Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns everything Twilight related. No copyright infringement is intended and there is no financial gain by myself in this story. The original characters, plot, and setting are the property of the author, NTJB. Please do not reproduce this story without the express permission of the author.

A/N: Hi :)

Thanks team. Got this done way way last minute, and you still came through. Love you ladies!

Sorry, this is another long chapter. I'm trying to cut it down, I really am!


Chapter 43- Pastoral

November 21, 2010

When we left The New School, Edward and I headed for the penthouse.

It was a mess. I slipped on a couple of shirts and accidentally kicked beer bottles on my way to the stairs. As soon as the putrid chicken on the coffee table hit my nose, I held my breath.

I tried and succeeded to avoid anything else in the living room. Being so close to it again was probably another reason why I held my breath.

"Maybe I never knew you. Bella Swan, you're a stranger. I never saw you. I never loved you."

"Sorry for the mess. I'm rarely home," Edward said sheepishly. His cheeks became rosy.

Taking his hand, I pulled him toward the stairs, my eyes and throat burning from the memories.

"Hey, what's wrong?" He squeezed my hand at the foot of the staircase. I stood in front of him, facing upwards. After a deep breath, I swallowed down the tears to turn around and give him a smile.

"Nothing, I'm fine." I bit my lip as I took a step, but Edward stopped me, saying,

"It was hard for me, too, being back here." His thumbs drew circles so softly on the back of my hands. His eyes were as soothing as menthol as he joined me on the step. "I'm so sorry. So so sorry."

I nodded slowly, feeling the tears fall, feeling him wipe them away.

"I'll never hurt you again," he said. I let his words soak in. No sorrow, no fury, no accent.

I didn't hear the stranger; I heard Edward.

Leading him up the stairs, I found our bedroom to be even messier. One crumpled item near the headboard looked particularly out of place:

It was one of my t-shirts, the one I had worn the night we met.

"I couldn't let this one go," Edward said behind me. He wrapped his arms around my waist, walking me to the bed. Balling the shirt into his fists, he tossed it over to the loveseat near the window.

"I never wanna sleep without you," he said into my ear.

Never.

"Neither do I," I whispered.

The memory of the day he left quickly faded as we lay in bed. We didn't spoon like we used to do. Instead, Edward pulled my face up close to his. His thumb caressed my cheek until his eyelids began to droop and my mind filled with dreams of his green pools.

November 23, 2010

The awkward murkiness that had weighed us down on Sunday grew heavier each day.

Yesterday, I had stared at my white t-shirt on the loveseat and hoped the boxes of clothes at the apartment would soon join it. For the last couple of days, Edward had held me like he had wanted me to do the same thing. Whenever he had walked through the door after a long day of rehearsal, he would hold me for what seemed like five minutes before letting go.

It was all we did for the last two days, though. He wouldn't kiss me. His touches were tender, as if I were made of glass and about to shatter at any moment. Worse, his eyes were stern and told me he wasn't ready for me to bring the rest of my clothes back here. So, I never went back to my apartment and spent my days in his t-shirts, boxers, and socks upstairs in our bedroom.

He kept me an arm's length away, like he did after the incident at his apartment last summer. Unlike last summer, however, we rarely saw each other. The play took up all his days and most of his nights. He only had a month left until opening night, doing things he never talked to me about. It was as if that were a separate world for him. Once he came home, Tennessee never dropped by with him. He was Edward, which I was so thankful for, yet even more taciturn than before. Thus, the awkward murky air between us remained. He came home, held me, and left before I woke up the next morning.

This morning, I opened my eyes to a welcome surprise: him.

Edward lay on his side, his cheek propped up in his hand, his eyes staring at me but still... off. He looked even more conflicted about us, but unlike the days before, he was ready to talk.

"I'm going to L.A. for Thanksgiving, and I wish I could take you with me." Edward said this with a frown, and his eyelids low.

"Edward, I-"

"You must have something planned..."

I shook my head. "No, no plans."

"You should be with family."

You are my family, I wanted to say to him. Instead, "My mom's in London. I don't have anyone else."

"What about Jacob?"

"I haven't spoken to him since Sunday, so I don't know."

There was a glint in his eye when I said this, so I pressed him.

"You're just as jealous over Jake as I am over Jane."

He narrowed his eyes at me. "I have a right to be."

"And I don't?"

"No, you don't. Jake is still very much a part of your life. Jane isn't. Period."

"Oh, so when she's Maggie on stage, she's invisible to you?"

He rubbed my chin up and down, swiped his thumb across my cheek, and tapped the corners of my eyes. "I see you. Every night, I see only your face, only your eyes. Jane doesn't exist, Bella."

I huffed. His words were nice, but the fact was, he should've chosen someone else to be Maggie. I pulled his hands down to the sheets between us.

"How could you allow this? There are thousands of actresses who could be Maggie right now."

He opened his mouth to say something but stopped to smile again. His body was loose, even though the dense air between us hadn't cleared up.

"She won't give up until she has your mother's ring on her finger again," I mumbled, sitting up. Stretching my arms up over my head for a moment, I felt his hand suddenly clasp my left one. He chuckled as he squeezed it, rattling my nerves. His indifference was unsettling.

"This isn't funny. She sabotaged your workshop, remember? She went behind your back to meet me. And I can imagine that was only the tip of the iceberg. You've known her a lot longer than I have."

"I have." A grin lit up his face.

"Your best friend hates this. But you seem to be enjoying this new addition to your production a whole lot."

"This conversation's gonna stop, now," he said, the amusement in his eyes drying up.

"It's never gonna stop!" I got on my hands and knees as he sat up against the headboard. "Why is she in the play again, hunh? Tell me."

"Because..."

I waited a solid minute, watching him stare straight ahead at the blank wall across from us.

"What? Because what?"

"She got Ben and me by the balls, Bella." He sneered. "She was gonna blacklist us if we didn't let her back in."

"What? How?"

"Literally every person on Broadway would never wanna work with us because of her clout."

"Oh please!" I scoffed. "Like she has that kind of power."

"And Ben thought she was bluffing at first," he continued right over my protest. "We barely had a crew and cast to begin with, but we managed to find classmates to work below scale. She planned to pay them double the rate just to abandon us, Bella. Double. So, not only did she threaten us, she offered incentives to people we needed to leave our production." He punched the mattress a couple of times. "There was nothing Ben and I could do but bring her back into the fold."

"Fuck," I whispered.

"Exactly." He stretched his neck.

"So you see, she won't give up, Edward."

"And?"

"And?" I glared at him. "She'll get what she wants with you and she'll tear us apart."

"You really think I'd go back to that?"

I folded my arms. "How could I understand what she means to you if you never talk to me about her?"

"You've just..." He looked me square in the eye. "You gotta trust me."

I didn't know what it was, Alice's suicide attempt or Jake's overreaction to my hickeys, or his total non-reaction to my lies, but I wasn't about to just accept anything Edward threw at me anymore. I trusted him blindly from the get go, and it got me in the hospital.

I had a feeling he wouldn't hurt me again. He was just as rattled by what had happened to Alice and Jake's intervention as I was. But trust was something I wasn't ready to give, not until he told me everything, especially about Jane. I could love him. I wanted us to touch and kiss and make love like we used to. Physically, I was sure we would be just as connected. But his trust had to be earned.

I cocked my head to the side as he dropped his face down into his chest. "Really, you'd ask that of me?"

He looked up at me, frowning. "You're right. That would be asking too much of you right now." I sighed. "But I can promise-" he breathed. "I can assure you that whatever plans she may have for me won't change how I feel about her. I'm never gonna be into what she has to offer. It's that simple. That's why I never talk about her, Bella, and I never will. Even if I had to work with that... woman for the rest of my life, I wouldn't change my mind."

He seemed so convinced. I wanted to believe him so badly, but he had used that word before and changed his mind: never.

"You said that to me before."

"What?" He rubbed the back of his neck. "When have we ever spoken about Jane?"

"No, not about her," I mumbled. I fidgeted before him and kneeling on my hands. I tried to keep my eyes on his, but it proved difficult due to the harsh memory.

"You told me a week ago that you never wanted to hear me speak again. You said you'd never forgive me. Yet here we are, speaking. And at the Drama Building, you said moving on is unfathomable to you. So, you've forgiven me as well."

"Jane is not you."

"Edward-"

He pressed his forefinger to my lips. "You're real. You're here." He grabbed my arms and squeezed them. "Really here. She was out for herself in the end, and I could never be with someone that selfish. I need you, okay?"

I nodded as he let me go, his hands leaving red splotches on my skin. I would probably bruise.

"I'm sorry," he murmured, wiping the mark on my left arm like it would go away.

"I'll be fine. But you..." I got off my right hand to trace the scratch that was beginning to fade on his cheek. "We should put something on this."

Edward shook his head. "By Thanksgiving, it'll be gone."

"Why did Jane scratch you, Edward?"

He groaned as soon as her name came out of my mouth. "You're not gonna let this go, are you?" He bared his teeth, uttering this question more like a statement.

"No. I wanna know. I don't want secrets between us. I want us to be stronger than we were, and we can't do that if we keep secrets, especially when it comes to her."

He cursed under his breath. "It was an accident! We were rehearsing a scene when I got back from L.A., and she got too wrapped up in the scene. That's all."

I rolled my eyes.

"What?"

"I don't remember Maggie ever raising her hand to Brick. Wasn't she begging him the whole time to fuck her?"

He rubbed his right cheek, something I hadn't seen in months, since the last time we were here. I reached up to touch his face, and he quickly covered my hand. There was a morning's worth of prickly scruff along his jaw.

"That's why it was an accident." He squeezed my hand, and my heart did a little dance as our fingers locked and rested on his lap. He was hard.

"Okay." I crawled up to him, sitting on his lap. "Okay." He promptly repositioned me so that I sat on his left thigh. "So, Thanksgiving?"

He stretched our arms before us, interlocking our fingers.

"I want to take you but..."

"But you don't," I finished for him, my stomach tense. I played with his fingers and thumbs, trying to keep my voice light. "You wanna spend time with your family."

He paused for a second before continuing. His breath was warm on my right shoulder. "I don't know how I'll be able to do it again. It was brutal last week."

"So, I'll come."

He folded his hands over mine so they covered them completely. We were silent for a couple of minutes until he asked,

"What about your dad?"

"I'm never going back to Forks, Edward. I hate it there, everything about it."

"What happened?" He held my hands tighter so that I couldn't open them if I tried.

"He just doesn't know how to be a dad. He's such an asshole. I don't think he ever wanted me in Forks because for four years, I was a thorn on his side. Nothing I did was right, especially not coming to New York to become a journalist. He wanted me to fail, I know it. He wanted to be miserable like he is. Alone and miserable."

"Bella, I had no idea," he mumbled into my shoulder.

"He's in my past, and he'll stay there, as will Forks."

"Okay. Okay, so what if I brought your mom here to you?"

"What?" I squeaked, which startled Edward so much, he released my hands. I turned on his lap to face him.

"You can't be alone, Bella."

"You can't buy my mom a ticket." I was smiling at this gesture yet completely overwhelmed. "She doesn't even know who you are," I blurted out. My face heated up, and I quickly covered it, turning away from him again.

Edward sighed, kissing my shoulder. I inched closer to the middle of his lap and found him to be even harder. "Your blush kills me." Over his t-shirt, which hung loose on me, he slid his hand up and down my side, making my heart flutter.

"I'm sorry," I murmured. I watched his left hand go down my bare left thigh, then stop at the middle.

"Don't ever be sorry, Bella." His words seeped into my skin as his thumb brushed my inner thigh. Then, his hand rested on the sheets. I sighed.

"I'll call my mom to introduce you, but you shouldn't buy a ticket."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'll be fine here. I will."

Mom was pleasantly surprised to hear that I had been in a loving, peaceful relationship with Edward for six months and that he had made me happier than I had ever been in my life. She was even excited to hear his voice.

"He sounds like Jeremy Sisto," she said when she gave the phone back to me. "The jerk in Clueless." This was mom's all-time favorite movie. "He's not a jerk, is he?"

I laughed her off, watching him pull on a clean t-shirt and jeans, my heart heavy. After charming my mom on the phone for a couple of minutes, Edward had gotten out of bed to pick out underwear and socks from his dresser. His flight for L.A. was in three hours.

"No, he's not a jerk. Hey Mom, you're not working again on Thanksgiving, are you?"

"I'm sorry honey, I am."

"I'm sorry, too."

Edward pulled out his duffel bag.

"But," she said, stretching out the word. "For the first time since you went to Tisch, I'm free for an entire week for Christmas," my mom said. "So, on December 20th, I'm gonna get the first flight out of Heathrow to see you!"

As Edward pulled my white t-shirt from the loveseat and dropped it into his bag, I felt my knees get numb.

Apprehensively, I told my mom, "Great. I can't wait."

November 24, 2010

There was no turkey this Thanksgiving. No cranberry sauce or stuffing. I baked a chocolate cake for Edward's return tomorrow, the scent of the Dutch chocolate powder and sugar filling the kitchen and wafting down the hallway to the living room. This soothed me until I placed the cake in a cake pan and into the fridge. The dread returned soon after, and I ran back upstairs to my cell phone to call Edward.

He never picked up. He had sent texts instead, saying he couldn't wait to return to me.

Right before I went to bed that night, I heard my cell phone play "Tremble" until it stopped, and my screen flashed with the voicemail icon. When I tapped the screen to listen, I heard Jake's voice. He'd be back in the city tomorrow and hoped to meet up.

I deleted his message.

November 26, 2010

As promised, Jake had come back to New York today. He even visited the apartment, calling me only after he had arrived in Brooklyn. I told him I was perfect at the penthouse, and so was Edward. Jake asked where it was, but I refused him. And when he pressed me about it, I hung up.

"Jake?" Edward asked when I slammed the phone onto the kitchen counter.

"He won't be a problem, if that's what you're thinking," I said, cocking my eyebrow.

"Maybe it's time you got rid of that phone?" he suggested before finishing off a chunk of frosting on his plate.

"Maybe." I shrugged, actually liking the sound of that. A fresh start with no attachments sounded pretty damn good. "I'd really like that, actually."

His chin marked with frosting, I sidled up to him to wipe it off with my thumb. Edward's cheeks reddened, as they often did whenever we touched now. He grasped my hand as soon as I got it all off, and pulled my thumb into his mouth. His tongue made my skin hum.

"Good." His voice was hoarse when he gave me my thumb back. My head was pounding as we stared at how my thumb glistened between us. It wasn't the only part of me that was wet.

"Edward-" I murmured, hoping to see something else in his eyes besides shame and regret.

"I don't wanna do this," he said in a rush. "I can't." He backed away to the hallway.

"It'll feel good. I'll make you feel so good," I promised, followed him down the hallway until we reached the living room. He gave a sidelong glance to the couches. I stopped near the staircase, leaning against the bannister.

"You still won't look over there, at the couch..." He chewed on his lower lip.

"And you won't make love to me." I rubbed the back of my neck.

"I will, Bella. I need time. And you do, too." Taking a step to me, he took my hands.

"You're not gonna make me beg like Maggie, are you?"

He shook his head and pulled me close to him. I thought he was gonna hug me, but he turned me around instead. He folded his arms around my chest so that we both faced the living room.

It was only three p.m., but the space was tinged in blue, darkening every second. I forced myself not to focus on anything before me. I clasped his forearms as I remembered the darkness and fury, the wounds in his eyes, and the terror in his voice.

I squeezed my eyes shut. "Edward, please." A hot tear rolled down my cheek and splashed on my fingers and his skin.

He tucked his face into my neck, then whispered in my ear, "Never. I will never hurt you again. Never."

He repeated this as I began to sob, my knees buckled, and we slid down to the floor.

His voice couldn't drown out the screams from August in my mind. I felt my body begin to cool down.

"Look at that couch over there," he said so softly into my neck. "We've made love on that couch, remember? And the step to the terrace, where you cut your knee? I mended you back then, and I'll do it again."

Yet all I could do was remember him screaming, the blood on my lips, and his hands around my throat right on top of that couch. I clutched my throat, now, feeling a phantom weight press down on it. Grappling with me, Edward pulled my hands away, and held them down at my sides.

"Baby, you make me believe anything is possible, now you have to believe it, too," he cooed. His voice was smooth like fudge, flowing into my ear and down to my fractured soul.

"No!" I wouldn't open my eyes and struggled against him. "Let me go, Edward."

"Bella..."

"Let me go!" I yelled, and he released me with a sigh.

I scrambled up to my feet and ran up the stairs. Curling up into a ball in bed, I fought for sleep. I didn't have dreams anymore; I just saw green.

My body was too tense to fall into the depths.

A couple of minutes later, I found Edward's eyes in the doorway, inching closer, as deep as the Pacific Ocean.

I beckoned him to come to bed, and he quickly advanced. As he closed his arms around me, I murmured into his chest,

"I wish you could take the monster out of my head. Take him out, Edward, please."

I felt his heartbeat against my lips and tried to remember this was the Edward I loved. Everything he had done in the past was done by the violent stranger, or brought on by past fury and sorrow, or other people who had nothing to do with us. The memories made up the monster, and I wanted to purge them so badly. Yet, every time I would look into the living room, it would roar to life, feral and untameable.

I had to get rid of the monster in my head. I had to forget all of the terrible things the stranger had done to me, and live in the now because this man was perfect, and he would never hurt me. Edward would love me forever.

He kissed the top of my head. "Poof!"

The fragments in my soul melded. My heart grew warm, and my fingers stroked his lips. These lips would bring me salvation. The memories would fade. All that mattered was now.

"The monster's gone," Edward said into my hair. "And he's never coming back."

December 9, 2010

Over the past week, I had barely left the penthouse, unless it was to go food shopping. Edward worried that I would become stir crazy, but our bedroom and kitchen were the best places in the world for me. I read recipes throughout the day, hoping to find a richer cake for him to devour. I searched online for fun stuff my mom and I could do throughout the week that she would be here, Edward offering to foot the bill for every excursion. I refocused my life on what I enjoyed rather than the demons in the living room, the career goal that I wasn't "meant to do in life," and the fact that I was supposed to have done a presentation with Jessica on the second, and hadn't even bother to call her.

She hadn't call me, either, which made sense. This was a busy season for Broadway, and the Shubert was showing one of the most popular musicals in town: Memphis.

So, I let that part of my life go, because it had let me go. I wondered if I should even bother finishing my degree at this point. Edward said I should because I was so close, but I didn't think it was a good enough reason. I had to do my thesis on Hamlet, something I thought I knew like the back of my hand, while the Editor in Chief of one of the most prestigious magazines ever thought my analysis was paltry. Why bother working on something that I was no good at? On something that didn't even make me happy anymore?

No, I had plenty of things to make me happy. My mom was coming and she would see Edward and love him and accept him. Edward would leave for L.A., but this time, I wouldn't feel the dread because he would come back as the same person he'd been before he left. And his dad would be fine.

Our lives would be good again.

This morning, after Edward had gone out to meet with Ben, I was checking out a recipe for chocolate mousse cake when I heard "Tremble" playing from my cellphone. "Jessica" appeared on the screen.

"Hey," she said with a morose tone.

"Hey. What's up?"

"Well, I'm much better than you right now."

"What? What do you mean?" I hopped out of bed to push the window open. It was a lot warmer out than it had been the last few days. A warm breeze floated over the loveseat. It felt like spring.

"I don't think you need a reminder. You must be so devastated. I wish I could do something to help."

Dammit. I had told her something about why I didn't go to class last month. What was it? A family thing?

"It's okay," I stuttered. "I'll be fine."

"So hey, I get things are bad but at least we didn't have to do the presentation."

"Um, yeah." My stomach grumbled, and I frowned at my stomach. There must've been some dumplings left from Spice. I padded out of the room, barefoot, and jogged down the stairs. "What are you talking about?"

"Didn't you get the email?"

"No." I hadn't checked my email since Edward returned from L.A. "What happened?"

"Evans was fired." Jessica sounded positively ecstatic.

I leaned back into the wall with the painted arch, my mouth slack. Who did it? Was it Ms. Evanson? When did this happen?

"When?"

"Well, he was fired right after Thanksgiving break. We got the email a day later."

"Who do you think..."

"It's pretty obvious, isn't it?"

"It is?" I rubbed my head.

"Your voice is shaking worse than Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolia's. You told the Dean, didn't you?"

"No. No way. I haven't even been on campus since October."

"Oh." Jessica hummed. "But you know who told the Dean."

"Umm..."

"I kinda guessed you'd blabber about this. I think I even wanted you to, even though I'd told you otherwise."

"So, what changed your mind?" I shuffled down the hallway to the kitchen.

"You."

"Me? How?"

"You did everything right, and we made a super badass presentation. I don't think we would've gotten this done if you weren't so committed, Bella."

I couldn't believe I'd spent four years hating this girl. She'd had my back the entire time we worked on this project, and here she was congratulating me on staying committed? I treated her like shit last semester. I called her a cocksucking whore for goodness sakes! And now, I had this lie hanging over me that I had to let go.

"God Jessica, I'm so sorry."

"For what? You're the one who's suffering right now."

The kitchen tiles cool beneath my feet, I headed for the fridge. "I'm sorry for the way I treated you the last few years. I was a bitch, and I'm sorry."

"Oh please. Who isn't a bitch at Tisch?"

"I said so many cruel things to you..."

"No worries. I'm over it."

"But I also-"

I sighed. Holding my phone up by my shoulder, I opened the fridge and picked up the bowl of steamed vegetable dumplings. "I made up an excuse about not going to class last month. It wasn't true, and I'm sorry."

"So then, what the hell was it?" She sounded put off.

"I can't get into it right now," I hesitated before picking up the bowl.

"Are you in trouble? You said you haven't been eating and did lose all that weight."

"It was bad. Last month..." I shivered. "It was bad, but I'm better now." I poured the dumplings onto a plate and popped it in the microwave.

"Are you sure? I'm really busy over the next few days, but we can talk about it this weekend."

"Yeah, I'm okay now."

"By the way, did you wanna see Memphis? I've got a couple of tickets if you wanted to bring that hot boyfriend of yours. They're for the week after Christmas. You two are still dating, right?"

"Yeah. Um..." I pressed the "reheat" button on the microwave and leaned my hip against the counter as it whirred. "Yeah, we are, but he's really busy with work. My mom's coming over for a visit, though, so I'll take the tickets for us."

"Alright, cool! I'll leave them at the window. They're for the 27th at 8. Don't be late."

"My mom wouldn't let me," I said with a hollow laugh.

"Hey, so, I know this is a rough subject, considering everything that happened, but have you seen Alice?"

The microwave beeped as I replied, "No, did she wake up?"

"Yeah, it was on the news, Bella. First you missed the email, now all the news about Alice? Are you sure you're okay?"

Pulling the bowl out of the microwave, I assured her I was fine. I wondered if Jake made her call me. She wasn't usually this considerate.

"Okay, well, she left yesterday with all the world watching. It was kinda sad to see. She looked like a skeleton getting in that SUV. I guess it was a good thing you've been so oblivious. It was hard even for me to watch."

"Where's she going? Do you know?"

"Erik said New Orleans on his Facebook. I bet it's rehab, but other people think she just wants to get away from the madness up here. Her dad's got this big fat mansion that would keep all prying eyes off of her."

"Maybe she'll seek therapy in her dad's mansion..." I mused, picking up a spoon from Edward and my utensils drawer. "She really loves him. I think being around him will do her good."

"Who knows? And I kinda don't care. Never liked her, although I wish her the best."

I brought the warm dumpling to my mouth. It was perfect temperature and texture thanks to the microwave. I would never use the one in Brooklyn again if I could help it. The plate wasn't even that hot.

"I do, too. I wish things had ended better. I hope she'll be happy someday."

"Such a good soul," she chided. "Even after she threatened you on Facebook and never told you about her affair with Evans, you'd still wanna be friends with her?"

Chewing on another dumpling, I swallowed it before telling her, "No. In fact, I don't think I was ever friends with her."

I didn't believe this, though. I had told everyone else that what had happened to me after Edward had left wasn't a big deal, but it was. I would've died in that living room if it wasn't for her. I would've failed out of school.

Maybe it was because things were starting to change between Edward and me, but after my conversation with Jessica ended, I began to look back fondly on my friendship with Alice. No one else would have "Sex and the City" marathons with me. No one else would throw me those lavish parties.

We were friends. She did save my life. And now, I'd probably never have the chance to thank her.

Yeah, it was definitely because things were looking up between Edward and me. Definitely.

December 18, 2010

Yesterday, Edward had bought me a new, black iPhone, joking that I didn't need any contacts but my mom and him. He smiled the whole time he said this, but I secretly agreed. None of the people in the white iPhone Alice bought last summer mattered.

There was another change about the new phone. He had programmed the ringtone to play Beethoven, but a very optimistic piece: the first movement from "Pastoral," Beethoven's sixth symphony.

I think the biggest change was the new number. Now, no one could reach me unless I reached out to them.

I thought to add Jake, but decided against it. He wasn't even going to be in New York after the holiday. I had nothing to say to him. He just didn't understand.

This evening, my mom and I were on the phone while she packed for her trip here in a couple of days. When she first told me she was going to spend Christmas in New York, I hadn't been as excited. But since she had warmed to Edward so quickly, I couldn't wait for her to meet him.

He wanted to take us to the Met, the Guggenheim, and MoMA on Monday, then Lincoln Center Tuesday night, before he left for L.A. He was just as excited to see her. He wanted to know where my sure-footed side came from, the side he loved most about me. And he wanted to see me happy again. He said whenever I spoke to my mom on the phone, I was a different person. I sounded more mature and assured. I sounded unafraid.

It was during that call, though, that Edward rushed into our bedroom, his eyes crimson and green. I cut my excitement short.

"Baby, what's wrong?" I covered the mouthpiece of the iPhone and walked over to his shaky body. In the month since we had lived here again, his clothes no longer hung off his body. His shirts had begun to cling to my hips and ass as well, which both of us loved, but him especially. So along with the phone, Edward had bought me new clothes and shoes yesterday. They were tinier replicas of his shirts, the ones I loved to wear the most.

When he'd come home and see me in the clothes he bought, his eyes would light up and even if he looked so tired, he could've passed out in the foyer, he smiled at me and hugged me tight for five minutes.

Now, he rushed in with an old wound reappearing in his eyes.

"My dad. Something's wrong. I..." Suddenly, he opened his shiny eyes wide. "I gotta go back to L.A. tonight."

"Bella? What happened? Is that Edward?" I heard my mom ask. We'd been laughing only moments ago.

"Mom, I'll call you back."

"Oh- Okay honey."

I hung up, tossing the phone on the bed.

"Okay. Okay, but tell me what's wrong?"

Edward shook his head. "Emmett wouldn't tell me. He just wants me to get home tonight." A tear fell. "What if... tonight... what if he doesn't make it to Christmas?"

"No, he's fine. Baby, please don't worry. Please."

Edward lowered his head, staring intently into my eyes. Holding my face in his trembling hands, he pulled me closer, so that we were nuzzling. The old sparks ignited along the bridge of my nose. Every hair on my body stood on end. I reached up to wipe his new tears away. Then, gently, as if touching a butterfly, he kissed me.

The heat on his lips surpassed my own for the first time. He was burning up, and it was over the briefest kiss. He buried his face into my neck and hugged me, setting my flesh ablaze.

"Bella, I need you to come with me. Bella, I need you. Please come with me," he mumbled into my neck, into my soul. "I need you."

Over his bent head, I stared down at the phone on the bed, thinking about how happy mom was. She was in a great relationship with Phil. She hated her job but loved London. She had a great life now.

I didn't have a life without Edward, and he didn't have one without me.

So, I pulled away from him and nodded.

By the time we arrived at JFK, I was relieved because he no longer trembled in my arms, his cheeks were dry of tears, and I saw more green than crimson in his eyes. Whatever happened to his dad this week, he would be okay because of me.


A/N:

Thank you all.

Bye :)