Pick A Pic Challenge
Title: Forever and a Day
Penname: akaMick (Mick)
Banner: #4 Forever and a Day
Rating/ Disclaimer: M, Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight - no infringement intended
Summary: Driving home from a conference, Edward stops in a small town for a day. Who he finds living there has him rethinking his need to stay forever.
To see all the stories that are a part of this contest please visit: www .fanfiction-challenges. blogspot. com

Sighing deeply, Edward ripped the label from his beer bottle piece by piece. He couldn't manage pulling it off in one fluid motion so he settled for pieces small enough that he couldn't even tell what brand he was drinking. Not that it mattered; he really didn't taste it anyway. He was drinking it and what it tasted like just didn't matter at this point, the fact that it had to slip past his tongue and taste buds was just a formality to drinking it.

He scraped the pieces into a neat pile and then took a long sip, trying to erase the reality of a crappy life. As he lowered the bottle he shook his head, trying to clear it from the events of the past week. Unconsciously, his hands started ripping the label once again. He was deep in thought when his brain registered the noise that insisted on interrupting his musings. His eyes flashed over to the small stage in a corner of the darkened bar, where a woman sat on a stool. She was singing softly into the microphone. Her long legs were crossed and she held a guitar in front of her, effectively covering up her body.

As he took in more of his surroundings, he noticed just a few couples sitting at the tables that were scattered around. The place wasn't packed like most bars he would usually visit in the city. It was a lot cleaner than the city bars too. Without realizing it, Edward made up his mind that it was not jammed because it was only local folks that visited and not because people driving by thought it to be a dive. It seemed almost like the lack of people was done purposely. As if patronage there had to be bought like one of the exclusive clubs he belonged to back home.

Home. A few more hours of driving and he'd be home. By this time tomorrow he would be resting sort of comfortably in his loft on Chicago's Gold Coast. This trip had perfect timing. By now Victoria would have had sufficient enough time to move her belongings into James's place. He would finally be returning to an empty space, rather than one that was occupied by his former fiancé's endless, mindless chatter. Or worse, his former fiancé's mindless moaning and his best friend's chanting as they screwed each other in his bed.

He was tired of thinking about it already, of how he had found them together more than once and after each time, enduring the promises from them both that they would never do it again only to find them weeks later, still enjoying each other's company, as Victoria so eloquently phrased it. Like that made their behavior excusable. Edward snorted as he took another sip then looked around again, but what snapped him out of his melancholy was the voice floating from the stage.

There were what appeared to be a couple of regulars at the bar now but he paid them no attention. His sight now only centered on the small girl that was sitting a few stools down from him. She barely looked old enough to drink, much less be wearing that apron and tending the bar. He watched as she started swinging her feet in rhythm to the song that the woman on stage was singing. "Breathe" by Faith Hill, however Edward found himself unable to even manage doing that much at the moment.

Here at this small bar, in a tiny town outside his beloved city, Edward couldn't get his lungs to suck in a quick gasp as he looked from the blonde singing to the small black haired woman lingering just a few stools down. He gasped, more in pain than from need, as he looked for the source. A man standing behind the bar now had both hands resting on the edge of it and was glaring at Edward, looking as if he might leap over it in a single jump.

"She's taken." The man said, running a hand through his hair. For how messy it was, Edward would have thought his hand would snag multiple times but as he watched the innocent gesture, he noticed that the man's hand slid through his hair and that it was not because he was sloppy or unkempt, but merely intentionally messy.

"She? She who?" Edward shook his head, not realizing what he was doing. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to stare. Um, what was I staring at exactly?" He asked as he narrowed his eyes in confusion.

"My wife man." The man seemed noticeably calmer as he answered this time and Edward detected a slight 'deep South' accent. He laughed slightly as he nodded at the small girl who even with her back turned to them seemed to know she was being talked about. She looked back at them then beamed a beautiful smile at her husband. He smiled back at her.

"Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to stare. I'm in my own little world here." Edward pushed his empty beer bottle toward him nodding his head to ask for another.

"No problem man. I'm just protective of what's precious to me. Especially my Ali. She may not look like much, but if you piss her off, lookout! I may have just saved you from an ass-kicking, 'Alice style." The man reached into the cooler behind the bar and came up with another beer for Edward.

"Well, I guess I should say thank you? Not sure exactly what for but thanks." Edward mumbled as he reached for the beer that the bartender put in front of him.

"No problem, the name's Jasper Whitlock. Me and Ali own the 'Pixie Saloon' here in Magnolia." Jasper held out his hand to Edward and shook it.

"Edward Cullen, a pleasure to meet you. I'm just passing through for the night. You wouldn't know of a hotel nearby would you? I'm beat and I am afraid that the rest of the drive home may just do me in. I believe I'm done driving for the night." Edward, not even aware that he was slumped over the bar, stretched trying to relieve the tension in his back and neck that he hadn't felt until that very moment.

"Neck strain huh?" Jasper visibly winced as he heard Edward's back and neck crack. "That's rough. Hang on a sec. Alice?" Jasper softly called to his wife, careful not to disrupt the singing on stage. "Come watch the bar for a few minutes."

Jasper walked to the edge of the bar as Alice slid off the stool and walked toward him. They traded places with a quick 'love you'.

Edward had to laugh. Alice could barely touch Jasper's armpit as she passed by him. And he decided that she looked absolutely ridiculous standing behind the bar. Jasper walked over and stood next to him causing Edward to once again straighten up.

"Alice Whitlock, this is Edward Cullen. Edward, I'd like you to meet my wife, Alice. I'll be right back. Give him whatever he wants Ali." Edward nodded to Jasper as he walked away from him and went over to one of the tables. Edward looked back at Alice and smiled, receiving a squinty glare from Jasper's wife in return.

"So, how'd you find us Edward?" Alice made small talk drying a few glasses with a dishtowel she had tucked into the waist of her apron.

"Oh, I'm just passing through. I'm on my way back from a convention in St. Louis and thought I could make the drive in one day." Edward shook his head as if to clear it. Even though she was small and only cleared the bar by a few inches, Edward couldn't help but feel as if he was being put under a microscope.

He blinked and looked away from the uncomfortable stare as Alice nodded while mumbling an almost silent 'mm hmmm'.

He looked over for Jasper, noticing him now talking to a giant man who was sitting at one of the tables. 'How did I miss him?' Edward thought to himself. The man was huge! Whatever Jasper was saying to him had him getting angrier and angrier by the second and Edward had an unsettling feeling that it had to do explicitly with him. It was then that Edward noticed that the man had both of his arms wrapped around a chair in front of him. Sitting in the chair, listening intently to the conversation was the most beautiful woman that he'd laid eyes on. Of course, Edward figured, if someone was trying to take me away from that, I'd get pissed too.

Jasper must have said something to them then because he nodded in Edward's direction and both the man and woman at the table looked over at him, the woman turning her neck attempting to see around the mass of male directly behind her. He watched her hair as it cascaded down freely in bouncy, unkempt waves. They both then looked back at Jasper but Edward couldn't see their expressions. He saw the man slap his hand on the table with a laugh and the woman shrug. They both stood up. As the blonde finished another song, the bar erupted into a round of applause and he winced as the huge man from the table placed two fingers in his mouth and gave a shrill, ear-piercing whistle. Edward joined in, not wanting to be ignorant but unsure of what exactly he was clapping for, not remembering what song was even sung. He glanced nervously as he noticed that the trio was now making their way over to him. He finished clapping and turned to the small group.

"Edward Cullen, this is a friend of mine, Emmett McCarty. He's a personal trainer, the best one in town. Em, this is Edward Cullen. He's just passing through town on his way home. He's got something wrong with his neck. My guess is city-folk tension. Can you help him out with that?" Jasper moved toward the edge of the bar walking casually behind it. Edward glanced over at the woman where she sat down two stools from him and began talking to Alice who was still behind the bar. From the way they kept looking over at the singer onstage, he figured it was about her and that they knew her. There may not have been that many people in the bar, but it was easy to see that most of them had their eyes trained on the blonde singing on stage. Edward however could barely pull his gaze away from the brunette.

"So, you want some help?" Emmett's voice interrupted Edward's thoughts as he gazed at the brunette trying to listen to her voice as she spoke to Alice. "Chances are, you aren't going to find what you're looking for at the bottom of that bottle." Emmett laughed at his own joke as he stepped behind Edward.

"Um, no, I think its fine. Just a little tired." Edward tried to dismiss the throb in his neck and spine as he continued staring at the woman. She was wearing a long sleeve dark green t-shirt and a pair of black jeans with well-worn tan cowboy boots. She was beautiful in her simplicity, and Edward felt sure that she was unaware of just how captivating she really was. Her hair was longer than Edward originally had thought and now that she was closer he could tell it hung down to the lower half of her back. He didn't notice that Emmett had even put his hands on his neck until he felt the pain and gasped.

"Whoa, that is tense. What the hell do you do for a living anyway? You have to be either a doctor or a lawyer. Judging from the amount of tension and how embarrassed you are by the fact that I touched your neck, I'd bet another beer that you're a doctor. Don't tell us." He said as Edward opened his mouth to speak, Emmett motioned for the two women to join them. "We'll figure it out on our own."

Alice moved from behind the bar and took the seat between Edward and the brunette. Jasper leaned over from behind the bar to listen.

"Ok, a little fun in the house tonight." Emmett rubbed his hands together in anticipation of the game. "The name of the game is 'what's my profession'. Starring Edward Cullen." Emmett moved to Edward's side now and put his arm around Edward's shoulder casually, fully aware that his shoulder was still tender. "Since I found him, I get first call. I say EM-DEE. He's gotta be a doc. Any takers?" Emmett looked pleased with himself. He removed his arm from Edward's shoulder reaching into his jeans pocket. He pulled out his wallet and removed a ten dollar bill from it to place on the bar.

Alice looked over at her husband behind the bar and a look passed between them. Jasper nodded as Alice reached into her bra and pulled out a small wad of bills. Edward did a double take, not sure where the small woman could have possibly hidden that on her and then he blushed when he saw Jasper watching him, a warning look on his face. She peeled off a ten dollar bill placing it on top of Emmett's. As she did, her other hand replaced the money back for safekeeping, into her bra. Edward made sure to keep her in his peripheral vision as he watched the money stack up on the counter.

"Lawyer." Alice happily chirped.

Edward noticed that Bella was staring at him intently with dark eyes. She looked down at his feet causing Edward to turn red. He visibly flinched as she leaned back and took in the seat of his pants as he sat on the barstool. She smiled as she picked up her glass and took a sip. Edward watched as the smile turned into a smirk behind the rim of the glass. Edward felt bewitched. He watched her swallowing, her exposed neck constricting as she drank the liquid down. She lowered the now empty glass and reached into her front pocket. She pulled out a bill and waved it in front of her, smiling as she fanned it past her face slowly.

Edward barely registered Jasper's fist slapping a ten dollar bill down on top.

"CPA." Jasper said confidently. "What do you think Bella?" Everyone looked over at Bella. Edward's gaze never left hers. She smiled as she placed her ten dollar bill on top of the first three keeping her hand there as she spoke.

"Well, first of all, he's no CPA Jazz, I've got a nose for my own kind. Second, he's not sleazy looking enough for a lawyer. Third, I'm just giving Emmett my ten bucks out of sympathy, because I know for a fact that he's a doctor." Bella removed her hand from the stack of bills leaving Edward with the knowledge that she was a CPA.

"Alright man, let's see it." Emmett held out his hand as Edward sighed, somehow knowing exactly what they were asking for, proof.

Edward reached into his front pocket and pulled out his wallet. He went right to the spot where his ID was and flipping it open he showed it to them silently.

"Hot Dam! Come to Poppa!" Emmett said, pumping his fists in the air as he threw a thumbs up gesture to the blonde on the stage. She in turn blew him a kiss. Edward broke his gaze away from Bella long enough to look briefly at the stage and he couldn't help but be impressed as the woman barely paused in the middle of a song. A gesture at the bar made him refocus his gaze as he turned to witness Emmett was taking the winnings from in front of him. Alice put her tiny fist on top of Emmett's to stop him, as if she could.

"You know the rules Emmett. Half. And I have my CPA here to watch you." Her little pixie glare was evil enough that Edward supposed he would have told her to just keep the forty bucks. Jasper and Bella laughed.

"Aww, Ali, you're killing me here. Of course I'd split it." Emmett took two tens and handed them to Edward. "Thanks Bro. Easiest twenty I ever made."

Edward looked confused. He shook his head. Jasper leaned over the bar and slapped Edward's shoulder. Seeing him wince he immediately withdrew it. He nodded over to Emmett again who finished off his drink, stepped behind Edward, and began rubbing lightly again.

"You may as well take it Edward. Them's the rules here at the Pixie Saloon." Jasper reached behind the bar and placed another beer in front of Edward.

Awkwardly he picked up one of the tens and placed it in his pocket. He placed the other under his beer bottle to let Jasper know to keep them coming. "Thanks I guess." He smiled and nodded at the small crowd around him. Had he been at one of the bars in the city, he would have felt uneasy at being surrounded. Out here, everyone just seemed…friendly. He briefly wondered if they had an ulterior motive but then chastised himself for being so jaded and untrusting. "About the hotel?" He asked, reminding Jasper of their earlier conversation as he winced at Emmett's touch.

"Oh yeah, hotel. Well, there are none. Not without driving a distance and if that's the case you may as well drive back home. But Bella here runs a bed and breakfast in town and you can rent from her for the night." Jasper nodded to where Bella was taking in Edward, the smirk still on her face as she faced him and held out her hand.

"Isabella Swan. I own Bella's Bed and Breakfast down the street." Edward shook her hand returning the greeting.

"Edward Cullen." He said, mesmerized by her lips, the bottom jutted our just slightly from the top. Edward couldn't help but smile back as she continued to talk.

"So, Edward, what brings you to Magnolia and away from the big city?" Bella took her hand away and swung sideways, shifting so Alice could stand between them and join in the conversation.

"How do you know I'm from the city?" Edward's guard went up. He had mentioned it to Jasper, but didn't realize that anyone else had been listening.

"Oh that's easy. You don't want to be a target for thieves so you keep your wallet in your front pocket…a sure sign of someone from the city. Plus, Jasper here just said it." The smirk was back as she stated the obvious to him. Bella and Alice nodded together as if it made all the sense in the world. Trouble for Edward was it did. Growing up in the city made you have to be just a little more careful than if you were raised in a small town.

"Yeah. You ever been?" Edward looked at the two women, engaged in conversation among themselves as much as him.

"Never. Bella used to live there for a while but she found her way back to us." Alice smirked at Bella who stuck her tongue out playfully as Alice tried to grab it with her fingers, playing like little children.

Edward heard Emmett laughing behind him as the girls continued to pick information out of him. With most of their assessments they were spot on while Edward sat on the barstool making small talk and being completely amazed at how comfortable it was. He decided then that there was no ulterior motive, save for Jasper wanting him to rent a room from Bella. But there was no real harm in drumming up business for a friend. He soon found himself laughing and making small talk with the others. As Jasper placed a shot on the bar in front of him and said 'on the house' he briefly thought of his buddy James.

No one had ever bought Edward a drink before. Within his circle of friends, it was always assumed that Edward would pick up the tab. Victoria always reminded Edward that it should be 'a man pays'. James would never think of footing the bill, always making a show of 'forgetting' to stop at the bank or 'leaving his wallet in the car or apartment'. Not that it mattered to Edward. He had always reasoned that out of them all he was the most well off; so really why shouldn't he pay? It never bothered him before and he couldn't figure out why he was letting it bother him now. Jasper's little gift to him of an ounce of liquid in a small glass had him rethinking it. He reached for it as the others raised their glasses.

"To friends old and new." Edward flinched slightly as Emmett's voice registered in his ear. He looked over at the man only to see him raising his glass and looking at the blonde again. As the liquid burned down Edward's throat, he wondered why Emmett kept looking at the woman singing if he had his arms around Bella earlier. In the city, he reasoned, Emmett would be no different than James, sleeping with whoever caught his eye for the evening. Out here though, it didn't seem to fit. In the short amount of time he was there, he felt he could trust this circle of strangers more than his own friends in the city.

As the good times went on, the blonde took a break from singing. It was then that Edward learned from Emmett that the beautiful blond was his wife Rosalie. The way she casually greeted everyone made Edward smile. He learned that Jasper and Alice together ran the Pixie Saloon and that Bella ran the only bed and breakfast in town. He learned from Rosalie that 'ER Car Repair' was named not only to stand for Emmett and Rosalie but also Emergency Rescue Car Repair and that he could find it in the phone book under both names and that she sang whenever the mood struck her or whenever someone asked her to, as Emmett had that night.

"Well, I hate to break this up, but I really need to go check on Charlie and Renee. Who's walking me home?" Bella looked at the circle of friends and saw Jasper stepping forward, handing Alice the towel.

"Come on beautiful." He said, offering Bella his arm while his wife stood back and beamed at him. After a quick series of goodbyes Jasper explained to Edward that he would show him later where to go if he wanted to stay and drink.

"I'll just come with now if that's alright with everyone." Edward stood making sure he had everything before reaching in his pocket to hand Alice the other ten dollar bill, reckoning that he had consumed far more than his original ten dollars. Alice shooed his hand away with a smile and a quick 'friends don't pay' before she turned her back on him. Edward stared at his palm where the ten dollar bill lay and was stunned. He slowly folded it and tucked it into his pocket. It felt strange to him, alien almost. Had he held out his hand to his friends at home they probably would have argued about who gets the money, here, it seemed no one was interested in taking it.

Walking out into the spring air he chirped the remote on his car, explaining that he needed to grab a few things as he reached in for his computer case and a small suitcase which were hidden from view by the dark tint on the windows. He continued walking with the two, completely aware that Jasper had his arm around Bella's shoulder and she had hers around his waist as they walked in perfect sync.

"So, who are Charlie and Renee?" Edward said as he fell into step next to them.

"Oh, those are Bella's pit bulls. Don't worry, they're harmless." Jasper said with just a hint of a smile as Edward visible paled.

"Jazz, stop it." Bella said playfully as she shoved him away and turned to Edward. She folded her arms across her chest and took a purposeful step forward. "They're my parents. They live with me at the inn, but they're no trouble. They won't bother you." Bella said quickly. "I'm originally from a small town in Washington. I went to school here in Illinois. But my dad and mom needed someone to take care of them while they both get on their feet, so..." Bella ended with a shrug as if that explained it all.

"So you gave up being a CPA to run a small business and take care of them?" Edward tried to piece together Bella's life in his mind as the trio walked, eventually crossing the street in the middle of the block.

"Gladly." Bella looked over and graced Edward with a smile. "I like numbers, but I never realized all the corporate-ness that came with it. Running my own business gives me a chance to use numbers as I see fit. Making a living off my own numbers, rather than padding someone else's that really don't need it and isn't grateful for it. Besides, if I worked a regular nine to five job, I wouldn't be able to help out my parents."

"You're a doll for doing it too Bella. You know your folks are grateful and this way you get to work on your thesis." Jasper threw a look at Edward to let him know that even though she lived in a small town, Bella was a force to be reckoned with.

"Oh, you're in school?" Edward's interest was more than apparent. Knowledge in any way, shape, or form was always good. His parents, Carlisle and Esme, ingrained it on their only son.

"I really want to complete my master's degree. Look, I might not do anything with it, I might not even finish, but at least my option is open." Bella threw Jasper a look.

"But you're still going to try right Bella?" Jasper stopped and turned his body facing her, demanding an answer.

"I'm still going to try. I need to get Charlie and Renee back to healthy again and then I can devote my full attention to it. I just can't leave them Jasper." Bella's eyes quickly filled with tears that she blinked away so they wouldn't fall.

Edward glanced over again as they started walking trying once more to figure out what it was that made this woman so special? What was it about her that had two grown married men so protective of her?

It couldn't be her looks. He afforded himself another look, past Jasper and took in Bella. She still had her arms crossed in front of her, but he noticed that she raised one of her hands to her eyes and brushed away a tear. Re-crossing her arms she glanced across the street, leaving Edward to stare at the back of her head and wonder if she was still quietly crying. The thought tore at his heart.

She was simple in her looks. Her hair looked slightly messy, but then again, she wasn't carrying a purse full of 'necessities' as Victoria would call them. Edward couldn't recall her leaving their small group at the bar even once to go fix her hair, or her makeup, or even to have a cigarette outside. Long brown hair, not even a flattering shade. Edward, used to Victoria's hours at the salon, was an expert at picking out highlights and judging by the looks of it, Bella's brown hair was pretty nondescript. It was brown, not named some fancy color, such as Victoria's 'antelope ash blonde' but just brown. Nothing special.

He remembered her eyes, and couldn't even recall their color. He furrowed his brow in concentration and brought the picture back to his mind. He could remember their shape but not what color her irises were. Just the fact that he didn't see any black streaks on her cheeks as she cried made him realize that she wasn't wearing any makeup. He threw another glance to her and noticed that while he was picking apart her plain Jane appearance and comparing her to Victoria, Jasper and Bella had veered farther from him, assuming he would follow. Jasper was murmuring something into her ear and he could see that Bella was sucking in big gulps of air and nodding her head, still crying softly. He heard Jasper tell her to take her time and that he could wait.

As he caught up to them they slowed, then coming to a complete stop. Edward glanced back down the block and realized that they never actually turned any corners; the inn was on the same street as the Pixie Saloon. He silently took in the building as they stood in front of it. It was pretty non-descript as the stairs in front of them ascended to the wide porch. He could see that to the right was an open section of porch with outdoor furniture scattered casually around it; to the left was a large picture window. The stairs were lined with flowers and plants in various containers. Edward couldn't help but compare Bella to the house, plain-jane and nothing special. And that was when it hit him.

He had a sudden realization that it wasn't Bella that was plain. She was really quite striking. It was simply the absence of enhancements that made her appearance stand out. She needed no hair coloring, no makeup, no designer clothes, nor shoes to stand out. She stood out in her ability to blend in. Where most women Edward knew would be adorning themselves with jewelry hoping to make themselves be the center of attention, she was trying to blend into her surroundings, just to become part of the background.

What Bella didn't know, was that Edward was tired of looking at the center of attention. Chasing 'perfection' as society deemed it was exhausting and he had had enough of it to last the rest of his lifetime. Taking in Bella's body as she composed herself, Edward resolved to start looking at the background more often. She gave him a quick look mouthing the words 'I'm sorry' to him while she pulled her hair down and straightened her shirt. She ran the sleeve of her shirt across her eyes, reminding Edward of something a child would do. Then and there Edward made a pact with himself, he decided right then to start looking at who was hanging around in the background, starting with Bella Swan.

"I'm okay now, I'm sorry." Bella stepped up on the first step and turned around to face them both. Jasper with his knowing smile and Edward with what he was sure must be a look of confusion. "I don't usually do that Edward, melt down in front of strangers. Especially if they are going to be guests. It's just that these past couple of years have been rough, health-wise on dad and mom. I promise not to break down again and I do still have a room available if you want it for the night." Bella then leaned over to give Jasper a quick hug, standing at exactly his height as she stood on the bottom step.

Jasper released her saying, "I think I'll just pop in to say hi to Charlie and Renee."

Bella smiled at him, obviously pleased at how comfortable her friends were with her parents. "Thanks Jasper. For everything."

"No problem ma'am." He said and with a tip of an imaginary hat on his head he cleared the stairs with a few easy steps, even skipping a few stairs.

"So, Edward, about that room?" Bella asked, all business now that Jasper was gone. "You want it just for the night? We are having a street fair tomorrow if you want to stay for the day." Bella offered the invitation to him with a shy smile.

"You know, I was just thinking that I have nothing to hurry home for and I might just stay for the day." He added the next part silently in his head, assuring that Bella stayed ignorant to his plan. 'A day and maybe forever Bella.'