AH or AU: AH
Summary: Rosalie and Bella are everything to each other- sisters, friends, polar opposites- until a man threatens to come between them. Can their love for each other overcome their rivalry, or is the price of happiness simply too high?
Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight or its characters
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Disarm by domysticated
Charlie picks us up at the airport.
He waits by the arrivals gate, clearly uncomfortable, standing self-consciously in his civilian clothes. He hugs us awkwardly, mumbling "Good flight?", and takes our bags as he leads us to the car.
Bella sits in front, I sink into the back seat, leaning my head against the window as she takes care of the conversation; she's good at that. The ride is long, and as the scenery floats in front of my eyes I sink deeper and deeper into myself.
Another town; another start.
Charlie's house is smaller than I remember it, and in a worse state, too. Inside, the air is stale, but he's made an effort, with new cushions and curtains; he's gone as far as relinquishing his bedroom in favor of the basement den so Bella and I can each have our own room. I feel bad about it for about two minutes, and then remember he's our dad, and he owes us.
I head straight to bed, claiming exhaustion and a headache. As I drift off to sleep, I can hear them chattering in the kitchen, already at ease with each other.
The next morning, at school, Bella stays close to me, intimidated by the new environment, seeking comfort in numbers. I'm a senior and she's a junior, but the school is so small that most classes are mixed, so we have many in common and she doesn't have to stray too far. At lunchtime, we sit together at a corner table, trying to remain oblivious to the staring and whispers of the student body. It's easier for me: I'm good at ignoring others, and I don't care what they think. Not so easy for Bella, who blushes constantly whenever she overhears something being said about us. I know it's agony for her to be an outcast.
It doesn't take long for Bella to identify and join the popular crowd. Within the space of a week, she's secured a central spot at the Forks' High elite cafeteria table. Everyone loves her- she's so easy to love- and she's happy once again. She wants me to sit with them, and I force myself to hover at the edge of their table every day; at first, they're friendly enough, but they soon learn to leave me alone.
So I watch them.
There's Alice- Bella's self-professed new "BFF"- and her hangers-on, insecure, slightly desperate looking girls who nod enthusiastically and don't dare to have opinions of their own. Their names are as forgettable as their faces. The boys are equally non-descript, just as hormonal and immature as their counterparts all over the country; and I should know.
It doesn't take me long to figure out that Forks' High ultimate prize is Alice's older brother: Edward. He seems nice enough, and yet strangely, alluringly aloof. The guys all suck up to him, and the girls all fawn over him. He just smiles politely, runs a hand through his crazy-looking red hair, and looks away. Despite his efforts to appear accessible and affable, he doesn't really engage with anyone, and that, of course, makes him all the more desirable.
With horror, I soon realize that my sister has joined the ranks of his fan club. Every day, she scoots her chair a bit closer, leans in a bit further, and flicks her hair a bit harder. He clearly, obviously does not give a shit. He's just as civil and polite as he is with everyone else but… that's it. It is plain as day that he is not into her, but her new friends egg her on, flatter her, and convince her she has a shot.
I keep my mouth shut, my face blank, my thoughts to myself. I'll be there to pick up the pieces- that's what I do, so I prepare myself for that.
What I didn't prepare for, however, is the fact that Edward's eyes start looking for mine. That, too often, while all around him there's chatter and giggling and food throwing, his head turns towards me and his green, feline stare fixes on me. That he somehow manages to trade seats in biology so he gets to sit next to me. That he's not friendly, nor polite, nor distracted with me as he is with everyone else, but instead he's intense, tongue-tied, and oddly shy.
And something else I didn't prepare for- that everytime his eyes find me, my heart misses a beat, and I shiver, as if electrocuted; that even in a room full of people, I always know where he is, and what he's doing, and I always know that in a matter of seconds our gazes will meet, and nothing else will matter.
I pretend not to notice any of this, opting for permanent iPod buds in my ears, ignoring him even harder than I do everyone else. At night, Bella yaks my ear off telling me how great Edward Cullen is and how he asked for a pen today and surely that means he's noticed her. The next day, I feel his eyes on me the whole time, and I fight the urge to reach over and touch him.
Every day I sit at the edge of the group, and I know I'm only here because I'm Bella's sister. They don't like me, they don't trust me, they barely make an effort to tolerate me.
I am used to this. I realized a long time ago that people feel threatened by me; I suppose it's my looks. So they project their dislike onto me, and label me as smug, superior, bitchy. I stopped fighting this a long time ago. Too much effort, too much heartache. I'll be whatever they want me to be.
I observe Edward, and I see it, crystal clear: he's like me. Only, he's still fighting, and he's losing. He is impossibly handsome, effortlessly smart, and acutely, painfully ashamed of it. He wants to blend in, but they won't let him forget he's different. He wants to be liked, but they adore him. He wants to be one of many, but they treat him as a superhero.
He wants to be free, and he looks to me to show him how to.
I stare at the leaflet in my hands, a heavy sense of foreboding washing over me.
"Spring Dance- Ladie's Choice!" it proclaims, and I don't know if I am more horrified by the apostrophe butchering or by the actual idea of this dance. It doesn't take me long to figure out it's the latter I should worry about. Bella comes running down the corridor, fighting for breath, blushing to her hair roots. She grabs my sleeve, hard, and shakes my arm hysterically.
"Oh My God Oh My God Oh My God Rosie! You heard? It's ladies' choice! I'm going to ask Edward! Oh shit, I better do it now, before anyone else does… Oh... there he is! Wish me luck!"
And before I can say anything, before I can talk some sense into her, she's gone, run halfway down the corridor, cornered Edward against his locker. I can see her playing with the ends of her hair, fidgeting with her bag strap, and talking too fast and too urgently. Her back is towards me, and I have a clear view of Edward's face- stunned at first, then embarrassed, then disconcerted. His eyes wander away from Bella's face, scanning the corridor, until they lock with mine. He's pleading, asking, begging for a way out.
I hold his gaze, and shake my head minutely, before turning around and walking away.
Two minutes later, I get a text from Bella: "He said yes!"
I have absolutely no intention of going to the dance. I don't care about going, no one cares that I won't be there, and all I am asking is just to be left alone, have the house by myself for one evening, listen to some music, work on my stories… but no. They can't just drop it.
Bella and Charlie pester me into going, and don't let up until I relent. We're at the Blacks for lunch, and so, to shut them up, I turn to Jacob – sweet, shy sixteen year-old Jacob—and huff: "Okay, okay I'll go. Jake, wanna be my date?"
Jake gets all flustered but looks immensely proud. Everyone thinks it's a great idea and there's cheering and back-slapping and dress-shopping plans.
I put my earphones back in.
The day of the dance, we're subjected to the torture that is Alice Cullen's idea of a pre-party. It's taking place at our house—who decided that?— and involves ozone-killing amounts of hairspray, obscene quantities of makeup, and so much squealing I think I'll never recover my full hearing range.
Bella is beside herself with excitement, and when all the prepping is done, I have to admit she looks lovely in her blue dress and curly hair. I tell her, and she's so proud and happy it makes me feel bad that I don't compliment her more often. She squeezes my hand and pushes my hair behind my ear: "You're so beautiful, too, Rosie," before leaning in for an air-kiss, lest she smudge her makeup.
Edward and Jasper pick her and Alice up at seven pm and I hide behind the screen door so he can't see me. I can't miss the way his eyes are searching, nor the look or disappointment when he can't find what he's looking for.
I take in his formal attire- a tuxedo that's slightly too big for his lean frame, his unruly hair slicked back, polished shoes that must be so uncomfortable- and I long to loosen his tie, to ruffle his hair, to walk barefoot with him in the grass.
After they're gone, loud music blaring from the car stereo, I head out to pick Jake up.
High-school dances should be banned under the Geneva Convention. The Forks High spring dance is a particularly sad affair, and the determined effort of the participants to have a good time only serves to make it, and them, more pathetic in my eyes.
Thankfully, Jake is under no illusion that we're on a date, and he's actually quite good company: he jokes around, and surveys his surroundings, and mostly looks at Bella. Yeah, right. That figures.
And Bella… well, she's making a go of things tonight. I overheard her in the bathroom earlier, telling Alice that "if Edward wants to, I'll let him round second base tonight," and I know this can't end well.
Edward is a gentleman, I'll give him that, and he takes his chaperoning duties very seriously. He lets Bella hold his hand and dances with her, albeit somewhat stiffly, struggling to keep her at arm's length. All the while his eyes keep searching and scanning the room, and when they find mine, my heart misses a beat, and I know this won't end well.
Reluctantly, trying to salvage something of this evening and eager to be out of there, I let the school's potheads talk me into a walk in the woods, which turns out to be a freezing, sodden affair, with mediocre dope and lack-luster company, and by the time I get back into the gym hall Bella and Edward are gone. I hang out a bit longer, then drive Jake back. When I get home, the house is dark, and I make my way quietly up the stairs.
And then I hear it. Sobbing.
Bella's door is shut, so I knock. She doesn't answer, but sobs louder. I take it as my cue to walk in, and find her curled up on her bed, her dress crumpled under her, clutching her childhood teddy bear to her chest.
I walk to the bed, and sit on the edge.
"What happened, Bella? What did he do?" I am scared of what her answer might be.
"Nothing." Another loud sob. "Absofuckinglutely nothing."
She turns away from me, and I instinctively reach out to smooth her hair back from her face, then continue to rub her shoulders with my other hand.
"He says he's not interested, that I'm nice, but he's not into me, and he wants to be just friends." The words come out querulous, high-pitched.
I lay down behind Bella, spooning her. I grab the blanket and pull it over us. Gradually, her sobbing subsides, and we fall asleep like we used to, when we were kids, when our parents fought.
Things are awkward at school for a few days, but Bella decides she's going to pretend like nothing happened, and within a week it all goes back to normal. Except that now Bella purposefully ignores Edward, in a way that I suppose she feels should be humiliating to him; his relief is palpable.
And then it's Friday afternoon, and the sun is shining—a rare event in these parts. Everyone is outside, and I take advantage of the fact to grab one of the three library computers and get some writing done. I'm alone in here: even the librarian walked out to get some sun.
And then I hear him.
"Hey." He says, pulling out a chair beside me. "Don't like the sun?"
I shrug. "Neither do you, apparently."
"No, I do… I was just… I was looking for you."
He's awkward, and strangely giddy. I quirk an eyebrow, questioning. Edward leans down, and looks at my feet under the table.
"What the hell are you doing?"
"I was just checking whether you were wearing sensible shoes." I have hiking boots on today. "And they're perfect. I wanna show you something… Come with me?"
And I should say no. But he's there, and he's smiling, and his eyes are so green, and he smells impossibly good, and he's palming the back of his neck, nervously.
We get into his car, and he's laughing nervously, looking at me sideways, and I don't want to smile, but I do, and it feels good. We don't say much, just half sentences and random words; our fingers touch when we both reach for the radio, and we both apologize and then laugh some more.
We drive out of town, and when we stop he runs to open my door and holds out his hand; I take it, and we walk hand in hand through the woods till we get to a clearing, a meadow. Spring has exploded here, and there are flowers everywhere: my breath is knocked out of my lungs, and I can't say anything. I just stand there, taking it all in.
He's still holding my hand; slowly, as if asking for permission, he threads his fingers through mine, his thumb tracing small circles in my palm, and when I turn to look at him he's gazing down at me, intently, and then his eyes go to my lips. Slowly, hesitantly, he leans down, and his mouth finds mine, just a light brushing, before he pulls back abruptly, as if stung.
"I'm sorry…" he mumbles. His hand flies to his hair, and he looks away. I am electrified from the sudden loss of contact, humming with energy. I move closer to him, and he turns around, leans down again, and this time he kisses me properly, gently at first, then more vigorously; he takes my arms and trails them around his waist, and he cups the back of my head in his hands, tenderly, then more aggressively, and we kiss, and kiss, and kiss until our lips are numb and our jaws are sore and our necks are aching and the sun has gone down.
Exhilarated, drunk, we go back to the car; it's dark by the time we reach my house. He pulls in the driveway and cuts off the engine. He turns towards me, and takes my hand, holding it so tight it almost hurts.
"I'd really like to do this again."
I smile, and nod, and lean in to kiss him one more time before flying off the car and into the house. I run up the stairs, my heart beating so fast I think it will explode.
I find Bella waiting for me on the landing. Her face is distorted in a mask of hurt and confusion.
"What the hell, Rose?" her voice is stony, cold, shocked.
I stand in front of her, an arm instinctively reaching out to touch her. She flinches, and I lower my arm.
Her fists are clenched, and she's shaking, anger quickly replacing confusion.
"I saw you! What the fuck are you doing Rose? Why are you doing this to me? How long has this been going on?" She takes one step towards me, and I back against the wall.
Tears spring from her eyes, and she fixes an icy glare on me.
I open my mouth to speak—as much to defend myself as to comfort her, as I always do- but she cuts me off, screaming.
"Fuck you! You could have anyone, anyone at all, and you have to go after the one guy I like? What is it, just have to have my toy as usual, eh?"
"Bella, stop, it's not like that, I…" my voice is small and feeble, and she's onto me, and she's shoving me hard against the wall, her mouth twisted in a fiery, uncharacteristic sneer.
"I hate you, you hear me? I hate you! Always acting so superior, I don't care about guys, I'm the fucking-ice-queen, when in reality you just want to hurt me."
She turns around, heads to her room and slams the door, hard. The vibrations reverberate into the empty house.
All the happiness and the giddiness and the warmth are gone. Her words have hurt so deep I feel physically sick. I curl up in bed, and stare at the wall.
Life is hell after that.
At home, it's more slammed doors and loaded silences and looks full of hatred and resentment.
At school, it's even worse. Somehow Bella has worked the crowd against me, and the consensus seems to be that I seduced Edward to spite my sister. It's not so much the assumption that I'm a slut— somehow, that seems to follow me wherever I go, even though it couldn't be further from the truth— that wounds me, but the fact that I would hurt Bella on purpose. That she thinks it, that she got others to think it... it wounds me more than I can say. Bella and I have our differences, and we've grown apart over the years, but I love her more than anyone else in the world.
For her sake, I retreat further into a corner of isolation and awkwardness. No question, now, of sitting with the usual crowd at lunchtime. Instead, I opt to spend my breaks in the library or in the car, removing myself from evil stares and bitter gossip.
I avoid Edward – who seems to have escaped this with his reputation nearly intact, and yet is increasingly alienated and reluctant to engage with his posse— as much as possible. He still sits with them at lunch, next to his sister, who's so much quieter than usual, but he barely says a word, and barely looks at anyone around him.
He seeks me out, though, his eyes always looking for me, and in Bio he keeps trying to talk to me. It rips my heart out to shut him out, and to see him get more distracted and fidgety as the days go by, but I shun him, I don't reply, I look away every single time.
At night, I cry myself to sleep, and I'm cold, so, so cold. The only person who could make it better, who could warm me up, my only friend… is behind a closed door.
A week passes, then two. Loneliness cloaks me like a shroud. I am getting used to it, it's nothing new after all, but it never gets easier.
Today, as has become my new routine, I hide in the library at midday. Another sunny day, and it's again deserted. I am sitting on the floor, in the darkest, most secluded corner. I've got my notepad out, and I'm scribbling furiously. Earphones in, with the volume turned up high, so I don't hear him or see him until he slides down on the floor, in front of me.
I jump, scared, bringing a hand to my heart. Then I yank my earphones off.
"What the fuck, Edward?"
He shrugs, but doesn't apologize. We stand in silence for a few, long moments. He's fidgeting with the zip on his hoodie, tapping his foot nervously. Then he finally lifts his head, and looks at me. I notice that his face is drawn, his eyes darkened, tired.
"I want to be with you." His voice is strangled, hoarse.
My heart beats faster. I stay silent, and look away.
"I think about you all the time, I can't stop remembering that day in the meadow. And you know, I could live with feeling like shit all the time, but I can't live with seeing you feel like shit all the time… I can't live with people saying the things they're saying about you… I can't live with knowing I could make you better, and you won't let me."
My eyes well up, and I wish, desperately, that he would touch me. And he does: his hand reaches out to my face, tentatively at first, then more confidently, and his fingers are strangely cold, trembling, but I press my cheek into them, and let the good feeling spread.
Gradually, he leans in closer, and our foreheads touch, then our noses; we take our time, savoring the moment, and my heart is beating fast, so fast, as though it was the first time I've ever been touched, the first time I've touched someone.
Fleeting thoughts of Bella enter my consciousness, but I push them away. She's angry, I know, but I hurt, and this… this is what I need to ease that hurt. There is nothing wrong in what we're doing… nothing wrong in the gentle, hesitant, sweet way Edward is now kissing me… nothing wrong with the way my body relaxes into his embrace, nothing wrong in the way his smell surrounds me, intermingled with the scent of books, and dust, and old carpets.
Instead, for the first time in a long, long time, everything feels right, so very right, deep in my core, and I give up fighting it for what I think is proper, or appropriate, or expected of me. I give up the fight and I let myself sink deeper and deeper into the delicious feeling of letting go.
We stay like this for the whole lunch break – the librarian comes in and out, but we are so silent, exchanging nothing but our breaths and sweet, gentle kisses, that she doesn't notice us.
That Saturday, the first of many, we spend the whole day in the meadow—our meadow—and there's more kissing, more smiles, and hands and words and secrets exchanged and offered for safekeeping.
Unknown to the world— my stipulation to spare Bella further hurt, and myself further hatred- Edward becomes my refuge, my escape, my certainty. His sweet, old-fashioned courtship slowly thaws the ice that had formed around my heart, shows me how much he values and respects me, convinces me I am worthy— of love, of admiration, of trust. We build our own world, away from prying eyes, we plan a future far from here, we dream of soaring above the drudgery of Forks, and of never coming back.
He tells me he loves me, and he doesn't get upset that I can't say it back. He knows it hurts too much, and he waits, patiently, for me to be ready.
I long to tell my best friend, I long to share my newfound joy with Bella. But, although the heartbreak has subsided- no doubt helped by Jake's ever more obvious presence in her life— the anger is still there, and she won't let me forget it.
After a while, I stop trying to reach out to her, convinced this is the price I'm paying for my stolen happiness.
In the end it is Charlie that forces us into a confrontation. It's Friday night, one of the last weekends before school's out, before I leave for college, for good. As usual, our family table is silent, resentment and misunderstanding festering in the small, stuffy room.
Our normally taciturn father finally erupts, banging his fist on the table with a violence I didn't know he possessed.
"Goddammit! I have had enough of you two! I have no idea what the hell happened, but whatever it is, it cannot possibly be bad enough to justify this… this bullshit!"
Bella and I flinch; we've never heard our father curse. He's not done yet. He stays silent for a couple of minutes, composing himself, choosing his words carefully.
"I just cannot stand to see the two of you fighting like this. All this time, when you were away, when I worried about just how badly your mother and I have screwed your lives up… I knew you had each other, and that would get you through the worst times. Do you realize how lucky you are to have each other? You've got to patch things up, before it's too late. You need to get each other back." He pauses for breath, his moustache twitching, then he turns to Bella. "You, you with your constant resentment and moping and expecting your sister to cover your back whenever something goes wrong… I can see you're angry, but you're hurting her, and that's just… unfair, Bells. Your sister deserves to live her life for herself, not always one step behind you to make sure you're okay." Bella looks at her hands, pulling a cuticle with focused determination.
Then he turns to me.
"And you! Rose, you're going to have to learn to confront your problems, rather than just shutting down and taking everything in your stride as though you deserve every beating life throws your way. Stop hiding, stop pretending that nothing gets to you. Live, for Christ's sake!"
I am stunned; do I do that? I look up at Charlie just as he stands up, throwing his napkin down on the table, and leaves the room, banging the door loudly. Bella and I are left sitting in uncomfortable silence, neither daring to speak first.
In the end, we just get up, take our plates to the sink, wash up, and head upstairs, to our respective rooms.
Nothing's changed, nothing's going to change.
A soft knock on the door, so quiet I almost miss it. I jump up, run to the door, open it quickly before she can change her mind. Bella stands there, looking sad and a little tired. I wave her in, and she hesitantly sits down on the bed next to me.
Just then, I get a text from Edward, saying he misses me, wishing me good night. I smile despite myself, and blush a little.
"It's him, isn't it?" Whispers Bella.
"Yes." I'm scared of telling the truth, but I can no longer lie.
"And how are things going? Is he good to you?"
I can see it costs her a huge effort to ask, but she's asking, and that's all that matters.
"He is… so, so good. Bella… I know this hurts you, but I never did this to spite you… it's just… it's just the best thing that's ever happened to me. I am so, so sorry that I caused you pain, and believe me, I never would have if it hadn't been so… special, and if there'd been any other way…" The words come rushing out of me. There's so much I want to say, so much I have to tell.
She nods, still not looking at me. I swallow my tears, and continue.
"He is so sweet, Bella, he makes me laugh, he… he is just like me. We dream, and plan, and when I'm with him… I feel so free, and light, and happy. I didn't think… I didn't think something like this could exist, not for me anyway, but it does, and I should have been strong enough to stay away from him, for your sake, but I just couldn't..."
Bella turns around abruptly and throws her hands around my neck. She holds me tight, almost painfully. After the initial surprise, I hug her back, and we stay like this, rocking and crying and holding on to each other, for a long time. Finally, she speaks.
"No, I'm sorry Rosie." My heart soars. She hasn't called me Rosie in such a long time, and I missed it. "I… I liked him, it's true, but… it doesn't matter now. He was meant for you, and… I'm happy for you."
I brush the tears from her face, and her hair back. She offers a broken, brave smile.
"You know I never meant to hurt you, right?"
After that, there are more words, more tears, but gradually there's also laughter, and we lie back in bed together, like old times, chatting and teasing and enjoying each other's company. We fall asleep in my bed, holding hands, and when morning comes, I finally text Edward back:
"I love you."