A/N So, this is officially the first story that I ever wrote. Everyone worried about consistency, never fear, I have 5 months of updates to this one. I will be posting every 2 weeks. I hope you enjoy, and thanks in advance for reading. To all my readers that read Here With Me, I have not abandoned it. I will hopefully post by the end of the week. I swear. My real life has been crazy, and this story has just happened to have been done for awhile. I was going to wait to post it, until after I finished HWM, but I'm antsy, and I just wanted it out there. I hope you all like it, and please, if you can, review :)
Thank you to my beta, Breath-of-Twilight. She is my rock.
Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer is a goddess and she owns all of the Twilight universe. The story line is mine. Please do not steal what isn't yours. No copyright infringement intended.
All the Loves of Our Lives
All the Loves of Our Lives
1. Breakup & Breakdown
I must have been walking for hours. I had had so many thoughts running through my head. These mine trails were so familiar to me, but today they had looked different than ever before. Maybe it was because I felt so alone. My boyfriend had just had an epiphany that it was time he moved on with his life. Apparently that meant without me. I had seen this coming. Riley had never been particularly good at trying to hide his emotions. He hadn't had a real conversation with me in weeks. I suppose I knew that I was really better off. I really hoped that he had moved his stuff out of my house before I got home. I wasn't up to hearing him ramble on with the whole cliché, "I'm so sorry, Bella. It's not you, Bella, it's me." I wasn't bitter, just mad that I had spent the last five years wasting my life with him. I guess mad wouldn't have been very accurate either. We had a lot of good times, but there were a lot of bad times, too. It was all a learning experience, but I really would have preferred to not see him again for awhile.
I had officially over thought this situation.
I always had a lot of time to think when I went out on my walks. Located just across the street from my home was Empire Mine. It was a working mine in the early part of the twentieth century, but closed down in the 1970's. Since then, they had reopened it as a state park. It was just so peaceful and was one of the most beautiful places in the world, as far as I was concerned, with its tall pine trees and endless nature trails.
I had lived in Grass Valley all of my life, and my family had for several generations. It was a small town located in Northern California. I wasn't one of those kids who couldn't wait to get out of our little town; I loved it. I loved the sense of community that I felt here. Everyone in the community was so supportive of each other, especially when you owned a business. Owning the dance studio located right in the middle of downtown, most of my dancers were children of local merchants.
I usually walked from my home to the mine. Today, I had wanted out of the house so bad that I didn't even realize, after driving around aimlessly, that I'd driven to the main parking lot of the mine. After walking for what seemed like hours, I got back to the parking lot, and got into my car. Even though it was the only one in the parking lot, you couldn't miss the beast anywhere. I loved that car. My Durango was my sanctuary. I knew that it was the most reliable thing in my life, next to my cat. Not that my family wasn't, but they weren't around often enough. They had their own busy lives, without having to worry about me.
The inside of the car was chilly. The temperature today was only in the high sixties. It looked like it could possibly rain when the clouds had started to roll in this morning.
As I drove home, all I could think about was how empty our house was going to be. Jakey, my cat, would be there, and that made me feel better.
I reached my driveway in record time. As I pulled in, I noticed that there was a brand new black BMW parked in the driveway next door. I knew there wasn't one parked there when I left. It was one of the most beautiful luxury vehicles that I have ever seen. Those cars were pretty rare around here, not many people could afford one.
Due to its proximity to a state park, there were only two private lots on our street. Both lots had similar houses on them, the one that I owned and the vacant one next door. The house next door had been for sale for over a year, and I was getting used to having the whole area to myself.
Maybe it was just a realtor.
I also took notice that Riley's car was gone. Suddenly I could feel my stomach clenching. I swiftly ran out of the car and into the house. I barely made it into the front bathroom before I threw up. I sat there on the floor of the bathroom for what felt like a long time. I couldn't make myself move. It was only Friday night, and I had all weekend to move. I laid my head down on the cool tile floor. The last thing I remembered before I fell asleep was Jakey coming in to check on me.
I could feel Jakey's little warm body curled up next to mine. My head hurt from lying on the cold, hard floor, and I was freezing. It took me a second to realize why I was on the bathroom floor, and then it hit me. I was alone. I could feel the tears start welling up in my eyes. They finally broke free into uncontrollable sobs. It's not that I couldn't be alone; it was just that I hadn't been in so long. Maybe I was meant to be alone. Jakey and I would live out the rest of our days together. I would be the cat lady, and that thought stung me. I loved Jakey, but I didn't want to be the cat lady.
I had hoped that one day I would have a family. I knew in my heart that I didn't want Riley as a husband or the father of my children. So, really, if I was being honest with myself, he had actually done me a favor. It didn't really feel like a favor, but I'm sure in time it would. I managed to get control of my emotions and picked myself up off of the floor.
The light coming in through the windows had not reached the hallway yet. That meant that it was still only about seven in the morning. I climbed up the stairs to my bedroom and crawled into bed. I didn't have anywhere to be today. The blankets were cold without anyone sleeping in them, reminding me of my newly single status, and I started to cry, again. Now I was just feeling sorry for myself. I needed to stop this. I threw back the covers and sat there with my head in my hands for a few minutes. Finally I got up to look out the window at the house next door, but on my way I passed the mirror. Normally it wouldn't have caught my attention, but the person looking back at me was so foreign, of course it caught my attention. I moved to the window and looked out. I could see that the car was still parked in the driveway next door, and that could only mean one thing. I had a new neighbor, and there he was… staring right at me.
He had brown hair with a hint of red in it and an extremely handsome face. He wasn't smiling at me, but he wasn't quite frowning either. I couldn't tear my eyes away from him. He was quite a tall man, at least 6'2", and muscular with chiseled features. I stared intently at him, and then all of a sudden, he turned away. Embarrassment washed over me. How could I be so rude? Here I was looking like my head had been stuck in a food processor and I was staring like I was crazed.
I turned and walked into the bathroom, and turned on the water to the shower. Steam started to fill the area, and I turned on the radio. Coldplay's Violet Hill filled the air. I stepped into the shower and let the warm water run over my sore muscles. I stood there and thought about my new neighbor. I wondered what his name was. I hadn't heard that the house had been sold, and the 'for sale' sign was still in front yard of the house.
I finished in the bathroom and headed down stairs. Jakey was already waiting for me in the kitchen. I couldn't remember when I had last fed him. I was so awful, and he still loved me. When Jakey was fed and had started eating, I headed for the pantry. Nothing looked good, but I knew that I had to try and eat something. My stomach was so empty that it rumbled, and a pang of hunger gripped me. I grabbed the toaster and threw in a couple pieces of bread.
I looked up at the clock. It read seven forty-five in the morning. My newspaper should be here by now. I went out the side door and spotted my paper at the end of the driveway. I walked the length of the driveway and couldn't help looking out of the corner of my eye, attempting not to be obvious, to see if my new neighbor was around. I couldn't see him anywhere. I picked up the paper, and when I turned around, there he was. He was coming out of his side door, and headed to his garage, when he caught sight of me.
I couldn't see his eyes because he had on sun glasses, but I was very curious as to what color they were. What a random thought? He turned without saying anything, and I found myself staring at him, again. I really had to stop doing that. He was going to think that he moved in next door to a crazy woman.
I hurried back into the house, and the smell of burnt toast filled my nose. I ran to make sure it wasn't on fire, and found the toast reduced to hard, charred, black squares. I threw them into the sink to cool off and put two more pieces in. I grabbed some orange juice from the refrigerator and sat down at the kitchen table.
I couldn't help but think about Riley. He always used to make us breakfast, then we would talk about the articles in the paper. We always could debate anything with each other, and it would never turn into a fight. I knew I would miss those debates.
Riley was very intelligent. He was a teacher at our local school. It was the school that my brother and I had gone to, and our Mom, as well. I met him when I taught a dance clinic there one weekend. He had to open up the gym for me, and waited around until the clinic was over to ask me whether or not I would like to go to dinner. He was so sweet, and I could tell that he loved life. He enjoyed his work and loved his students. I had only seen him in action a couple of times, but I knew he was a good teacher. He also coached the eighth grade basketball team. They were the best in the district.
We had moved in together after dating for just over a year. We both wanted to take things slow, but we spent so much time together that we decided we should take it to the next level.
Four years we had lived together and never had a serious argument. We were so much alike. We were both focused and passionate about our careers. He understood the aspects of teaching, and would help me when I had a problem with the dance studio. He helped me organize recitals and showcases, and if there was a problem he would take care of it so I could focus on my dancers.
Jakey was my Christmas present from him two years ago. Riley had been doing a lot of field trips and traveling with the basketball team for tournaments. Even though Riley was a dog man, he knew we were busy a lot, and a cat could keep me company without requiring a lot of work.
Now, Jakey was all that I had left, except for my house. I was smart enough to have bought the house by myself before I met Riley. He never pressed me to add his name to the deed even though we shared the mortgage payment. I should be thankful that was one mess I wouldn't have to clean up.
Riley had come home yesterday, and I could tell something was different. He had been very quiet for weeks now and wouldn't talk about what was bothering him. I was just getting ready to leave and head to the mine when he stopped me as I was walking out the door.
"Bella, do you have a minute?" whatever he wanted to talk about, I wasn't prepared for.
I could tell by his tone that it couldn't be good.
"Sure, what's up?"
"Have a seat. I've wanted to talk to you for some time now, but I just couldn't find the words that I was looking for. Things have changed between us. I feel more like you are my roommate rather than my partner… I need more. I need someone who wants to do things with me. I need someone who likes the things that I like."
"Are you saying that you don't think I want to do anything with you? That I don't like the things that you like?" I was absolutely speechless. The resentment in his voice was so hurtful that it made my insides clench. I had not expected this.
"You don't want to go to my tournaments with me. You don't go on field trips with me. It's been months since you have even come to see a game."
"I have a business to run. Your basketball games run the same time as I have a class to teach. Do you want me to blow off my classes to attend your games? Because that's what it sounds like. I have bills to pay, too. Just because your day ends at three thirty in the afternoon and you have basketball until six o'clock does not mean that my schedule runs the same as yours." I was starting to sound angry. I was starting to be angry.
"I know, and this is mostly my fault. I should have realized that I needed someone who could be there for me sooner. For awhile I ignored the need to have you there, but for the last year and a half, I have really wished you'd been around more. Maybe that would have changed everything." He sounded sorry, although I couldn't help but notice the hint of relief in his voice.
"So, I'm supposed to automatically know what you need. You never told me that there was even the slightest inclination of a problem. Maybe it wasn't me you wanted there after all. Is there someone else?" I tried to not raise my voice, but the idea that he cheated stung.
"No, there isn't. I would never cheat on you. I respect you too much for that." He at least sounded sincere.
"You respect me but yet you don't concern yourself with my opinions or feelings, or even try to work anything out?" At that moment, I knew that the relationship could not be salvaged.
"Well, how do you feel?" The question sounded a little sarcastic.
"I think it's a little late to be asking that now, don't you? Actually, I think talking about this is making things worse. Are you leaving?" I couldn't wait for this to be over.
"Yes, I'm going to stay with a colleague of mine until I find a new house. I didn't want things to end this way." That made two of us.
"Did you think that you would sit me down and break up with me and I would just be okay and agree with it? I mean, how did you really think this was going to happen? Never mind, it doesn't matter. I don't want to know now. I'm going to go. Will you be here when I get back?" I felt numb. Hopefully he would just go quietly.
"I'm so sorry, Bella. I will be gone before you get home. I know you don't want to hear this, but it's not you, it's me. I just need to figure out what I really want with my life." Like that isn't the only cliché in history, he really knows how to make the last five years feel special.
"I'll be back around seven. I'm sorry things didn't work for you, Riley. Good bye," I said, trying to hide my resentment.
"Again, Bella, I am so sorry."
Without looking back, I left, and that was the last memory that I had of him. I was short with him, but he had totally hit me from left field with some of the things that he had accused me of. I didn't even see it coming so I had time to brace myself. I knew that he didn't understand my reaction because he was already so miserable. I thought that we were great, and I was so wrong.
I couldn't think about it anymore. I had to get out of the house. I started to feel the walls closing in around me. I grabbed my phone, purse, and keys and headed for the door. I got into the car and sat there. Where was I going to go? I dialed my brother, and he picked up on the first ring.
"Hello," Jasper's overly enthusiastic voice said clearly.
"Hey, Jasper, it's Bella. What are you up to today?" I tried to sound normal, but a hint of sadness escaped.
"Hey, little sis, I'm not doing anything. What's up?" I could hear concern in his tone.
"Well, I was wondering if you wanted to meet me for lunch, and then maybe we could go for a hike. I just really need to talk." I had to hold back my disillusioned tears. I should have been stronger than this.
"Is everything okay?"
"Riley left yesterday. He moved out, and I just need to talk to someone. I would have called Mom, but I didn't want her to worry." She didn't like to see her children hurting, and she would undoubtedly think that I was hurting.
"Why didn't you call me yesterday?"
"I didn't want to bother you. I know you have a life, and I know I hate when someone ruins my Friday night."
"It's a little different when your little sister calls you and says that she needs you. I would have dropped anything that I was doing to come over. You know that, right?" I did, and that was part of the reason that I didn't call. I just needed to be alone.
"Of course, I just thought that I could do this, and I can't. I need to talk to someone. I value your opinion more than most of my friends." My brother had been there for my whole life, and he always made sure I was cared for.
"Thanks, little sis, I'm glad to hear that. That's what big brothers are for. Do you want me to talk to him?" That was the last thing that I wanted.
"No… and frankly, I hope that we don't ever see him again. I'm just over it right now, you know. Hey, speaking of Mom, have you talked to her today?" I hadn't heard from her in a week, and if she went out of town she always let me know.
"No, why, should I have talked to her? Is there something wrong? The last time I talked to her was Wednesday. She was supposed to be going to the Lake this weekend with Auntie. Did that change?" He sounded worried, but at least he had talked to her a couple of days ago. My mother was on the go all the time with her sister, our aunt. This weekend found them in Lake Tahoe at Auntie's cabin.
"No, I haven't talked to her since last weekend. I just wondered if they still went." I missed my Mom when I didn't talk to her.
"Yeah, they did. So where do you want to meet?" I could tell he just wanted to get down to business and make sure that I was okay with his own eyes, typical Jasper.
"Do you want to meet me at the studio, and we can find some place to go then?" I suggested.
"Yeah, I'll meet you there in a couple of hours. How about one o'clock." He obviously didn't want me to think he was being overbearing if he suggested meeting me immediately.
"Okay, I'll see you soon… Love you."
"Love you, too, little sis."
I really had hoped he would want to meet sooner, but I didn't want him to think that this was an emergency. I could get by a couple of hours on my own. I sat there in the car for a few more moments. I looked out the windshield at the house next door. I wondered what it would be like to finally meet him. Again with the random interest in the new neighbor. I sat there trying to muster the courage to get out of the car and walk up to his front door. I really just wanted to know his name.
I opened the door and started across the adjoining lawn. I reached the walkway and stood in front of the house. The house wasn't very different from mine. I had no idea what the layout of the house was, but the front looked just the same. It was white with forest green trim, where mine was light brown with a dark chocolate colored trim. I walked up the front steps and knocked on the door. I stood there for a few seconds, but there was no answer. His car was parked in the driveway, and I knew that I hadn't seen him leave. I knocked again, and when there was still no answer, I gave up and left.
I decided that I should head to the grocery store and do some shopping. After all, it was the normal grocery shopping day for Riley and I.
It didn't take very long for me to finish my shopping. I was only shopping for one, now. By the time I put the groceries away, I realized that I only had fifteen minutes before I had to meet my brother. I hopped back in the car and noticed my neighbor walk by his front window. Had he been home this whole time? Why hadn't he answered the door when I knocked? Well, I couldn't go and introduce myself now because I was already running late.
I pulled into the parking lot with a minute to spare. Jasper was already there waiting for me. He was so good to me. I knew that he felt responsible for my Mom and me ever since our Dad passed away. He had to be the man of the house when he was still a teenager. I was Daddy's little girl, and my dad's death was extremely hard for me. It was worse for Jasper. He felt like he had to take care of us. He was over protective at times, but he always meant well. I tried not to give him too hard of a time, even though he drove me nuts when we were in high school. Jasper was only three years older than me. At 32 he was still single. He had girlfriends, but I worried he felt trapped, like already he had two women that he felt he needed to take care of, and we were his first priority. He hopped in the car, and gave me a big hug.
"Hey there, little sis. Are you hanging in there?"
"Yeah, I think I'll be fine. Where do you want to go?"
"How about going to Antonio's? We haven't been there in so long."
"Okay, Antonio's it is."
We were quiet for the rest of the car ride. I could tell by his silence that he was concerned. I knew that he would be. That's why I wasn't in any hurry to call him. We were very close, though, and I knew he would be upset if he had found out from someone else. Through the years, he has always been my best friend.
We made our way downtown and found parking in front of the restaurant. Antonio's wasn't very crowded. Luckily, we had managed to miss the lunch rush. The hostess seated us by the window, and the waitress came to take our order. While we sat there waiting for our food, he told me about what had been going on in his life. He had met a girl. Her name was Alice. I listened as he told me all about her and how he really liked her. I was happy for him. He deserved to find someone to take care of him, for once. As he spoke, I looked out the window. I noticed a familiar car parked across the street.
"Jasper, I'm sorry to interrupt you, but do you see that car parked across the street?" I tried to no avail to mask the excitement in my voice.
"Yeah, what about the car? I haven't ever seen it before." He seemed a little curious, but only because of my reaction.
"It's my new neighbor's car."
"You have a new neighbor? Wait, someone bought the white house?" Now he was very interested.
"Yeah, he moved in yesterday. When I left Riley to go on my walk, there was no one there. When I got back from my walk, his car was parked in the driveway."
"He? So, a man moved in by himself or does he have a family?" I could see where he was going with this if I answered that he was by himself.
"By himself, from what I can tell. I have only seen him a couple of times."
"Bella, tell me what you really think." I could tell by his smirk that I'd given away more than I had meant to.
"Fine, he's absolutely gorgeous. I've watched him a couple of times, and he caught me both times. I feel all awkward about it, but it's like he turns around and it never happened. I tried to go over there today, but when I knocked he never came to the door. I feel like the least I could do is be neighborly and introduce myself. I don't want to seem like I'm a nosy neighbor."
"Bella, you are too cute to be a nosy neighbor. He was probably the one staring, anyway." Jasper was very good for the ego. I also thought that he wanted to get me back on the dating horse as soon as possible after Riley.
"No, I am too obvious when I am staring. But anyways, what's the rest of your day look like?" I thought a change in subject was definitely a good thing.
"Well, it depends on what's up with you. I don't want to leave you alone if you need me. I couldn't just be somewhere having fun knowing you were somewhere upset, you know?"
"No… I understand where you're coming from, but I'll be fine. I always need you, you're my big brother. I just want you to know that I don't want you to put your life on hold for me. I would never ask you to do that. I love you too much."
"I know, I know… So what are you going to be doing today?"
"Well, I have some stuff to go over at the studio. It's just easier to do when there isn't anyone there. Staging, costumes, line up, you know… just dance stuff. Thought I better take care of it today rather than wait until tomorrow."
"Okay, well, I think I'll take Alice to the Lake. We'll be there until Monday."
"I'll be fine I promise."
Jasper paid for our lunch, and we left. When we got back to the studio, the lot was empty except for Jasper's black Tacoma. He hugged me good bye and left. I knew he would worry about my situation all weekend, I just hoped that he and Alice could have a good time in Tahoe.
The studio was empty, but I had always felt more at home here than anywhere else. I plugged my iPod into the stereo and cranked up the volume on the music. I could always concentrate better when I couldn't hear my own thoughts.
I moved to stand in front of the mirrored wall. The image that bounced back at me was different than the one that was just there just a day ago. The reflection of that girl was confident, happy, and carefree. The girl that I saw now looked drained, and worry was streaked across her face. I moved into my warm up and started to choreograph this year's finale for the recital. One movement flowed into another. Before I knew it, I was staging the dance, picking the costumes, and checking the line-up. As I sat at my desk, I could see the front doors. I must have lost track of time because it was already dark outside, and it didn't even feel like I had been there that long.
I turned off the stereo and the lights, locked the front doors and made my way to my car. I noticed a familiar car coming down the road and realized it was my neighbor's car. I hopped in my SUV and rushed to catch up to him. If anything, I just wanted the chance to introduce myself. He wasn't driving fast, but I got stuck at a red light, and he disappeared around a corner. I tried not to speed as I drove the road home but it was hard. I knew that this was a good time to meet him if he hadn't made it into his house yet. When I pulled into my driveway, I noticed that his car wasn't home yet. I felt disappointment wash over me. Why would I be disappointed? I didn't know him. He could be the world's biggest jerk, and I would have no idea.
Jakey was waiting for me when I walked through the door. I could always count on him meeting me at the door. He was going to be with me for the rest of his life, and hopefully that was for a long time still. We walked into the kitchen, and I looked around. I could see that there were no messages on the answering machine, and I wasn't very hungry since I had a big lunch. I felt like I needed another bath so I went upstairs and took a shower.
As soon as I turned the water off, I heard a car door shut. I ran to the window, and there he was again. I wondered where he had gone. He turned and looked right up at me. Why was I always staring at him when he looked at me? He had to think I was crazy. I was beginning to think I was crazy.
He was still looking at me. Our gazes locked this time, and he just stood there in his driveway. I was the one to turn away this time. I couldn't do this. I wasn't that kind of girl. My boyfriend had just broken up with me and I was already staring at another man.
It was then the thought hit me, I had been staring at another man. I wasn't wondering what Riley was doing, or who he was with, and frankly I didn't care. That realization shocked me. Had I really even cared that he left? I went to sit on my bed and ponder that some more. When I thought about it, it seemed as if I hadn't really cared at all. Was what I was feeling more relief than anything? I shouldn't be having that reaction. I loved him, or at least I thought that I did.
Riley was a good man. There was definitely no doubt about that. It had been a good five years. It was consistent. Nothing ever changed or grew from our relationship. I couldn't fault Riley for wanting out when I was just now realizing that deep down that was what I wanted, too. I picked up my cell phone from the nightstand and dialed his number. I heard that familiar voice pick up on the other end of the line.
"Bella?" I could hear the surprise in his voice.
"Hi, Riley, how are you?"
"Okay… is everything okay?" I could tell that he thought it would definitely have taken longer than a day for me to speak with him again.
"Yeah… no, everything is fine. I was actually calling to talk to you. Do you have a second?"
"Sure, what's up?" He was obviously positively shocked.
"Well, first, I wanted to apologize to you for the way that I acted yesterday. I shouldn't have acted that way. We have been close for so long, you deserved better than that. Second, I just wanted to let you know that I'm okay with this. I've been thinking about it, and maybe this was the best thing. We have been the same for so long. Nothing has ever changed between us. Some of the things that you said just caught me off guard. I guess I was just so comfortable with the everyday routine that I just lived with the repetition. I just wanted to tell you that. I felt that I owed you an apology." I was very sincere. I just wanted closure so we could move forward.
"No worries, Bella. I could have gone about it better. I just didn't know how. I still want you in my life. I will always love you. You are my best friend. I hated the way that I left things yesterday. I wanted to call, but I just didn't know when it would be a good time." I was just as amazed as he was. I tended to hold grudges forever.
"I just needed some time to gain some clarity. I just wanted you to know that I love you, too, and I still want to be your friend. That's important to me, too. Well, I should let you go, but I'll see you around." I didn't have anything left to say to him. I had at least apologized, and that was important to me.
"Okay, I'd like that. Talk to you later. Bye, Bella." He actually sounded like he was the old Riley.
I shut my phone and felt the relief flood my heart. I had let him go. Even though I knew I would miss him. I crawled under the covers and immediately fell asleep.