'Love Actually' Contest

Title: Smoke Rose Gold

Characters: Rosalie

Disclaimer: Twilight and all its recognizable situations belong to Stephenie Meyer.

Image that inspired you: Prompt 1


She came so close to going to senior prom.

It was supposed to be the best night of her life, worship on three different levels: popularity, appearance, and, later, sexuality, because of course Emmett would expect her to sleep with him. Why wouldn't he? She'd been sleeping with him since she was fourteen, when she'd first come across the state to do the trial placement with the doctor and his wife. She called them "Mom" and "Dad," when she spoke to them, or, when she referred to them with her friends around her, "my mom and dad," because everybody had a mom and dad and if there was one thing Rosalie knew about, it was the things everybody else had that she didn't.

She'd had a mom, once—her dad was an enigma she'd never been able to work up the guts to investigate—and her mom had a boyfriend who dealt, and then her mom had an addiction, and then her mom was a hooker in the back of a van, and then Rosalie was gone, gone to foster care.

She'd stayed with a kind African-American woman in her sixties. All six of the teenagers in her home called her "Mama Cass," and Rosalie had been afraid to believe Mama Cass loved her despite her daily protestations of the fact, but eventually she'd believed it. Eventually meaning after she stole all the money in Mama Cass's wallet and went clubbing in downtown Seattle with her shiny new fake I.D.

Mama Cass had grabbed her and hugged her when the police picked her up the next morning, scolding and thanking Jesus all in the same breath—she'd told Rosalie that Jesus was the reason she did foster care, because he loved orphans and the orphans in the United States were social orphans—and after she did all that she said, "Rosalie, you will be working around the house to replace every penny of what you stole." So Rosalie had known she could stay, then, because she'd done an awful thing and still been loved, with no disruption.

The thing was, Mama Cass didn't adopt the children in her care; she had diabetes and was afraid she'd die and leave them parentless again, so instead she cared for them until they went back or were adopted by somebody else. Rosalie's mother showed up high to her termination of parental rights hearing, and the judge barely waited for the evidence to be read and the testimonies to be heard before simultaneously granting the termination and having Rosalie's mother arrested for public intoxication.

Teenagers were almost impossible to get adopted, the social workers warned, but Rosalie had the advantage because she was white, and blond, and stunning. Sure enough, less than three months after her photo and extremely truncated profile had been posted on the website, inquiries poured in from all over the state and a few out of state, as well. Rosalie had sat through the whole process, looked at the files and home studies, and participated in the conference calls. At the end of it she'd hugged Mama Cass goodbye and gotten into her case worker's sensible sedan for the drive to meet Dr. Carlisle Cullen and his wife Esme, who had no birth kids but had adopted two other children from foster care. The other kids were teenagers like Rosalie, but they'd been with the Cullens much longer, since elementary school.

She'd stayed at their ludicrously gorgeous home for six months, and then they'd had a family meeting—the Cullens were big on things like "open communication" and "constructive confrontation," so much so that she sometimes wondered if they were human—and the doctor and his wife had asked her if she wanted to become a Cullen, because if she did now was the time to file the paperwork. She said "yes" because saying "no" meant having to go through the whole thing all over again, and because she'd just slept with Emmett for the first time the week before, although he wasn't her first by any means.

At the last minute, she remembered to ask if she could hyphenate her last name. Rosalie Hale-Cullen. The doctor and his wife were unperturbed by the request, so that was how her new birth certificate read.

They loved her, and she knew it, and she was haunted by guilt because she was pretty sure she should be more grateful instead of always being pissed at them for not being her birth parents. If they'd been her birth parents she would've been Rosalie Cullen and had everything. Everything except for a shitty mom who hadn't even cared enough to surrender her rights so that Rosalie wouldn't have had to go to the trial and hear everything wrong that her mother had ever done to and with and near her, read from notes and file folders spread out in front of the social workers in the witness stand. The doctor and his wife never made her feel that she should be grateful; they always acted as if they were lucky to have her instead of the other way around, but she knew she should feel more, and better.

She was the oldest; Alice and Edward were in the year behind her, not birth siblings but the same age and as thick as thieves, always watching her with suspicion and waiting to see what she'd do next. They weren't popular except in their own circles, Edward with the band geeks and Alice with the drama emo freaks, God, with the eyeliner already. Rosalie had been given a free pass to the world of the Plastics from the moment she stepped through the doors of Forks High School; her best friend was Lauren, and she was pretty sure Lauren would poison her skim milk and leave her for dead if she thought she could get away with it, but that was nothing Rosalie couldn't handle.

Emmett, who'd been a starting linebacker for the varsity team already in his sophomore year, had latched onto her ass as soon as he saw her sitting at the right table. She was almost positive she wasn't in love with him after they had sex. She loved dating Emmett because all the other girls wanted him and he was proof that she mattered on multiple fronts. It was a little irritating because he never seemed to understand the favor she'd conferred upon him by allowing him to date her; it bugged her that he might think he was the one giving out favors, but then again she knew deep down inside that he was and hoped he hadn't realized it yet.

He'd come back into town just for her, for her prom, leaving U-Dub behind and ditching class, even, which was something Emmett didn't do despite being a frat boy from the get-go. He'd texted her when he'd gotten to his parents' house, to let her know he was in and thinking of her. She ignored the nervous trembling in her stomach and changed from her bikini briefs into a thong just in case he decided to come pick her up, but she knew he wouldn't because he had plans with the guys. After she attended to the underwear issue, she wandered downstairs to see if Esme had picked up any more Coke Zero. Alice was eating an apple, sitting at the island.

"Did the man-meat get in okay?" she wanted to know. Alice and Rosalie had moved beyond mutual distrust to mutual tolerance to mutual pretending they didn't love each other deeply over the course of three and a half years.

"Yes, Emmett just texted me," Rosalie replied, opening the fridge and only seeing Flashback. Damn. "But we won't see each other till tomorrow night."

"I knew he wouldn't come over," Alice said, pretending to be engrossed in her copy of True Blood.

"Yeah, it's almost like you're psychic, the way you can predict that shit," Rosalie dismissed her. She reached out one pale finger and re-arranged the corsage box on the top shelf, moving it away from any potential hazards that might damage the purple flower within the plastic case. "If you were really psychic you would have known we needed more Coke Zero when you went with Es-Mom to the store yesterday."

"Maybe I did know and didn't tell her just to piss you off," Alice muttered, flipping a page, so Rosalie flipped her the bird, and her sister laughed. "Maybe Emmett has some Coke Zero. Maybe you should go by his house and see."

Rosalie was about to scoff at the idea, but the look on Alice's face stopped her: big-eyed under the shock of black hair and too serious, like she was telling her something without actually saying the words. "Okay," she said slowly. "I haven't seen him since winter break; I bet he won't mind." Alice nodded, and Rosalie tried to return the conversation to normal grounds. "I'd hate to waste the effort of wearing this butt-floss anyway."

"Gross," Alice said with a pained wince, and Rosalie laughed as she grabbed the keys to her sixteenth birthday present, the yellow H2 the doctor and his wife had bought for her just before the line was discontinued. She drove from their house out in the woods to Emmett's house on the Calawah. There was Emmett's big Jeep out front, and another vehicle, a beat-up old truck; one of his friends must be into classic cars and restoration or something. She ignored the jittering in her stomach some more, and ignored it even more again when she saw that the front door wasn't latched, like maybe someone had been in too much of a hurry to ensure its closing. She pushed it open but she didn't say his name. She didn't say anything when she stepped into the foyer and heard Emmett's deep rumble in another room and another voice chiming in reply. A girl's voice. Rosalie kept on walking, one foot in front of the other, because she knew that seeing something terrible was better than hearing about it later, because at least then you could remind yourself with the visuals that you had good reason for your fury.

So she kept on walking, until she could see through the gap in his bedroom door, could see Emmett sitting on the edge of his bed with his shirt off, all that beautiful muscle and grace exposed not-for-her, and she saw the girl, and, oh yeah, that's right, that's how she knew that truck. Bella Swan, the chief of police's daughter and Alice's best friend from Thespians, Edward's crush since forever, sat in Emmett's lap and shyly caressed his torso, running her soft little hands up and down his pecs, tracing the outline of his abs. Emmett smoothed the dark cloud of Bella's hair back from her face, stroked her cheek, and the look on Emmett's face took Rosalie's breath away with a sick twist of her throat, because he was so tender and his eyes were glowing and he'd never looked at her that way, never.

She toyed with the idea of going all "Bust Your Windows" on him, but she knew better than most the sort of charges that real-life escapades like that could bring, so she turned on her heel and walked out, clicking the door shut silently behind her and driving away like nothing happened, because as far as she was concerned that hadn't happened, she hadn't just realized that she'd actually been stupid enough to love Emmett of all people. He was there to make her look good and feel good and that was precisely what she'd use him for, just as soon as the block of ice in her chest melted and let her heart move again.

When she got home, Alice had locked herself in her room with Thom Yorke crooning heartbreak through the door at an ungodly volume, so Rosalie could go to her picturesque bedroom and sit on the edge of the lace-edged canopy bed and not think, just stare out of the full wall of windows and wait for the cold to dissipate. Edward got home from band practice at some point; she knew because she could hear the Volvo, but he didn't come upstairs so she didn't have to tell him to shut the hell up and leave her alone, which was the usual extent of their conversations. Carlisle and Esme had tried to address the issue at the weekly family meetings, over and over again until it should have been a permanent bullet point on the agenda: Rosalie and Edward Still Don't Tolerate Each Other, God Help Us. He didn't.

So she didn't eat and she didn't sleep, but she was eighteen now and Carlisle and Esme had promised themselves in her hearing that they would let her make her own choices after her birthday, choices whose consequences might be mitigated by her living with them, so they didn't order her to the dining room although she half wished they would, just so she could refuse. She sat on the edge of her bed and watched the light fade and come back, and then it was Saturday morning and she could sleep a little bit. Not sleeping meant circles under her eyes and bad pictures in the yearbook, and she couldn't have that.

Alice was a planner; she was ready by four even though Jasper Whitlock wouldn't be by till six to pick her up. She came into Rosalie's room uninvited, which normally would have been grounds for some sharp words and maybe even a threat to person or property. Today, though, Rosalie sat motionless at her vanity, the vanity with the cream-and-gold trimmed mirror that Esme had chosen to match her complexion, staring past her own reflection at the memory of how Emmett had adored Bella with his eyes. She didn't notice Alice, and when she did, she couldn't make herself care.

Alice set down her heels, which she'd been carrying with her to ensure she didn't misplace them and have to go with her backup set, although how she'd even think that was a possibility in her obsessively organized room was a mystery. She walked over to Rosalie and, without saying a word, started picking through the open tiers of Rosalie's make-up case. She chose a matte foundation and spread it over Rosalie's face. She chose the darkest eyeliner and eye-shadow she could find, making Rosalie's eyes look smoky and adult and dangerous. She swiped on mascara and curled the lashes, twice, telling Rosalie when to blink and when to open. She put on the palest pink blush, just the faintest hint of color on the cheeks that right now felt entirely bloodless. She went with clear lip gloss. Then she picked up Rosalie's hairbrush and swept the glory of her hair up into a loose chignon that looked like it was ready to fall the instant she fell into bed with the right man, decorating it with a black ribbon that would look perfect with Rosalie's blue dress instead of the heather shirt she wore right now.

If all of Rosalie's tears hadn't been frozen behind her eyes, she would have cried. She knew Alice loved her, but this was the first time her sister had let her feel it. She couldn't even say "thank you," but she hoped her face would say it for her. Her throat ached with the tenderness she couldn't verbalize.

Alice walked in front of her, inspecting her handiwork. She leaned her non-existent butt against the vanity table and very gently said, "You are so beautiful and you don't have to go with Emmett if you don't want to."

"I have to," Rosalie disagreed. "I've been planning how this dance would go since my freshman year."

"You could just go," Alice said.

"By myself. To the dance." The impossibility of the suggestion made question marks redundant.

"No, you could go. Somewhere else. Not the dance. Don't give Emmett any explanation; just don't be here when he shows up."

"No I can't," Rosalie breathed, but she looked at herself, at the stunning violet-eyed unfamiliar woman in the mirror—she looked like the sort of person who would wear extravagant make-up for a day at the beach, because she believed in making the most of what she'd been given instead of desperately trying to show off what she'd been born with, and without another word Rosalie got up from her chair. She carefully hugged Alice without mussing the picture she'd made, and took her keys and drove her H2 away from there, away from Forks. She paused on the way out to grab Emmett's corsage. She thought about throwing it out of the window, but at the last minute she didn't because it was so exquisite; it didn't deserve to be discarded just because its intended owner didn't appreciate that sort of hothouse beauty.

He probably loved daisies.

Maybe daffodils.

She pushed down on the gas pedal, wondering if she got pulled over what she'd say to Charlie Swan: What seems to be the problem, officer? Do you know what your daughter's been up to? Maybe you should keep tabs on her instead of me, because believe me that girl is fast, so fast I didn't even see her coming.

She drove until she got to the beach near La Push, scene of a hundred trips with the same fifteen people since she'd been here, bonfires and wetsuits and alcohol and boys throwing girls in the water so they could see their nipples get hard under their shirts and the girls pretending they were pretending they minded, when really it was so humiliating and they still had to be good sports about it. She parked the H2 and got out, letting the familiar sea air hit her nostrils and scatter the remnants of Emmett's cologne from her brain. She pulled the flower from its box and took it with her, pushing the button on the key fob to lock the doors out of habit rather than because she really thought she needed to do it.

There were the usual tangles of driftwood on the beach; it wasn't raining for once so she could sit on a tree trunk without worrying about soaking her ass. She wandered over to one and sat down, breathing hard but not too hard. She'd learned before she was five, before she should've been in kindergarten but hadn't been because her mom had been afraid of the teachers noticing all the things that were wrong, how not to cry over the things that hurt most. So she twiddled the stem of the flower—still beautiful—between her fingers and watched the water move and didn't breathe much.

She didn't see the boy until it was too late to leave.


He was walking down the beach, kicking stones out of his way, hands in the pockets of his jeans, longish black hair flipping in the wind. Clearly one of the Quileute kids, who every once in a while would come out and join the parties if enough people had traveled up from Forks to make their intrusion less noticeable. He didn't see her, either, until he kicked a rock a little too far and a little too hard, and it hit her in the knee, so she felt obligated to say, "Hey! Watch it, asshole."

He jerked his face up—he'd been staring at the sand and pebbles—and she sucked in some air because, God, talk about beautiful, this tall boy was beautiful, all big brown eyes and smooth brown skin and full lips and clearly built under that T-shirt that was a size too small.

She'd forgotten what she'd said, before she started drooling, so his scowl took her by surprise. "Sorry, blondie, guess I didn't expect to find a princess in La Push."

That was nothing. That was absolutely nothing compared to all the things she'd been thinking to herself about herself, the insults she'd endured while on the streets and in the shelters and then on free lunch back in Seattle. There was no reason for her eyes to fill with tears or her throat to start hurting again, but they did it anyway, as if they didn't need another reason. She dropped her eyes to her flower again and shrugged a little, hoping he hadn't noticed, hoping he'd go away now that he'd ruined her appreciation of him.

Instead of moving on, he sighed, running his hands through his hair. "Sorry. I'm—sorry about that," he gestured to the rock. "This day is shit and I shouldn't have—Sorry."

Rosalie dared to peek at him from beneath her rapidly-uncurling-in-the-sea-breeze lashes. "This day is shit," she agreed cautiously.

He smiled, a little. "Mind if I join you?"

She shook her head and gestured toward the rest of the tree trunk upon which she sat. He collapsed a few feet down from her, and she suppressed an idiotic jolt of rejection because he hadn't tried to get too close. "So what's made your day shitty?" she asked.

"My mom died," he said, casually, and she whipped around to stare at him wide-eyed, appalled. He laughed too much at that, and then bothered to explain, "Six years ago. My mom died six years ago, and this is the day she died."

"That is… super shitty," she finally acknowledged. She didn't know what to say; nothing sounded right after that, especially nothing as dumb as "my boyfriend was cheating on me and I didn't know I loved him till I saw he loved her, but bonus! My sister loves me and now I know that too!" So instead she just this once allowed herself to Go There and said, "My mom might be dead. I don't know. I'd be sad if I found out though, probably."

He tilted his head, and the light hit him just right so that he looked as if he'd caught on fire. She wanted to stare so badly that she opted instead to focus on her own fingers, holding the flower. "You don't know if your mom's dead or alive?"

Rosalie shook her head. Pretty flower. It had a few brown flecks but they were supposed to be there, like freckles. Did flowers get freckles from the sun? "No. Not my real mom, anyway." She wasn't supposed to say "real," because the doctor and his wife were as real as you could get, but "birth mom" sounded strange and made her think of labor and delivery room scenes in movies.

"Are you in foster care?" he asked.

She glanced at him again, still fire-lit in the setting sun and still so magnificent it hurt. "Not any more. I'm adopted." She gave him a wry half-smile. "I have a forever family." She gave the words a falsely sentimental lilt, and he laughed again, straight teeth gleaming in the sunshine. "But she's out there, somewhere, if she's not dead." She shrugged. "Do you think it'd be worse, to know she was dead? Or is it better to think she's out there, maybe, and not know for sure?"

There was a weird pause, and she wondered if she'd just scared him silent, but he said, "I don't know. I can't decide. Maybe they both suck equally."

She huffed a fake chuckle. "Yeah. That sounds about right; equal suckage."

He looked at her; she could feel it although she'd looked away again. "It's not like it's a contest anyway, like the Olympics of Pain or something."

She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, hoping he wouldn't see what she thought of him if she didn't give him the full-on view. He probably did; good-looking people were used to being appreciated. She knew that from being Rosalie Hale-Cullen. "If it were, I might win." She let it end on a questioning note.

He sat up a little straighter, his smile flashed again. "My dad's in a wheelchair because of diabetes."

"I never knew my dad."

"My sisters dumped us after they graduated. I haven't seen them in a year and a half."

"I was homeless for like a year."

"The girl I've been working on for about six months told me today she just wants to be friends because there's someone else."

That was her cue, to tell him about Emmett, but suddenly she lost her mind because she blurted, "I was raped."

Dead silence, awful dead silence. She waited for him to get up and run away. She wouldn't blame him, not even a little bit. What a stupid thing to say. She'd never told anybody that, not her social worker, not her counselor, not her parents or her real mom; nobody knew because if they knew they'd feel sorry for her, and if they felt sorry for her that would mean it had really happened, that she deserved the sympathy. So no one knew but her. Well, Royce and her.

He sighed. "You win. Gold medal. Time for 'The Star-Spangled Banner.'"

It was so unexpected, so matter-of-fact, that she started giggling and couldn't stop. He laughed with her, after a second, and when they stopped they were sitting thigh-to-thigh, staring at the sinking sun companionably.

"Is that your parents' car?" he asked, indicating the H2.

She couldn't stop the sardonic quirk of her lips. "No. That's my sixteenth birthday present. I'm super fucking lucky."

"I bet you don't feel lucky when you fill her up. Or do they pay for that, too?"

"I pay for it. I pay out the ass for it. I converted it to biodiesel. Myself." She hadn't told anyone but her family that. It wasn't very cool, in the football team's eyes, to be the kind of girl who worked on cars. It had meant that she couldn't drive the H2 for months, while she worked on it after school and on weekends when she wasn't doing homework or Emmett. It had meant that she'd had to ride with Alice and Edward in the Volvo because her parents insisted that she not get a ride to school when they lived so far out of the way and had perfectly good vehicles. It had been worth it, though, just for the sense of accomplishment she'd felt when she turned the key and finally the stupid thing had run the way she wanted.

He reached out for her hands. She let him take them in his own, turn them back and forth, inspecting her fingernails, still perfect from her manicure yesterday. "No grease."

She laughed and withdrew as casually as she could. "Well, I don't usually work on cars right before dances, so—" Oh, shit.

Yeah, he definitely was not going to let that pass. His eyebrows rose. "Dances?"

Rosalie looked at the water, which had turned pink and orange. "Tonight's senior prom," she said, when she was sure her voice would be completely uncaring. It came out sounding dead instead.

"Yeah, I know," he said, and she wondered how he knew when he probably went to the tribal school. He didn't want to talk about that, though, because he said, "I work on cars too. I'm rebuilding a Rabbit."

"Yeah? What year?" This was easy, this was more than easy. She knew about cars and boys who liked cars, although she hadn't so much as given those boys the time of day since she'd come to Forks.

He told her all about the Rabbit, and she asked the right questions, the ones that would put respect in his eyes instead of just appreciation. She hadn't asked the right questions in three years because no one had expected her to want to know. This boy did, though. He more than liked cars, he loved cars, particularly his beat-up piece of shit car, because it was broken and he could fix it, could take all the worn and shattered pieces out and replace them with parts that functioned the way they were designed, and it didn't surprise him at all that she'd want to ask about it.

When he'd finished talking about that, the sun hung so low over the horizon it looked like it had dipped into the water. "Wow," he said, pointing. "It looks like it's burning." They almost never got to see a sunset unmarred by clouds.

It reminded her of a poem they'd just read in English class, yesterday. She prized poetry, adored its simplicity and elegance and the art of expressing ten thoughts in as many words. That was another thing she didn't tell anybody.

And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire

"And the fire and the rose are one." She murmured the final line before she could realize she'd regret it. Sure enough, he turned to look at her, and she shrugged with embarrassment. "I have a photographic memory. We read that yesterday in class and I couldn't forget it if I wanted to."

"T.S. Eliot," he nodded, surprising her for the who-knew-how-many-times-it'd-been today. "We read that a couple weeks back."

"My name's Rose. Rosalie. I used to be Rose, anyway, till I moved here." She was blabbering, trying to offset the look in his eyes as they canvassed her face, hairline to eyes to mouth and back again, as they lingered on her mouth a little too long for her not to notice. "Everybody called me Rosalie, because that's what it said on the attendance sheet, and I didn't tell them that I'd always been Rose because it didn't seem important enough."

He reached, and she stopped herself from jerking back at the last second, reminding herself that she knew how to deal with boys being all over her and that she liked it, damn it; she was definitely not giving that up today. He didn't go for her face, though; he pulled out a strand of her hair from the chignon. Its golden shine was infused with the radiance of the setting sun. "It looks a little like it's on fire," he mused, and she knew he'd understood what she was telling him, even if she hadn't comprehended it herself.

She laughed, hating the breathy, overwhelmed sound because it was so not Rosalie Hale-Cullen; it was Rose Hale, who let people see how she felt, the dumb bitch. "That's funny; I thought you looked like you were on fire a little bit ago. I guess we're just not used to seeing the sun."

His hand was still on her hair, toying with the shining lock as if he'd never touched such a treasure before. His face gave away none of his thoughts; he looked like he could be solving a calculus problem or replacing a cam shaft. She hated not knowing what was going on in his head; usually boys were easy, no insight needed or even wanted, because when they were around her they just wanted her, or her body anyway. She couldn't bring herself to move away, but she couldn't make a sound.

He was so gorgeous; he was every poem she'd ever read that had left her heart feeling dissatisfied with longing, and he frightened her out of her wits.

She thought about kissing him, just to return the interaction to familiar ground. She hadn't kissed anybody besides Emmett since freshman year but she knew she was good at it. If she kissed this boy, he'd either shove her away—not likely—or kiss her back and want her that way instead of the more unsettling ways. Before she could lean forward, or back, he dropped her hair and returned his hand to his leg. She couldn't decide if that was bad or not.

"I should get back," he said. "My dad'll be wanting to eat soon and if I'm not home he'll get one of his friends to pick up some shitty fast food and, you know, kill him sooner rather than later."

She laughed again, that same exhalation of not-really-mirth that meant she had no idea what to do with him. She always knew what to do with boys, always. Just not this one.

"Where's your phone?" he asked.

Rosalie automatically gestured toward the H2, and then stopped when she remembered. "I, um. I was in such a hurry to leave that I forgot it. And my purse. God, I hope I don't get pulled over."

He smiled again, and his eyes really saw her, all the way down to the tangled mess where her heart hadn't really re-started fluttering, and she couldn't breathe, again. He pulled out a pen from his pocket and gently grasped her hand, turning it so he would be writing right-side-up for her, and wrote on the back. He wrote longer than it should have taken for a name and phone number, but she didn't watch; she looked at his face, memorizing the curve of his ear and the angle of his jaw for later reflection.

At last, he released her, and stood up. She stood up too, feeling forlorn, as if something vital was walking away from her, but she knew that vital things always left, it was just a matter of time. I wish you wouldn't go, she thought; for a horrified second she thought she'd said it out loud, but his face didn't change from that intense concentration so probably she hadn't.

He stepped forward, and she leaned back, against the high pile of petrified driftwood, and looked at his eyes, brown reflecting pools surrounded by black spiky lashes. She kept on looking at them even after they'd closed, even after he pressed his lips to hers, because she didn't want to forget anything about this moment.

He was warm, so warm he was almost feverish; his touch infused her mouth with heat and sent big curls of sunshine twisting through her skin until they sank deeper. Finally, finally, the glacier that had been her heart melted and thudded to life, trying to burst through the confinement of bone and muscle to get to him. She kissed him back, slow and careful miniscule movements of lips and tongue that belied her frantic internal response, pressing her back into the driftwood as hard as she could to keep herself from clutching at him, this boy who knew what to do with shattered and gutted things. He pulled back and smiled into her eyes, one hand going to her face to cradle her cheek. His thumb rubbed over her temple, and now she closed her eyes, because that felt exactly right.

"See ya," he said, and she opened her eyes to watch him back away.

"Soon," she whispered, and he smiled one more time before he turned and jogged down the beach.

Rosalie saw that the sun had sunk beneath the waterline. The light had turned gray. She turned and put her arms up on the driftwood pile, noting with vague surprise that she still held the purple corsage, and looked at the back of her hand. On it, he'd written, I think you might know more about the Rabbit than I do. Come over and help me out sometime. Then his phone number, and Jacob Black.

Jacob Black. She turned the sound of it over in her mind, and then tried it out loud. "Jacob Black." It didn't sound right, Jacob and Rosalie; it sounded like one of those awkwardly posed old black-and-white family photographs. She tried again. "Jake. And Rose."

That sounded right. That almost sounded like a poem about love.


When Rosalie got home, it was full dark. She could see light flooding from the wall of windows into the forest that surrounded their home. Esme and Carlisle walked around the kitchen, putting dishes away, laughing with each other, still so in love despite having been married over two decades, and she couldn't face them. Instead, she walked around the back of the house and climbed the stairs to the deck, curling up on a chaise lounge with her knees under her chin, arms wrapped around them tightly to ward off the chill of being alone. All the warmth from her kiss with Jake had sunk deep into her center, leaving her outside exposed to the elements.

The smell hit her before the sound of him shifting reached her ears. Cigarette smoke, drifting in swirls around her head from the wrought-iron table and chair set further down the deck. Edward. Carlisle would definitely be bringing this up at the next family meeting, but their father's rule was that he never reacted to something that disappointed him on the same day it happened, so Edward had a few days' cushion. Rosalie curled into an even smaller ball, stubbornly not noticing him.

Finally, he spoke. "I thought you'd be at prom. I thought you were at prom."

She ran responses through her head: I am at prom, you stupid shit, you've finally lost your mind, and This is what I wore to prom; stylish, yes? and You should stop trying to think, you're really bad at it, but in the end she was too tired so she went with the old standby, "Shut the hell up and leave me alone, Edward."

He shut up, but he didn't leave, just returned his cigarette to his mouth and took a drag.

His silence felt like an accusation and a jeer all rolled up between closed lips. Finally, she huffed and demanded, "What?"

He shrugged. "Won't Emmett be kind of pissed that he came all the way down here for nothing?"

She started laughing and couldn't stop, even when her guffaws turned into sobs and tears started trickling down her cheeks, washing away the remnants of Alice's artwork. Even the noose humiliation cast around her throat couldn't shut off the gush of emotion. She just had to ride it out until finally she could click her teeth together and sniffle a little to make sure she didn't have snot running down into the corners of her mouth.

Edward's hand intruded into her line of sight, holding a new cigarette. "Here." She took it and put it between her lips; he flipped open his Zippo and lit it for her. She inhaled, feeling the familiar sharp-edged burn gush into her lungs, trying to fool herself into thinking that it was the right sort of glow.

He hovered, waiting, until she snapped, "For fuck's sake don't just stand there; sit down." Obediently, he sat down on the edge of her chaise lounge. She was still in such a tight position that he had plenty of room.

Edward leaned his elbows on his knees and sucked on his cigarette, lifting his free hand to run through the bronze tangle of his hair. She really liked Edward's hair, regardless of her feelings for its owner; it was thick and wavy and completely untamable. Sometimes when she was walking the edge of insanity she wondered what it would be like to play with it, although she wasn't attracted to all that brooding sulkiness on the face beneath it, not in the slightest.

Rosalie was still so miserable that she wanted to scream, wanted to tell him, That little whore you've been staring at for the past couple years? She's screwing Emmett, or almost there, just so someone else could feel as bad as she did, but at the last second she decided she was too tired for that, too. She burned through the first cigarette in a matter of minutes, and when she stubbed it out in a nearby flowerpot he offered another. She took it and he lit it for her again.

Now she was relaxed enough that she could lean back and close her eyes, so she did, stretching out her legs in front of her and not caring if she brushed his thigh with her calf.

They breathed smoke in and out, a pair of junior dragons.



"What's wrong?"

Her eyes flew open and she stared. He'd never asked her that, never voluntarily started a conversation with her at all. Shock made her stupid and she heard herself answer as if from a great distance, "Emmett's not in love with me. He's in love with someone else and I saw them today even though they didn't see me." The words dropped like pebbles into a lake, one after the other: Emmett's. Not. In love. With me.

He looked into her eyes, green into violet, and she looked back for once, even though Edward's gaze gave her the shivers; it was as if he could pull away the curtain that hid her thoughts from the world and watch the entire show play out under his disinterested view. "You're sad," he said, and he sounded surprised, and that made her angry.

"Yes, Edward, I am sad. Surprise! I'm a human being even though I'm popular. It's really crazy, isn't it, how it isn't just the band geeks who have a heart? Goddamn it." She raised the cigarette back to her mouth, furious with herself when she saw her hand trembling.

He shrugged, unperturbed by her anger. "No, it's not that, it's just… I thought you knew. I thought you knew that he didn't love you and you didn't care because he was just a means to an end."

Rosalie closed her eyes again. "Yeah, well. Me too."

Edward was silent for a moment, and then he admitted, low-voiced, "It always pissed me off." She wearily opened her eyes, preparing for the attack, and then was knocked off-balance when he continued, "You didn't deserve that. You deserved to have someone who cared about you for you, not your ass or your tits or whatever else Emmett wanted from you."

Rosalie felt her jaw drop. She sat up and leaned closer to Edward, peering at his face to be sure he was really there, that she hadn't fallen asleep on the deck and wasn't having the strangest dream. "Why would you care?" she asked. Instead of sounding belligerent, like she'd meant it, it came out whispery and needy. Damn.

He shrugged once more. "You're my sister. I love you. I've loved you ever since you spent all those months working on the H2. I hate dumbass guys who think you're nothing but a body."

She tried to answer, but there were no words. It was as though he'd suddenly held forth in Cantonese. Edward Masen Cullen loved Rosalie Hale-Cullen. The concept was so foreign, so completely opposite to what she'd held as truth. Edward loved her. Edward loved her. She was his sister, like Alice, and he loved her, and all that pissiness was because he thought she'd sold herself short.

In the end, all she could say was, "I love you too," in a soggy-voiced rush of words, and he rolled his eyes and patted her knee with his free hand while he dragged on his cigarette with the other.


They stood outside for a while in the probably-vain hope that the breeze would carry away the tobacco smell from their hair, clothes, and skin, and then they went through the French doors into the kitchen, where Esme and Carlisle were still talking, holding hands and sitting at the island with two glasses of wine between them. They turned in surprised welcome when they heard Rosalie and Edward enter.

"Edward, is that cigarette smoke I smell?" Carlisle demanded. "Son…" He trailed off, shaking his head and biting his tongue.

"It was me, Dad," Rosalie contradicted. When their gaze turned her way, she gave a sulky jerk of one shoulder. "I've had a rough day. So sue me."

"You're eighteen; you can smoke if you want though I wish you wouldn't," Carlisle said automatically, but his blue eyes searched her face with concern.

"Rosalie, why aren't you at prom?" Esme wanted to know. She slid off of her stool and came closer, cautiously, the way she always was cautious with Rosalie because she didn't want to scare her with too much affection. Rosalie knew this and appreciated it while still being irritated about the fact. "I was so upset that I didn't get to see you in your dress or take pictures of you with Emmett, you two always look so wonderful together—" Rosalie flinched. Esme stepped a little closer and raised her hand up to Rosalie's elbow; Rosalie stood a good four inches taller than her adoptive mother. "Darling, does this have to do with your rough day?"

Rosalie wanted to answer, she wanted to sneer and stalk up to her room with a grand exit, she wanted to shut down all the caring and concern and make sure it never worried at her real emotions again, but instead she just burst into tears and lowered her head to Esme's shoulder. Esme's arms closed around her instantly, drawing her into warmth, heedless of the fact that Rosalie was getting eyeliner and mascara all over her white cashmere sweater. Rosalie sobbed harder, knowing she'd just gone ugly with the crying and completely unable to stop herself, leaning into her mother and letting herself be supported.

After a second, she felt her father's arm around her shoulders, and then Edward's long-fingered hand awkwardly patting her back. Esme murmured her caring into Rosalie's ear, and in her voice Rosalie could hear the mingled sadness at her grief and joy that she was actually letting Esme care for her, and that made her cry even more. She stood there in the kitchen and let their love envelop her pain, cradling her heart and bandaging the wounds, and maybe it was better than prom. Maybe it was the best night of her life.