Story Name: Stars
Pen name: fngrdust - fngrcufs and lightstardusting
Disclaimer: Twilight isn't ours. Bummer.
Summary: They say you can't be everything to everyone, but she was everything to me. My best friend, my first kiss, my biggest love, my hardest fall. But what was I to her?
"Now, Seth, don't talk to strangers. Like adult strangers. Kids are cool." I thought for a moment. "Oh! Especially adults in vans. Stay away from them." I wasn't sure exactly why but it was something that both parents and teachers told us kids. "And if some man offers you candy, you tell him to go pound sand out his ear. You got that?" He nodded solemnly, repeating the words go pound sand under his breath. "If anyone gives you trouble, you come and find me. Not mom. Me." I rested my hands on his shoulders, glancing seriously around the playground. I was his big sister, three years older and three years wiser; I knew, at my ripe ol' age of seven, that kids could be cruel.
"Pssst. Hey, you."
I whipped my head around, looking for the source of the whisper, but saw no one. Seth was off already, playing with some little kids, and I wondered if I was ever able to move so easily, so comfortably. Probably not. I wasn't exactly a friendly child. Aggressive, with some behavioral issues. That is what Miss Robbins told my mother while I sat out in the hall. All because I tried to bite Rachel Black. Of course, the teacher hadn't seen that Rachel was pulling on my braid while her twin sister, Rebecca, was whispering in my ear that my dad was a drunk. I didn't even know what that was, but the way Rebecca said it, I was pretty sure it wasn't good.
"Well, where's here?" I put my hands on my hips, a little curious but a lot annoyed by this phantom voice. Other kids screeched, running up and down the playground, but my ears were trained only on the whisper.
"Come find me. It's easy."
"If it's so easy, then why don't you come here and show me? I don't have time for this." I didn't really have anywhere else to be, but that's what mom said to me when she got annoyed. She also said, You always know when Leah's leaving a room, and I was about to prove her point by stomping my shoes in the dirt and leaving in a cloud of dust.
A small hand reached out, delicate gold ring on the ring finger and sparkly blue nail polish, tugging me into an open tiger's mouth; an orange plastic round circle where you could sit and hide and not be seen by anyone. "Welcome to the Cave of Wonders," she said dramatically, her hands stretched out in a flourish. "I'm Rosalie and my favorite color is blue. Jessica told me that blue is a boy's color but I like it, so I don't care."
"Yeah, I don't care either."
"Is blue your favorite color, too?" Her blue eyes twinkled like stars and right then and there, I decided that blue was my favorite color after all.
I started to answer, but a rude voice broke into our conversation and I looked up to see a pale boy with crazy burnt red hair sticking up in a million directions, like he put his finger in a socket. I told him so. He didn't like that.
"Rosie-posy, take your friend and get out of there. Our turn."
"Our turn? Who? You and the mouse in your pocket? Go pound sand, Edward." I smiled at her use of the phrase I'd used minutes earlier. "Me and..." she turned, smiling at me, impishly. I could see she had already lost a lot of teeth and I was envious because I'd only lost one.
"Leah," I supplied.
"Me and my best friend, Leah, are playing Aladdin. You can play, too, if you want. I think you'd make a great Jafar."
Apparently, Edward wasn't too keen on that idea, because he spit at the ground and ran off.
"Boys are such jerks, aren't they?" I stated boldly. I knew I wasn't allowed to say the J-word, but I wanted to impress her. Besides, I didn't think all boys were jerks. Seth wasn't so bad but that was probably because he was a little boy and because he was related to me.
She nodded in agreement and shrugged. She leaned forward and whispered, "Edward Cullen is a jerk." She lowered her voice so much on the last word I could barely hear her, and then she grinned at me, like she knew I would keep her secrets.
Rose jumped up and grabbed my hand, pulling me out into the sun. "Let's go twirl."
"What do you mean, twirl?"
Rose kept pulling me by the hand until we reached an open patch of grass. "Sit. I'll show you."
I plopped down on the ground, crossing my legs and watching Rose as she prepared for whatever she was going to do. She stood a few feet in front of me, tilting her head back and spreading her arms wide. She tipped her chin as far back as she could, closed her eyes and started to spin in a slow circle. She picked up speed as she went, turning around and around, her Barbie hair whipping about.
I wanted to watch her forever, but she opened her mouth and called out, "Leeeeeah, come twirl with me."
I did my best and Rose showed me the parts I forgot. Then we tried holding hands and making a circle and twirling together but our feet got all tangled up and we landed in a heap and lay there giggling. Again and again we twirled, until the sun dipped low in the sky and I heard my mom calling me.
I stood, dusting the dirt off my jeans that were a bit too short, and informed Rosalie that I had to go.
Jumping up and throwing her arms around me, she hugged me close, our spindly arms squeezing tight as she leaned back and tried to pick me up. Giggling, I bent my knees when she placed me down, taking my turn picking her up.
"Bye, Leah! I'll see you soon." She started to run off in the other direction, where I saw a blonde woman sitting on a bench, reading a book. "Wait!" She ran back and we hugged again before she leaned into me, pecking my lips before skipping back toward the woman again.
"Rosalie," the woman said, her tone attempting to be stern but failing. "What did I tell you about kissing?"
As I shuffled slowly off to where my mom and Seth waited, I heard Rose's voice before it faded away. "But mom, she's my best friend. I love her."
Twirling around once more, my bare arms cut through the cooling air and I heard my mom call impatiently for me. Running off the playground, I looked back again to see her waving and I grinned, waving back. I was impressed and slightly awestruck by her; she seemed unaffected by anyone and anything.
And I was as pleased as Punch that I'd been deemed worthy of being her best friend.
"Shit! Fucking shoelace. Fuck!" I banged on the window, hissing a string of curses because I could. It was a rite of passage to being thirteen, even if adults thought otherwise. "Rosalie, open the fucking window."
"You rang?" Rosalie's dry voice surrounded me as she raised the window, which we had decorated with clings.
"Take this shit, will you? My lace is stuck." I passed her the bag I was holding so I could work on freeing myself from the rung of the ladder.
"You know, this could have been avoided if you just took the easy way and used the door." She spoke in a lithe tone, hand on hip, imitating the constant phrase we heard from her mother. Mrs. Hale was cool, though, and she didn't really mean it. She never really meant anything and basically let Rosalie and I do what we wanted, as long as it was under the roof of her house. That worked out well since my mom was all too eager to get me out of the house whenever possible, not wanting Seth and me to be home alone while she worked her second job. We all do what we have to do to survive, kids. Seth usually wound up at the neighbor's, but Rosalie insisted very early on that we have playdates and sleepovers nearly every day. It's what best friends do, Leah.
One thing I learned quickly about Rosalie Hale was when she claimed you, you were hers for keeps. We didn't go to the same elementary school but we were always together, our houses not far from each other. I only needed to cross one major street and the railroad tracks to get to her house. Sometimes she'd ride her bike down my way, but there wasn't too much to do by my house, so I usually rode my bike to hers instead. I'd become a permanent fixture at their home and that's the way we liked it.
Finally, I freed myself from the ladder and climbed through the window, all daddy-long-legs legs and elongated arms. We had both shot up over the past few months, our appendages before our middles. Immediately after I was in her room, powder blue with clouds painted on the ceiling and glow-in-the-dark star stickers in the shapes of constellations, I slammed the window shut, keeping the air conditioning inside the house. My skin raised in goose bumps, but I stayed planted, right by the vent, cooling down and fanning myself melodramatically. "It's hot as balls out there!"
Even though I was gross and sweaty, she wrapped her arms around me and we hugged hello. The bag I'd brought had been tossed on the bed and she flopped down next to it, her head hanging upside down so she could look at me. "I bet you'd know. What was it like kissing Edward Cullen? Did you touch his balls? Were they h-h-hot?"
"Oh my god, Rosalie. Shut up! It was seven minutes in heaven, not a big deal." I tried not to think about my time in the closet at Lauren Mallory's, when Edward and I both entered the closet and then he whispered that we didn't have to really kiss if I didn't want to. And I didn't want to. So instead, we sat in there and came up with a plan to say we did. Instead of saying the rehearsed lines, I turned it around on her. "Besides, you kissed Mike Newton. What was that like?"
"Ugh, Lee... it was like kissing a dead fish. Although I think that kissing a dead fish would probably be more appealing."
"Wow, thanks for that visual! I think I just threw up in my mouth a little."
Wrinkling her nose she groaned. It was so cute and I wrinkled mine, trying to imitate her pout. "Ew, thanks for that visual."
That subject exhausted, she waved spirit fingers at me, informing me that we were doing cheerleading again this year. Rosalie had cheered since peewee and this year was the last year before high school, either J.V. or varsity. Once we'd hit intermediate school the previous year, our towns combined school into one larger school so we were finally together every school day. She had coaxed me into joining cheerleading at the Rec years ago and once we were in the same school, I was talked into it there too. It wasn't something that I necessarily enjoyed doing, but I enjoyed being with her, so I did. I shrugged, acquiescing. Saying no to Rosalie was hard so I usually just saved myself the trouble and went along with her plans. It always benefited me in the long run, like getting invited to Lauren's parties, which weren't always thrilling but even I knew that status was the name of the game. If it weren't for Rosalie, I had a strong feeling the majority of our classmates wouldn't give a flying fuck who I was.
"So, you got the stuff from Lauren last night?"
"Yeah." I gestured to the bag and she sat up, giggling as the blood rushed out of her head. "She said we could keep that one since she has more." We weren't Lauren Mallory's biggest fans but occasionally she came through for us with boy/girl parties in her basement and other stuff along the way; so we used her, just like she used us.
"Natural Woman Breast Enlargement Cream," she read off the plastic blue container. "All natural, enlarges breasts up to a full cup size!" She placed the container next to her and started to peel off her t-shirt. "Well, that's all I need to know. Should we try it?"
"Um, yeah. Yes. Okay. I mean, it seems to have worked for Lauren." I fumbled over my words as my heart flipped in my chest at the sight of her sitting there with no shirt on. Averting my eyes seemed damn near impossible, so I basically stared. She had a bit more in the way of boobs than I did at that point, but then again she always seemed a bit ahead of me.
She looked really pretty.
No, she looked beautiful.
"Lee?" She was snapping her fingers in front of my face and I looked up to find her right there. "You going to take your shirt off? It would probably be easier to get the cream on."
"Right. You're right." I tugged on my t-shirt, pulling it over my head. We had training bras that we wore to school, but in the summer it was too hot to wear them every day, so we didn't.
Pulling our long hair up in identical ponytails, we dipped our hands into the cold cream, spreading it generously over our small buds of breasts (and squealing like the thirteen year olds we were at the coldness against our skin), working the cream in like the instructions stated. Then we sat, shirts off, while Rosalie reached under her bed to find the contraband Cosmo magazine that she had smuggled from her mom's room. Boys had their Playboys (which, I have to admit, I liked looking at, too) but we had our Cosmo.
Flipping through the pages, we sang along with the Black Eyed Peas, as we giggled over the sex tips and wondered what sex even really felt like. I had just gotten over my fear of tampons - that was a fucking son of a bitch to shove up there - so I couldn't even imagine a man's penis making its way in there. Not that I'd even seen one at that point, besides my brother's when he was little, but just… no. Ew. I mean I liked guys. At least I thought I liked guys. Sometimes I watched Edward in class and wondered what it would have been like if I had actually kissed him.
"Ohhh, well I'm not ready for sex yet, but masturbating sounds interesting." Rosalie held up the magazine next to her face, attempting to make the same suggestive face the model was in the picture.
"Ohmigod, Rose! I don't think you're really supposed to talk about masturbating. It's like, a private thing?"
"Well, duh, I wouldn't talk about it with just anyone. But you and I talk about everything. Hell, we're sitting here with no shirts on and boob cream, for fuck's sake! I think we can talk about tickling your fancy." She jabbed at the phrase in her magazine.
"Fine," I turned to face her, serious expression of my face. "Rosalie Hale, have you touched yourself before? Did you ever lay in your bed and thought sexy thoughts while running your hands all over your body?"
Because I have and your face always flashes in my mind when I do. That's, like, wrong. Right?
"Leah! Well, yeah. I have. But I haven't..." She made the face like the Cosmo girl again. "So, I guess not like... fully. Have you?"
I shrugged and looked down, not wanting to share my experience with the person that I fantasized about. So I lied. "Yeah, not fully either though."
"We should probably put our shirts back on before mom comes home and busts us for using this boob cream. Do yours feel any different yet? Tingly or something?" They tingled whenever she was near me, but I wasn't sure why. We put our shirts back on and she sat against the eight pillows that rested on her neatly made bed, pulling her hair out of the band.
"Come here, Leah, let me play with your hair."
She knew how much I loved when she did that. I crawled up onto the bed next to her, resting my head in her lap and closing my eyes, sighing with contentment as her fingers ran through my silky hair.
"Your hair is so shiny and perfect. I wish I had hair like yours." She said this each and every time she played with my hair, and each and every time, I wished that I had hair like hers. Her fingers massaged my scalp before braiding a small section of inky black hair near the crown of my head. I hummed, not saying anything, but enjoying the attention she was paying to my hair. To me.
Rosalie's breath fanned my face. "Remember when I kissed you goodbye on the playground?"
As though I could ever forget. My life would have been a very different, very difficult one without our meeting, without her proclamation of our best friend status. Again, I didn't say anything, just a low murmur indicating that I was listening.
"I bet you kiss better than Mike Newton."
My eyes still closed, I frowned. "What a compliment, considering you compared him to something dead with scales." Still my insides buzzed at her words, at the mere suggestion of our lips touching. Rosalie had always been a physical being: holding hands long after it was okay to, hugging hello and goodbye, spooning together while we watched movies. Of course, there were assholes in school that made comments but as always, Rose didn't care. So neither did I. "Why don't you try and see," I offered up, my eyes still closed, my voice teetered between a taunt and a dare. I couldn't believe the words had come from my mouth. Usually I only thought things like that.
The leg where my head was resting shifted and I felt the bed move beneath me. I didn't dare open my eyes because I didn't want her to see embarrassment there. I lay on her bed, disappointed at the loss, but not surprised. That was a stup-
Lips on lips.
Her lips on my lips.
Tentative gentle lips that tasted like Pink Lemonade Lip Smackers. I let her lead because I was frozen, afraid to move, nervous it might scare her away. My heart thumped ridiculously, colors bursting behind my lids at the first timid touch of her tongue. I parted my lips, just barely, and suppressed a shiver as our tongues met inside my mouth as she continue exploring. Her hands cradled my face and mine moved, entities unto themselves (since my brain and body weren't fully connected), to her hair.
That was my first real kiss.
I wondered how long it would take me to calculate the number of nights I'd spent in Rose's bedroom. Almost every weekend since we were twelve. So a hundred and two a year, give or take, for five years...five hundred and ten. But then I had to factor in school breaks and summer vacations, because I usually stayed a couple nights during the week then too. I'd also have to subtract some for the weeks that Rose's family went away to Disney World or Yosemite. It could take a while; math wasn't my strong point. Luckily, it appeared that I had plenty of time because I'd been there for over an hour, waiting.
Rose had a date, with Emmett McCarty. Again.
I lay back against the pillows and looked at the stars on the ceiling. They had lost their glow over the years, but Rose refused to take them down. I thought it was just so she had something to fight with her mother about. I didn't need excuses like she did; fighting with my mother was a daily occurrence, especially since I'd gotten into Yale. I had worked my ass off all through high school, just for a chance to go somewhere that was as far from Forks as I could get. I wasn't a genius, like Cullen, but I made up for it with effort.
Most parents would be thrilled that their daughter was being given a full scholarship to an Ivy League school, but not mine. My mom was furious that I wasn't going to get a full-time job and start helping out more with the bills. My dad was too drunk to notice. So, as usual when I was in Rose's house, I wished that this was my room, that these were my parents, that I was the one arguing with my mom about glow in the dark stars and planning our trip to Europe. Rose's parents made sure to tell me how proud they were of me about Yale, and I think her mom would have taken me with them for their summer trip if there was any way she could have done it that didn't look like charity.
I heard voices downstairs and knew that Rose had finally gotten home from her date. I prepared my bitchface for her since she was so late. It wouldn't have been a fight or anything; Rose and I had never had an honest-to-goodness fight. We'd argue over what movie to watch, and there was the one time I destroyed her favorite boots by stepping in a giant mud puddle, but it never lasted long. It was still fun to give her shit, though.
"I know, I know, I'm late, blah blah. Get your bag; we're going to Lauren's." Rose hit the room like some tropical weather system, all gale force wind, whipping and spinning. "Leelee, c'mon. Emmett's parked outside. My mom said it was okay for him to drive us."
I sat up on the bed and stared at her. "Lauren's? We're supposed to hang out and watch movies. Why are we going to Lauren's?"
Rose threw herself on the bed next to me and pushed my hair back so she could whisper in my ear. Her breath, hot and sweet against my cheek, made me want to pull away and push closer at the same time. The words poured out of her, fast and furious. "Lauren's parents are out of town, so my mom said we could go keep her company. It's supposed to be just the three of us, but everyone is coming. Angela's older sister got us beer and stuff and they built a fire and Edward is going to be there."
She pulled back and smiled at me at the mention of Edward's name and the sing-song tone in her voice tickled a nerve. Rose was convinced that he and I were perfect for each other. I regretted ever mentioning to her that we had gotten all stupid one night and made out. It had been nothing, really. When Edward Cullen kissed me, it felt nice and more than a little weird, nothing like I'd ever imagined kissing should feel like. I'd only ever had one kiss that made me feel the way you were supposed to feel when someone kissed you. And that was with Rose.
"I don't know, Rose. I thought we were just going to hang out here and watch movies." Or go back and forth over what movie to watch for an hour and wind up watching old My So Called Life episodes on The N, as usual. I hated parties and Rose knew it. Rose hated not getting her way and I knew it. One of us was going to have to fold here. It would be me - it usually was - because I had fun with Rose no matter where we went. It wasn't worth the effort of arguing. But I liked to make a good show of it, anyway, so I stretched out on her bed as if I had no plans to go anywhere.
"Leah, do not be a pain in my ass. We both know you're going to cave, so let's just get on with it. Or... I can tickle you until you submit. Your choice." She flashed me her wickedest smile and I gave her the look that said, "Bring it." And she brought it. Before I could breathe, Rose jumped on top of me and dug her fingers into my ribcage, knowing exactly the spot where I was most ticklish. She was a merciless wench and she didn't stop until I was gasping for air and could just barely beg for mercy. "Uncle," I choked out, breathless for more than one reason.
Rose, ever the gracious winner, threw her hands up in victory. "The winner and still undefeated champion, Rosalie Hale." With that she threw herself down on top of me and kissed me square on the mouth. I think it was supposed to be just a playful thing, but she didn't pull away, instead pushing closer. The tip of her tongue grazed my lower lip and I just lay there, not sure what to do. I wanted to kiss her back. I wanted to push her off me and head straight out the window. I wanted to ask her why she did these things that made it so I couldn't breathe. I wanted to do so much, but I didn't do anything and then she was gone, back to moving around the room and throwing stuff into an overnight bag.
I stood slowly and grabbed my things, following Rose robotically out the door and down the stairs. Rose's mom hugged us goodbye and told us to call when we got to Lauren's. I climbed in the back of Emmett's car and slouched, shoulders pressed into the seat back with my knees squashed to my chest, even though Rosalie moved her seat all the way up. Silently, I watched through my lashes as Rose slid across the front seat to kiss him quickly. It wasn't any less than the way she had kissed me five minutes earlier. It wasn't any more either. I pressed my fingers to my lips, wondering why the feel of her lingered there.
My body shook with the resounding bass that pumped through the speakers of Emmett's car once he had pulled away from Rosalie's house. They spoke in the front seat, occasionally trying to drag me into the conversation. I'd just motioned to the speaker, shrugging that I couldn't hear them. Not once did either of them turn the music down, Rosalie car danced and spoke directly into Emmett's ear. I could see his chuckles reverberate though his body, could see him shaking his head at her words, could see the back of his neck turning red as her finger traced the shell of his ear before she grabbed the baseball hat from his head and put it on her own.
Suddenly, she climbed between the seats into the back with me, half-landing in the bucket seat next to mine and half-landing on me. Her legs crossed over my lap and she rested her head against the top of mine. She turned her head so that her mouth was there, right there, her breath in my ear. "Lee, don't be mad at me. This will be fun. And I'll make it up to you. Promise."
"I'm not mad, Rose." I let her lean on me, let her curl up against me, let her pretend that what had happened in her bedroom was nothing. I didn't know what it was, but I knew it wasn't nothing. We stayed like that the rest of the drive to Lauren's house, which was set so deep in the woods it was almost in the next county. As we drove the long, wooded road leading up to it, I could easily envision the slasher flicks that Rose loved so much. I hated them, and when she made me watch with her, I always spent the whole time peeking though my fingers. She always said she'd be the first to go, the pretty blonde with the big tits. She was probably right. I'd be the last to die. I'd weigh every decision so carefully, but when it was time to make a move, I'd freeze.
The memories of the night are hazy, fits and starts of being there but not. I just felt so... alone. I watched everyone moving around me. Even with Rosalie right next to me, holding my hand in one hand and Emmett's in the other, swinging our arms back and forth, I didn't feel connected. We settled near the fire pit, red solo cups with black-marker names scrawled on each one. I wasn't drinking much and I stayed away from the joint being passed around because I really wasn't into that shit. The last thing I needed was for the party to get busted and lose my scholarship because of stupidity. Jasper was there, ever-present guitar resting on his knee, a girl on each side throwing requests his way. He played the songs he knew, faked his way through the ones he didn't, and people drifted over to listen and sing along. My voice flitted in and out, sometimes chiming in, picking up on key words and phrases of the songs that we sang. I love you like the stars above, I love you till I die.
Cullen found me a while later, sitting alone on the trampoline. I'd made my way there during Friends in Low Places, my absence unnoticed by everyone, but mostly her, which made me feel even more salty. He'd arrived moments before; I listened as he was greeted and heard him ask where I was. Rosalie giggled and said something about me probably off sulking somewhere. She suggested maybe I was waiting for him. I wasn't.
I was waiting for her.
We sat on the trampoline and talked. Conversation with Edward was never a problem. He was smart and quietly funny and we talked about everything and nothing. We shared his cup of beer he'd gotten from the keg when he'd arrived. When we were done with it, he slid off the side of the trampoline and told me he'd be back with more. Only I didn't want more: not more beer and not more him. I wanted to be with her or with no one at all. It was supposed to be our night and instead it was theirs. She was off talking to anyone and everyone but me, hanging on to Emmett's arm and flirting wildly. My heart hurt when it realized that I wasn't important. I was never important to her. I was hers; she had me. And since she had me, she knew that she could come and go as she pleased. The whispered promises in her bed, in the backseat, always, meant little to nothing. To her.
Looking around, I realized that while Cullen and I had been talking, she and Emmett had disappeared. I wasn't sure what time it was. The night had no beginning and no end. It was a haze of greys, there were no absolutes. Only moments measured by her presence or absence. Edward was forgotten when I decided I was tired. Tired of this, tired of everything. I found myself walking through Lauren's house, past people lying on the couches, past people kissing in the hallways. I blocked out the noise that swirled around me as I walked up the steps, looking at the school pictures that hung on the walls of Lauren and her younger brother. The fake plastered grins of children in school when they'd rather been anywhere but. My hand rested on the banister and on the wall, dragging up both sides, holding on for support.
Doors were shut all along the highway, the universal sign for stay the fuck out, people are naked in here. The door at the end of the hallway was open, though, and I pushed it slightly ajar, peeking my head in hesitantly. I wasn't sure what I was going to find in there, but when I flipped on the light the room was empty. Rather than a few of my classmates engaged in sexual acts, I found a rocketship. The entire room was outfitted in outer space decorations, from the throw rug with aliens on it to the stars on the ceiling. Can't escape those damn stars.
Since the room was available, I decided to claim it as my own. I figured I was doing it for Lauren's kid brother. After all, I'd be majorly pissed if someone wandered into Seth's room and defiled his bed. Taking in the Buzz Lightyear comforter, I flopped down on top of it, my hair fanning across Buzz's face on the pillow. I was tired and annoyed. But most of all, I was lonely. I just wanted the night to end. I closed my eyes and tried to forget all the ways it had gone wrong.
I woke with the smell of campfire smoke and expensive shampoo all around me. Foreign but familiar, and unmistakably Rosalie. I was disoriented enough that for a moment I thought we were in Rose's room, but as I blinked the sleep out of my eyes I realized the glow in the dark stars were too bright to be hers and there was a wall in front of me where there would be no wall. No, I was still in Lauren's brother's outer-space themed bedroom, being spooned by a probably drunk and decidedly snuggly Rose. The only thing that didn't compute was why the drunken snuggling was happening here and not in whatever bed Emmett had landed in.
"Rose? What's going on? Where's Emmett?"
"Shhhhhh, Lee. He passed out cold on the sofa and I wanted someone to cuddle with. Scoot over." Her cheek was pressed against my back, and I shivered at the vibration of her words through the fabric of my shirt. She kept her voice low and whispery, like a secret, like all the secrets we had told over the years. How many secrets had we kept?
There really was no over to move, and every time I tried, it just made some new part of me rub against some new part of her. I flipped over to face her, pressing my back against the wall. I tried to pull my hand out from between us and stopped moving completely when it brushed against the bare flesh of her thigh. Where the hell were her pants? I blinked a few more times, trying to make my eyes adjust to the dim light and the glow of the rocketship night-light. Once I could see more than shadows, it became obvious that Rose had stripped off her jeans and was just wearing her t-shirt and underwear. On any normal night, this would have been no big deal, but I'd felt anything but normal since Rose kissed me. This didn't feel like normal us sleeping on a bed together.
My fingers rested against her skin, but she didn't wiggle or giggle or try and move away. If anything, she moved her leg marginally closer. I didn't move at all. We were face to face, but I focused my eyes somewhere over her shoulder, looking anywhere but at her, or worse, down.
"Leah." It was half statement and half question, but the kind without an answer except a distorted echo.
I knew it was going to happen before it happened. It wasn't just me wanting it this time, or wondering what if. I didn't know why or what it meant, but I knew it was going to happen. Rose was going to kiss me. Not like the day she met me, when it was just a small child's way of showing affection to someone she loved. Not like the time we were thirteen, when it was 'just to see'. Not even like earlier that night, when it was playful and her trying to get her way. Rose was going to kiss me like she meant it. And she did.
I focused on the sensation of it, trying to feel all of it. Her lips were warm and smooth against mine, moving, but just barely. She inched her way up the bed, propping herself up on her elbow and leaning over me. When she moved my fingertips dragged across her skin, down her leg as she moved up my body. I wanted to move them up instead, but Rose was leading, same as always. If I was honest with myself, I preferred it that way. It had been that way since we were seven years old, her grabbing my hand and pulling me along with her, showing me how to twirl. She never steered me anywhere bad, never made me do anything I really didn't want to do. Like now. Her leading, her idea, but I wanted to go where she was going anyway. I wanted to spin and spin until the world melted away, but she was spinning faster. I had to catch up to her so I kissed her back this time instead of just letting her kiss me.
When I kissed her back, everything sped up, racing ahead of both of us. Her lips parted, her tongue was tracing the lines of my mouth, and I met it with mine. There was hesitation and hurry and she pressed her palm to my cheek, pulling me so close that there was no air left and I just breathed her in instead. I let myself get lost in her, and when she trailed her hands down my neck and over my collarbone, I closed my eyes and waited for what I knew was coming.
Finally, it was there, the weight of her hand on my breast. I could barely feel it through the padding of my bra, because despite the months of Natural Woman applications in my early teens, I had never gotten really curvy the way Rose had. I pushed against her, wanting more, wanting her to go further, but unwilling to pull away to say so. It seemed as if breaking the silence would stop everything in its tracks, and I knew I didn't want that.
Rose seemed to get the idea anyway, because before I could overthink it more than I already had, her hand was under my shirt tugging at the edge of my bra and her lips were moving to my neck. "Is this okay?"
I said the only thing that ran through my brain. "I don't know."
I didn't know. Had I imagined this a thousand times over? Had I wanted this for longer than I could recall? Did it feel amazing? Yes, yes and hell yes. In the spur of the moment, this was perfect, but I wasn't a spur of the moment girl. I was methodical, planning for every scenario, and this was not part of any realistic plan I'd ever had.
Rose pulled away and had to force myself not to pull her back, but we needed to stop this before it got really out of hand. Go to sleep, get up tomorrow, pretend it never happened. Except that I didn't want to. It wasn't the booze; I'd had so little to drink. Had she? Was this just some drunken thing she was doing that she would regret in the morning, like the time she had cut all her hair off? She had cried for hours, even though she looked gorgeous. Within a week, half the girls in school had cut their hair to look like hers, but she hated it. I didn't want to be some mistake that she made.
"Do you think about me, Leah? Do you think about doing this together? Because, I know it's wrong and I know I'm not supposed to, but I do and it's not with just any girl. It's only with you. You're special. We're special." And we were.
"I..." I didn't know what to say in that moment because there were so many times that I'd thought about this, so many times that I'd wondered.
"Stop thinking, Lee."
"I don't know if I can." Thinking was what I did, but damn it, for once I just wanted to feel.
Then she was there, her hand on my breast, her skin on my skin, and it was everything. Everything I'd ever wondered about and more than that. Except it was awkward, because my shirt was bunched up under my chin and my bra was halfway down my arm and I think Rose was trying to move lower, but the fucking bed was tiny and then she was gone, on her ass on the floor. Rose laughed and I laughed, because she was Rose and I was me and we were still us. Even here, disheveled and half undressed in Lauren's kid brother's space ship bedroom, about to do whatever we were about to do, we were still us.
Rose pulled herself up off the floor and stood there giggling, but my laughter stuck in my throat at the sight of her, legs up to her neck, hair everywhere. She might not have been what most high school girls fantasized about, but for me, she was. This was my Weird Science computer generated perfection moment, and I was not blowing it. I pulled my shirt up and over my head without thinking about it, keeping my eyes on hers while I reached around and undid my bra. Thank goodness Rose had taught me to do it one-handed all those years ago, because it would have killed the moment some if I had to pull the straps down and twist the thing around my chest. I had to make an effort not to cross my arms to cover myself, even though she'd seen my boobs plenty of time. This was different.
There was no sound in the room except shallow breaths, hers and mine, which spiked when she mimicked my actions, grabbing the hem of her shirt and pulling it over her head. She had apparently ditched her bra along with her pants, and the thought flitted through my head that it might have been while she was with Emmett. I shook off the thought; I didn't want him in this room. This was just me and Rose... topless. But Rose never did anything halfway and she was tugging her underwear down her hips and that was it. Rosalie Hale, my best friend for over ten years, my first real friend, my first sleepover, my first kiss, was the first person I'd ever seen completely naked. Well outside of the Playboy I'd stolen from my dad that time, but those girls had nothing on my Rose.
She gave me that look, the one she'd been giving me for years, the one that said 'hurry up or you're going to miss something' and I stopped thinking and undid my jeans, leaning back to slide them off with my underwear because fuck if I was going to miss whatever this was. How did she always get there first? How was she always so far ahead of me? I was the one who had been thinking about this for years, so how come she was the one waiting on me?
For lack of any idea what to do, I stood quickly and pushed the bedding aside, climbing under it and pulling it over me. I left the corner turned down in invitation and she took it, striding over to the bed, reaching it in two steps. She slipped in alongside me, close, so close, her chest brushing against mine. I made a noise that I can't even describe, something between a giggle and a moan, but apparently it sounded like a plea for more because then her hands were on me, her long fingers dusting over my nipples, featherlight and fast. I couldn't stop from pushing into her hands, and she pushed back, squeezing my breasts lightly and kissing me again. I returned her touch and I was lost.
Her skin was satin smooth, which I knew, but I didn't know that there were places she was rough and textured. I mean, I knew - I had breasts of my own - but I had wondered what Rose's felt like for so long. The tiny bed made it hard to move, but I ran my fingers over her, feeling her. Finally. I stopped kissing her long enough to watch our hands and then raised my eyes to hers, loving the way they were half closed and still bright, even in the dark room. Blue was still my favorite color.
We stared at each other, and she moved her hand away from my chest, lower, to my stomach. I think my eyes widened as she brushed her fingertips just below my bellybutton, and she looked nervous for the first time since all of this had begun. Rose was never nervous, she was always so sure of everything. I was always nervous, except that I wasn't now. This felt right. She felt right.
"Is this okay, Leah?" She was asking again and her voice was rough. She went west instead of south, her fingers tracing the curve of my hip, moving to my outer thigh before curving inward, always staying just inches away from there.
I couldn't answer her and she stayed still, her hand resting against my thigh, waiting for permission or something. There were no words for how badly I wanted her to touch me, so I stopped trying to find them. I reached down, skimming over her forearm to her wrist, and pulled her hand between my legs, breathing hard as soon as I felt her touch me. I moved my hand away and hers stayed, and I kissed her, trying to show her yes, this is okay and oh my god, keep going.
I kept kissing her and she kept touching me and in an instant, it all became real. Rose, naked, her tongue in my mouth, her fingers right where I wanted them, where so many times my own had been while I dreamed of hers. She was unsure and awkward, but as with everything she tried, Rose was perfect, paying attention to when I moved against her hand and repeating what seemed to be working. She touched me everywhere, long strokes and tight circles and traces just outside and then not just outside. She had her finger inside me, or more than one. I couldn't even tell, but it felt good, so good. I closed my eyes and squeezed my legs together, trying to keep her there because fuck this was it, this was exactly how it felt when I was alone. Except it was better, so much better.
I gripped Rose's upper arm tightly, not pulling away from the kiss for fear I would scream and wake the whole damn house. But I opened my eyes and she was right there, watching me as I fell apart under her hand. When I closed my eyes again, it was just like it said in Cosmo all those years ago... I saw stars.
I wanted to touch Rose, but she just pulled me close to her and played with my hair. She whispered that she loved me and I fell asleep, content, under the glow of the stars stuck to the bedroom ceiling, wrapped in the best feeling I had ever known.
I wasn't sure how long I slept, but I woke when the sunlight began to peek though the blinds. I stretched and started to roll over when I realized I actually could roll over because I was alone in the bed. Rose wasn't there. I guessed that she was downstairs entertaining Emmett, and I didn't want to think about how. I tried to stop thinking about what was going to happen next. Nothing? Everything? Anything?
I dressed quickly, pulling on my clothes from the night before, still smoky and wrinkled from being thrown on the floor. I stripped the linens off the bed and shoved them in the hamper. Lauren could either wash them or make up some shit to tell her parents, but I wasn't just leaving them on the bed for her brother to come home to after we had... what had we done? I didn't even know how to put words to it, but I smiled just thinking about it and thinking about doing it again.
I crept downstairs quietly, looking around for Rose, but the only person around was Cullen. He was watching cartoons and he looked up when he heard me on the steps. He seemed angry, or sad, or something and he grunted an unintelligible greeting, which I ignored. I was used to him and his mood swings. We worked at the same after school job and we were in the same honors classes, so I knew how broody he could be. I wandered into the kitchen, which was strewn with discarded cups and pizza boxes, but Rose wasn't there. Unless she was behind one of the closed bedroom doors upstairs, she was gone.
Edward's voice behind me made me jump. "She left. Emmett drove her home a while ago. She said she had plans today and she asked if I could drive you home. I've got shit to do, too, so if you're ready..." Edward didn't look at me, he just stared at the floor and toyed with his keyring. The waves of edginess hit me from across the room.
What the hell is going on here? Rose didn't have plans today, other than hanging out with me, and leaving me here with Cullen, especially after last night, was not cool. I felt a gnawing inside my stomach and wondered why it felt like the carnival ride where you spin and spin and just when you get used to the spin, the floor gets sucked away. I thought I was going to be sick.
"I'm ready." I didn't speak another word for fear my voice would break or I would scream or start to cry. It was nothing. Nothing, I told myself. She just remembered something she had to do and she didn't have time to wake me. It was fine. As we wove through the outskirts of town in Cullen's Volvo, I fought back the tears that threatened to come, the ones that hadn't come in years. I didn't cry. I was strong, what Rose's mom called "a tough cookie." I kept telling myself there was nothing to cry about. Everything was fine, good, better than good, everything was perfect now.
The route to my house took us right past Rose's, and when Edward turned onto her street, the lump in my throat made it hard to breathe or swallow. In the way that it's always a small sign, some little thing, a tiny detail that tells you everything is terribly wrong, I knew last night had been the worst mistake I'd ever made. I didn't need a big fight or a long discussion to tell me that Rose was done with me. I had all the proof I needed as we drove past Rose's house. I couldn't keep the tears from spilling over anymore when I saw that the ladder to her window, the one that had been there for over ten years, the one that said I was welcome anytime, was gone.
The weeks from that awful morning until the end of school felt like years. I was literally the walking dead, showing up at school because I had to, but not really functioning. I never called Rose, because fuck, if I had nothing else, I was keeping my damn pride. She never called me either, and when we saw each other in school, she gave me that smile she used to give the girls that we weren't really close to - friendly, but keep your distance. I sort of knew she didn't mean it that way, but I got the message.
I started eating lunch out in the quad because I couldn't stand watching her walk over to Lauren and her crew's table. I wondered if they ever bothered to question why she was there alone, without me. I doubted it. Rose had been my link to the cool kids, and even after all these years, I felt like without her, I didn't fit. School ended with a whimper, and I just had to get through the festivities of prom and graduation. Rose would be leaving for her summer trip to Europe with her mother, and I would work at Newton's with Edward until it was time for us both to head East for school.
I went to prom with Cullen. As much as he could be a pain in my ass, we were friends. He let me be me and he did me a solid, never bringing up the awkward time we'd made out in the front seat of his car in the parking lot after work. Plus, he asked, all sheepish and awkward and 'if you don't want to, it's no big deal.' It's not like I thought he actually wanted to go with me, but it was prom and neither of us had a date, so even though he only asked a week beforehand, I agreed. I borrowed a dress from my cousin Emily, he borrowed his dad's Mercedes and we were prom dates. Me and Cullen.
There was dinner, and stupid speeches by people I didn't give a shit about, and then it was just Edward and me sitting at an empty table while everyone else danced. The awkward silence was hidden under the hip-hop song that was playing, the same one I'd hidden behind in Emmett's car that night. We were next to each other, but Cullen was the farthest thing from my mind. She was all I could see.
Rosalie Hale, a vision in pale blue satin, because it was still her favorite color, no matter what Jessica 'didn't make it to prom because she got herself knocked up' Stanley thought all these years ago. Almost every memory I had was tied to Rose in some way. I kept looking around the room, trying not to be obvious about watching her.
Rose danced with Emmett and shook her ass with the rest of our cheerleading teammates, turning and scanning the room as if she realized someone was missing. When her eyes found me, she half-smiled and beckoned. I just half-smiled back and waved my hands at her. I knew what that was. We were pretending tonight, acting as if, putting on a show. I played along because it just didn't fucking matter to me what they thought, but I knew it mattered to her. Always thinking about her. She pouted, then smiled and let me be, but her eyes said she never really expected me to join them anyway. I should have been up there with them and she knew it, I knew it too, but I just couldn't.
"So how long?" Edward's voice broke though my thoughts and I turned to look at him.
"How long have you been in love with her?" And there it was. Right there on the table between us. The truth, laying open and bare.
I looked into his eyes and I was overcome with the feeling of being seen. How much did he know, how close attention had he paid all these years? How could he see so easily what I'd worked so hard to hide? Had I really been that transparent?
"Edward, I..." I paused and looked down at my hands, trying to decide how honest to be. What did it matter now? Go big or go the fuck home. "Since we were seven years old. Since the day she told you to pound sand." Since the moment I met her, in one way or another, I'd been in love with Rosalie. Edward nodded and he met my eyes and then I knew. I knew how he knew.
"How long have you been in love with me?"
"I don't know, I lost count. The same? Longer? Forever."
I nodded and we both sat in silence, him watching me and me watching the one I could never have. Maybe no one would ever be able to have Rose, to hold her. She was so much life in one person, maybe she couldn't be contained. Maybe that's why she had barely spoken to me since that night. That stupid night, that wonderful, disastrous, amazing, awful, perfect, horrible, everything night.
Rose worked the room like she owned it, hugging her goodbyes to the people that were leaving early and dancing with her shoes off. As Edward and I sat there, the music shifted, a slow song made for lovers that weren't in high school. Rose looked at me and smiled, tilting her chin up and extending her arms out, beginning to spin slowly, twirling. I could feel the lump form in my throat just thinking about the first day I met her, seven years old and already the most incredible person in my whole world. She still was, even if she didn't want me, even though she took the ladder away. She whirled in small circles and I wondered if I was supposed to join her but then Emmett was there, grabbing her hand and spinning her close and the moment passed.
Edward rose from the seat next to me and held out his hand. "Dance?"
I shook my head. I didn't want to fake it. I felt enough of a fraud in my borrowed dress and heels, sitting at the table baring my soul to Edward Cullen. I didn't want to put on a show one last time.
"Burgers? C'mon, Leah, I'll even take you up to the hill."
I couldn't not laugh at the thought of Edward and I up at the hill. "Burgers. The hill. Let's do this."
We spent the rest of the night in the front seat of Edward's father's car, talking about what we wanted out of life and where we saw ourselves in ten years. He asked questions I didn't have the answers to, and when the let down of it all hit, when I finally stopped running from it, I cried and he put his arm around my shoulder, letting me.
I couldn't even pinpoint what I was crying about. It wasn't one thing, it was everything. The end of my childhood. The end of high school. The end of me and Rose.
I looked around my tiny room, making one last check to see if I'd packed everything I needed. The walls were barren, making it feel like no one lived there. Edward had the majority of my things packed up in the U-Haul trailer, waiting for us to make our trek across the country the following day. Earlier in the day he'd shown up with coffee, a peck on the lips, and an easy grin. With Seth's help, the two of them had gotten everything to the trailer, joking and wrestling in between trips. They got on well, and I thought Seth might miss Edward more than he would miss me.
While they cleared the room of my things, I'd taken down every identifiable mark, every momento, every snapshot. I'd spread them out all over my bed, pictures and ticket stubs and folded notes. Edward had come into my room before he headed home, and he stood looking at the photos for a moment before hugging me and saying he'd see me in the morning.
I'd sorted through them, deciding what to take and what to leave. There were so many of me and Rose. Us at the beach, in our cheerleading uniforms, the one from homecoming, standing in front of her fireplace with our cheeks pressed together and our wide smiles. That was my favorite.
There were pictures of Edward and me, too, most of them from that summer. Those were coming. I also packed every single one of me and Rose, then shoved everything else in the bottom drawer of my desk with my old school papers. I couldn't leave her there, I still needed her too much, even now. I figured I'd be back for holidays and stuff, but I wanted to take as much of me to college as I could.
I'd been waiting to leave for years and I knew this would never be my home again. Now that I'd finally managed to orchestrate my escape, all I could think about was what I was leaving behind. Not my parents or this shitty house, just Seth... and Rose. I hadn't spoken to her in months, but leaving would mark the end of that life. She was the best part of it... and the worst.
"Leah? Can you take me over to Paul's? Mom said I could go if you'd drive me." Seth stood in the doorway, looking sad. I hated leaving him there and wanted to do what I could to take care of him before I did, so I nodded and grabbed my car keys. It was the least I could do for him on my last day. He was a smart kid though; I knew he'd get out, too.
Paul lived on the same block as Rosalie, the block that I had tried to avoid all summer. The removal of the ladder from the side of their house signified so much more to me than words could have ever said. Of course, Rosalie lived in a world where a ladder leading to her bedroom wasn't looked at as an invitation for shady people who lurked in corners to come steal the pretty blonde away from her home. No, those things apparently only happened in my world. Maybe I'm the shady person who lurks?
I had to get out of that mentality, out of that mindset. I wasn't going to be ashamed of who I was, whatever that was, even if Rose was suddenly ashamed of me. I was going to a prestigious university. I'd worked my ass off through high school to ensure my future, to make a better life for myself and hopefully my family as well. Everything about my life was moving forward, save one very important thing.
I found myself driving slowly down the familiar street, automatically looking toward the Hales' house even though I tried valiantly not to let my eyes wander to the grey siding, the black shutters that framed the windows. Then I saw it.
There was the ladder, resting against the side of the house, as though the entire summer had been a cruel figment of my imagination.
I hummed quietly.
"Leah. You, uh, stopped the car in the middle of the street and you're staring at Rose's house."
I nodded, my mind racing with what this meant.
"Fuck, Leah. I'll just walk to Paul's. Go talk to her, for fuck's sake."
"Seth, stop saying the word fu-" I tried to remember my role as the older sister, but he was already gone, walking in the other direction down the street. I'd been trying to curse less since I'd gotten accepted to Yale, figuring that it didn't sound very put together to be swearing all over the place. I knew that I had the chance to start over, be anyone I wanted to be. People wouldn't know where I came from, only where I was going. Snapping out of my dazed and confused state, I eased the car closer to the curb before shutting off the ignition.
"Well, fuck." I stared at her house for a beat longer before leaving the car, keys in the ignition. Mom always did it; in case anyone wanted to steal a thirteen year old car, they'd be able to make a quick getaway. They won't even need to jimmy the lock, just take it and go. She insisted that we'd get the insurance money, and while I was pretty sure that this wasn't going to get us a new car, I wasn't even going to try and point out her flawed logic.
In all my years of knowing Rosalie, I'd never hesitated with her. Perhaps this was stupid on my part; maybe things would have played out differently if I had. But no. I rushed to her once she'd claimed me as her best friend when we were seven and I'd done the same ever since. Now? I hesitated. I started toward the ladder, only to double back, jogging up the porch steps. Before I lost my nerve, I pressed the bell, the concept foreign to me.
The inner door swung open and there she was, looking exactly the same but ever so different. We stood there, staring at one another through the screen door, the only physical thing separating Rosalie and me.
Her eyes met mine and I was surprised to see the fear they held. Rosalie was many things but I could count on one hand the times I had saw her scared. Quietly, she asked, "Do you want to come in?"
I thought about it for a moment, considered the words and my options. Going in was too much and I didn't think that I could be strong in her room. In her room I'd fall under her spell and that wasn't what I needed. What I needed was to guard myself; I never did when I was with her and look at where it had landed me. I looked at the porch, the same place we sat and colored with chalk when we were nine, where we'd decorated the columns with stars and hearts. "Why don't you come out?"
She nodded and called to her mom before joining me, both doors slamming behind her. She moved to hug me hello and for the first time ever, I shrugged her off. Her face plainly showed her hurt, but I'd been hurting all summer. I didn't think it should be easy for her. We settled on the ground rather than the Adirondack chairs.
"How was your summer?"
"How was my summer?" I repeated numbly. She left me. Left me at Lauren's. Left me in high school. Left me at prom. Left me with no goodbye, no explanation. And here she was, asking how my summer was. How am I supposed to answer this? So I said the first thing that came to mind regarding my summer. "I slept with Edward," I boldly stated because... well, shit. You were supposed to be able to tell your best friend these things. And maybe, just maybe, I wanted to hurt her the way that she hurt me.
She looked up with wide eyes, as though she was surprised by the revelation before looking back down, like she was afraid to reveal her reaction. "Edward, huh? You're not calling him Cullen anymore? Well, that says something. Was it good?" Her voice was low and she was looking at her fingers, laced together in her lap.
"Yeah, I guess it was. I mean, not the first time but after that it got better."
"So, what? Are you guys dating or something?"
I shrugged my shoulders, not that she was able to see since she wouldn't look at me. "Or something. I don't know, he's going to be about two hours away from Yale. We'll see what happens." The truth was, over the summer, something between Edward and I had changed. It wasn't pity, it wasn't settling. It was something more that had me wondering and hoping and dreaming.
The word was small but the condensation that came with it was big. Where did she get off? She had no right to be acting pissy with me. I opened my mouth, sadly disenchanted by the girl I'd always thought the world of until three months earlier and I was about to tell her as much when she blurted, "I had sex with Emmett."
This didn't surprise me nearly as much as my confession had surprised her. The only difference was the way she said it. Matter-of-fact. Sad.
"Ro?" I scooted closer to her.
"I'm sorry, Lee. I'm... just-" She looked lost. "I'm really sorry. That night was, well, it's what I'd thought about for a long time. And then I woke up early the next morning and I got scared. Scared about what I'd say, scared about what I wouldn't say. Scared about what I was feeling. It was so foreign because, you know, I don't get scared. I guess the fact that I was so scared, scared me even more. I mean, it was you. How could I be afraid of you, right? But I was, so I just ran." Her fingers were still threading, wrapping themselves around each other and I'd never seen her look so sad, so unsure. Pulling them apart, I held them, rubbing my thumbs against the backs of her hands. "Sex on prom night. How cliche, right?" She barked out a short laugh and I looked up, surprised that they had waited that long. I'd always assumed that it had happened before then and it just reminded me that Rosalie Hale had kept more than a few secrets in our friendship, too.
She continued talking and I could hear the sorrow in her voice. "Not that Emmett isn't wonderful because, well, he's perfect on paper. Really good guy but sex in a hotel room before your friends come back from partying in the room next door? Lee, I could hear them all talking and shit through the walls. And I was just laying there, wondering when it was going to be over."
My heart hurt at her admission. Edward had brought me to the hill, even going so far as to set up a blanket and candles, the glow of their flames mirroring the stars in the sky. He made me feel beautiful and sexy and I knew I couldn't tell her that, so I just stayed silent.
Rosalie plowed ahead. "That's fucked up, right? That's not what it's supposed to be. Because it's not what-" she stopped talked and looked up at me for the first time in awhile.
"It's not what we had?"
"Nothing like us."
"I don't think anything ever can be like us, Ro." My arms wrapped around her and she let me hold her there. And for just one more day, she was mine to hold. Instead of me belonging to her, she belonged to me. Maybe she always did and I just didn't see it. Maybe neither of us did.
She whispered, her breath hot in my ear. "Europe was lonely and awful. My mom was my mom, so you know how that went. Well-intentioned but annoying. I wish we went together instead." Her fingers touched my hair, tugging on the ends. "And, I know I probably shouldn't say this, but... I hate that you're going to school so far away."
"I know." I didn't apologize for that. I wouldn't. I needed to do it. But still, I held her. We talked long into the evening, the sun kissing the tree tops, our arms still around each other.
"Rose, are you...?" I didn't even know what I was asking, or why, but I wanted to know.
"I don't know. Are you?" Rose's voice was small. I'd never seen her so uncertain; she had always been my constant, my pillar of strength.
"I don't think so." But sometimes I would think about that night with her and wonder. Maybe? Why did we have to decide? Couldn't we just be? "I don't know."
"I think I am. Does that matter?"
"It never mattered." And it really never had. I had always loved her exactly as she was, even when I didn't know who I was, even when I didn't know who we were.
The porch light flickered on, reminding us of the world around us. Rosalie's mom leaned out the front door, surprised but happy when she saw me sitting with Rose. She asked if I planned to stay for dinner, saying that my seat was always waiting for me. I shook my head, explaining that I should probably check in on Seth and get ready for my drive with Edward, but thanked her just the same. I stood, dusting off my shorts, and Rosalie followed.
"Have a safe trip, Leah. I know we were gone the majority of the summer, but quit being such a stranger. I expect to see you at Thanksgiving." Mrs. Hale smiled, hugging me close.
I looked at Rosalie, not exactly sure how to say goodbye. How to end this. She spoke, offering an extension. "I'll walk you to your car."
We walked in silence but as we hit the pathway to her drive, her hand slipped into mine once again. I squeezed it tightly, communicating the words we didn't speak aloud. I'm going to miss you. You've been my everything.
Standing beneath the streetlight, the fluorescent glow shone down on us. I tried to pull my hand away, tried to say a quick goodbye so that I wouldn't want to stay forever, but Rosalie was having none of that. Pulling me close, she wrapped her arms around my waist. We pulled apart and she looked uncertain. She hesitated.
I knew what I had to do.
Leaning forward, my lips met hers, saying everything that I wanted, but didn't know how to express. I pressed her against the door of the car, our bodies flush and her skin flushed. We clung to each other, wanting to stay in that moment just a little bit longer.
Until it was time for goodbyes. We said nothing, she only pulled away, our hands desperate not to let go of one another until we finally slipped from each other's grasp.
Sliding into the seat of my car, I picked up my phone to call Seth's cell. As I rolled down the window, I heard her mom's voice floating through the thick summer air admonishing our display of affection in the middle of the street. Just like so many years ago, Rose's voice floated toward me, a whisper cutting through the evening air.
"But mom, she's my best friend. I love her."
A/N: This idea started with a one line email, from LSD to fngrcufs. It took hold and stuck around and got itself made into a one-shot. See what persistence can do?
Thank you times infinity to our beta, KrisBCullen, who made sure we were looking good, grammatically, stylistically and logistically. Hearts and flowers to our prereaders, TheHeartofLife and LoreliD. You all rock for looking after our girls :)