day. Let's go for a hike or something, maybe a boat ride?"

I finally looked up at him. "That sounds great, babe, it really does, but I have a deadline here."

"Life has a deadline, honey. Don't waste it." He gently removed the thick stack of papers from my hand and placed them on the table beside me.

"Spend time with me," he pleaded. I pushed him back into a sitting position on the couch and straddled his lap.

"You know you are my first focus in life," I tried to remind him.

"Then show me."

I couldn't refuse him when he looked at me that way. I bent down and locked lips with him. Edward didn't usually show his vulnerable side and I needed to be supportive of him when he did. He needed me just as much as I needed him. We were two halves to a whole. He held me tightly to his body, and after a few minutes he carried me up to the bedroom.

"I want to cherish you forever," he said between kisses and caresses.

"You have me forever."

We spent the day in bed, enjoying each other. I loved it when he would remind me what was important in life. He was my first, my only.

I didn't spend any time getting ready. Why should I? I've spent the past eleven months, one week, and four days looking like hell. The dark circles under my eyes were now permanent features etched on my pale skin. I tried to remind myself that I had actually met someone famous last night, hoping that would lift my spirits.

It didn't.

I walked into the smoky pub in a pair of worn out jeans and one of Edward's t-shirts that I tied at my waist. I definitely wouldn't win any fashion awards with my ensemble. I tried to remember a time when I actually attempted at keeping up with the latest seasons of clothing. Alice used to help me a lot with that area of my life. But that too, was now filled with blackness.

I saw him up at the bar, the blue baseball cap making a reappearance. I sat at the same stool I had the night before, noticing a whiskey waiting for me.

"Thank you," I said softly, getting comfortable on my seat.

He nodded his head, taking a sip of his beer. "I was beginning to think you weren't coming."

I checked the clock on the wall, noticing it was already going on eleven. "I didn't even know it was that late, I'm sorry. I don't really keep track of the time anymore."

He looked at me, his facial hair taking over his strong jaw line, hiding his face. "So, I never got a chance to ask you your name last night."

I took a sip of my drink before answering. "Isabella Cullen."

"A beautiful name for a beautiful girl," he said quickly, before shaking his head and laughing awkwardly. "Sorry, that was a bad line."

I laughed at his bad attempt at a pick up. "I'm Rob, by the way."

I smiled, not amused with him, per say, but thinking that it was funny what my reaction would have been a year ago. "Yes, I'm well aware of who you are, Mr. Pattinson."

"Oh." He looked surprise. "I actually thought you had no idea. It was kind of nice."

I looked at him, trying to reassure him. "Don't worry, I'm not going to go all fan girl, or push you into a taxi. Really."

"Good to know." He smiled. I hated his smile already. It was too familiar.

We sat in silence for a few minutes after that, and unfortunately, it wasn't the peaceful kind of silence, the tension could have been cut with a knife, repeatedly.

"I was actually hoping that we would talk more tonight. Are you crushing my hopes so early on in the evening, Isabella?"

"I think I need to finish this drink before anything interesting comes out of this mouth."

He laughed and finished his beer. "Go on then," he encouraged. "Next round's on you."

I laughed and painfully finished my whiskey. "How about something not so harsh this time."

"Okay, mate, what would you like?"

"I'll have what you're having."

He smirked and called over the bartender. "A pitcher of Heineken, please."

"Am I an idiot, Isabella? That's it. I am. I know it. Ah, fuck." He rested his head in his hands, taking the time to remove his cap and run his fingers through his messy hair, probably for the hundredth time in the past two hours that we had been sitting here.

"You know Robert, can I call you Robert? You are an idiot, but fuck if I wouldn't have done the same damn thing." I could feel the alcohol swim through my system, taking the edge off of this random interaction.

"Seven years. I fucking loved that woman for seven years. What do I get in return? I get a phone call – A PHONE CALL – telling me that she's going to marry Tom. That's just low."

"Rub my face in the dirt, low."

"What?" he looked at me confused.

"Nothing, continue." I really needed to monitor my drunken babble.

"You want to know what she told me?" he asked, leaning over towards me, pointing at himself.

"What's that?"

"That she didn't want to get married. That she couldn't be with me because she knew I wanted to get married and she didn't. She was "doing me a favor!"

"So, are you going to their wedding?"

"Ah, fuck if I know." He shrugged and took another pull of his beer.

"So, is that why you moved back to London? Nursing a broken heart?"

"Yeah, yeah. Don't make it sound all poetic though, Isabella. It real life hurts."

"Real life hurts?"

"Yeah, you know, when it really fucking hurts. Like it feels like my chest, right here," he said, pointing to his heart, "just went missing. It's gone. She took it from me."

I decided not to mention that I knew exactly what he was talking about, if not more.

"Seven years, huh?" I went with instead.

"Seven long, painful, wonderful, shitty years." He took another drag of his beer. I couldn't remember how many either of us has had.

"Love breaks you, what can I say?"

"You know, Isabella, can I call you Bella?"

I shrugged my shoulders. "Why not?"

"Okay, Bella, you really get me. It's like, here you are, and you get me."

"I think you've drank too much."

"Nahhhh. You haven't dranken enough."

"Dranken isn't a word."

"Exactly my point." He called the bartender over and ordered us a round of shots.

I listened to Robert ramble on about his ex girlfriend for probably an hour more.

"You have really shiny hair," he said, lifting his hand to rub his fingers through my hair and down my face. I leaned my head into the contact. I hadn't been touched in so long, even just in an innocent caress.

"You have shiny hair," I replied drunkenly.

"I want to shave it off." He removed his cap and rubbed his head.

I lifted my hand, and starting at the top of his forehead, moved my hand back down his scalp, feeling the softness of his hair. He sighed as my nails gently scratched the back of his neck.

"Don't," I said simply.

Our faces, unaware by me until that moment, were very close. My hand was still at the back of his neck and he moved his calloused hand to stroke my cheek. We were suddenly very silent. I breathed when he breathed, and our breaths became heavier. I wasn't sure if it was from the moment or the alcohol, but this was going in a direction that I didn't want to go in, but didn't know how to stop.

"Come back to my place."

I was shocked when I realized that it was my voice that sounded the request. He rubbed my cheek again, before pulling out cash from his wallet and throwing it on the bar.

I led the way back to my apartment. We didn't touch or talk on the way there. We both stood in the elevator, facing forward, meeting each other's eyes in the mirror on the door. When the door opened, we exited and I, with shaking hands, unlocked the door to my place.

As soon as we stepped inside, Rob had me pinned up against the wall. His hands were in my hair and mine were gripping his back. I wrapped my leg around him and he kissed me with passion. I tasted the beer mixed with cigarette smoke. His tongue danced with mine, sloppily but with need. I moaned into his mouth and he pressed his body fully against me.

I felt his desire making contact with my own. It had been so long since I had been with a man. I suddenly realized that I needed this. I needed to be touched again, to be intimate again.

I pushed on Rob's shoulders, and he stumbled back a few steps, looking at me questioningly, lips swollen and pupils dilated. I walked passed him towards my bedroom, removing my shirt as I went. He got the idea and removed his own shirt, following my path.

I kept the light off, but I could still see him from the glow through my window from the lights of the busy London streets.

I faced him as he entered my room, my legs pressed up against the edge of the bed. He walked in slowly, taking in my shirtless form. He came up to me and kissed me gently.

"Are you sure?" he asked, voice barely above a whisper.

"Please," I replied.

"What secrets are you keeping from me, Bella?" He looked deep into my eyes to find an answer.

"I'll tell you everything… after."

My answer seemed good enough for him and he continued where we had left off.

His hands were unfamiliar, yet warm, as he traveled along my body, sliding along my curves and setting my skin on fire. We didn't speak as we finished undressing each other. Rob pulled a condom out of his pocket, typical man, and slid it upon himself before lying on top of me on the mattress.

He kissed up my stomach and along my breasts, cupping them in his hand, before finding my mouth with his again. I felt him align himself with my entrance, and we both moaned as he entered me.

He started slowly but quickly picked up his pace. His thrusts were even and hard, and I met each with equal intensity. We were both pouring out emotions and feelings for two people who weren't present in this room.

My eyes were sealed shut and he buried his face into my neck. His moans weren't for me and I knew it.

Mine weren't for him, either.

I imagined different hands feeling around my body, matching Rob's movements. I felt different lips when he bent down to kiss me. And it wasn't Rob's name I screamed as I came.

He was okay with that; he understood. He panted heavily on top of me and gently removed himself from me and fell on the open space of the bed. We both lay looking up at the ceiling, trying to calm ourselves.

After a while, Robert got up and found his way to my attached bathroom to clean up. I made my trip after him and we both climbed back into bed together. He opened up his arms for me and I lay my head down on his chest.

"Bella?" he said softly.

"Yeah?"

"Who is Edward?"

I felt the tears rise at the mention of his name. "He was my husband."

He was quiet for a good moment before he spoke. "I'm sorry," he said, stroking my hair.

"Yeah," I agreed. "Me too."

I stood before him. "How could you?" I sobbed.

"How could you leave me?"

He stayed quiet, of course.

"I needed you. You promised me forever. You vowed forever."

I dropped to my knees and pounded the soft grass.

"Why?" I begged.

My body rocked with the force of my tears. I was loud and open for all to see. My vulnerability displayed clearly.

"You need to come back. Please, Edward. I need you so badly to come back to me.

"We need to have our babies," I reasoned. "We need to raise them and grow old together. You need to hold my hand when they get married. You need to dance with me on our anniversary.

"I can't do this alone. I don't know how to be alone. You are everything I have."

"Please," I begged. "Please, come back."

"My life is entwined with yours. We are one. Didn't you know that, baby? We are one. We're not supposed to be apart. It's Edward and Isabella. Always. Why did you leave me by myself?"

I lay down, pressing myself onto the ground. "What do I do now?" My cries sounded so defeated.

I closed my eyes as images of him flashed vividly behind my lids. His life, our life, tangled as one. I saw him as a lanky freshmen, all the way through high school. I saw us at prom together and graduation. Memories of our time together in college was hazy but special. I saw him proposing at his parent's party. I relived our wedding day, how beautiful he looked and how amazing he made me feel.

I remembered our six years of marriage. I remembered every kiss and every touch. I remembered his smile, his beautiful, sincere smile.

I cried into the grass, right above where my husband was buried. I came here often, needing to talk to him or to ask again how he could leave this world without me. I looked up at his gravestone, brushing away the weeds that had grown around the gray mass.

Edward Anthony Cullen

Beloved husband, son & friend

May you live in our hearts forever

Forever, I thought.

"I'm leaving, Edward," I finally told him.

"I'm finally going to England. I know you would be so excited if you were still here. I wish you were still here. I want you to come with me."

I placed my hand on the ground where I believed his heart to be. "But I know that you'll always be with me. You're my soul mate, right? My heart is right here with you, and yours is right here." I pointed to my chest.

"I'll carry it with me, always."

I stood up and blew a kiss at my beloved, walking away, leaving another piece of myself behind with him.

I awoke the next morning, still curled into Robert's sleeping body. I looked around the room and my first thought was how I missed Edward. I removed myself from the bed and headed to the bathroom, I really didn't feel like crying in front of Rob this morning.

Probably a half an hour later, I exited the small bathroom and found Rob sitting up in bed, looking out the window. He turned when he heard me and smiled.

"Hey," he said softly, voice still husky.

"Hey," I responded, covering myself with my robe that I had put on in the bathroom.

He stood up, having put on his boxers at some point, and stood awkwardly facing me.

"Do you want to go get some coffee?" he asked voice strong and sure.

"Robert, I don't know," I said quietly.

"No, Bella, listen." He stepped toward to me. "Just a cup of coffee. That's it. We don't even have to talk, just come sit with me."

I consented, and we both showered, separately, and got dressed.He led me to a small diner, if that's what you even call them in England, and sat down in a small booth. Robert covered his face with his hat and sat facing the back wall of the small restaurant, obviously trying to avoid being noticed.

"I want to ask you something," he finally said.

"Okay," I responded hesitantly.

"I don't know what happened with you or Edward, and I clearly see that he is such a big part of you. But I don't want you to die along with him, Bella."

"Where is this going, Rob?" I asked, becoming angry.

He shrugged. "I have a lot of baggage."

I nodded, staying quiet and allowing him to continue.

"You scare me," he added.

I looked down at my folded hands in my lap. "I think you're so beautiful."

I looked up at him at his words, laced with sincerity.

"Bella, I have a proposition for you. For the next year, yes, I know that sounds like a long time, but hear me out. For the next year, I want you to meet me here, at this little shit-in-the-hole restaurant every morning. I want you to tell me about Edward. I want to hear your story and share your pain. I want you to tell me your fears and your thoughts. Some days, we don't even have to speak. I want to tell you about me. I need someone to listen to me.

"Will you agree to that?"

"Why?" I asked, completely thrown off by his request.

"I want you to know me. I don't want to do this by myself, and I don't want you to keep going through this alone, either."

"Nothing else, all you're asking is to meet here. No strings attached, right?"

"No strings. Just some stale coffee and an open ear."

I didn't know why I was going to agree, but I nodded my head and said okay. He smiled so widely that it caused me to smile myself.

"Where should I start?" I asked.

"Anywhere," he encouraged.

I took a deep breath and tried to figure out in my head where to begin. I decided that the honest truth was my best bet.

"Well, Edward Cullen was my soul mate. I loved him from the moment I saw him…"

Rob leaned in closely and listened to me describe my best friend, my lover, my Edward. We stayed in the diner for three hours on our first visit, and as promised, returned everyday for the next year.

I couldn't pinpoint the moment when I fell in love with Rob, but it was sometime during one of our breakfast dates over the course of that year.

He made me laugh, he caused some tears, but most importantly, he broke through all of my walls. He let me love Edward in a way that was never going to change, but at the same time allowed me, at my own pace, to fall in love with him as well. He held me as I cried for my lost husband and never made me feel guilty for the love of my past.

Our mornings together became a healing ground for each of us. There were times when he just shared things about himself, about the girl he left in the States and the pain and joy that she caused him.

We were two broken souls trying to fix each other.

Never in my life could I think one woman could be loved so much. And that's what I was, loved. Two men had given their hearts to me, loving me more than what was fair. My life, up to this point, had been full of love, devotion, and commitment. It also bore witness to pain so intense I felt like I was drowning, hurt so powerful it took months of my life away, and grief that still haunted me daily.

The moment that I was standing in was really very bittersweet. I wrapped my arms around his neck as he held me at my waist, swaying gently to a song that held more meaning to me than it did to most others. Tyrone Well's 'Sea Breeze' filled the room and Robert held me closely, singing along with the music.

I looked around the room at the people who were here to celebrate with us. I saw the faces of our children and their spouses. I saw our oldest daughter, holding her stomach as her twins were due any day now. Years of evidence of our life together surrounded this space.

Twenty five years of marriage. It had been hard, but not the hardest thing I had lived through. My love for Robert was intense, it was driven and raw. He saw every side of me. He witnessed me at my lowest moments, hell, he was the one who dragged me out of my own personal hell all those years ago.

The rings on my left hand are different in a lot of ways compared to the rings that are secured by a gold chain around my neck, each representing my love for the two most significant men in my life.

I truly believe that Edward was my soul mate, but Robert was the love of my life.

Both equally important.

"I love you," I whispered in his ear.

He smiled and kissed me, lips so familiar. "As I love you."

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