The setting sunlight danced across the water. The soft glow of twilight was bittersweet. I hugged my knees to my chest and buried my bare feet further into the warm sand. I couldn't help but feel sad when I came here to watch the sunset. It reminded me of him. The scene was all wrong—a warm sandy beach instead of the cold rocky one back home—but still so close to those long lost summer days I never let myself remember. But my heart wouldn't let me forget.
I missed him.
I guessed I would always miss him.
That cool summer night when he'd finally stopped just blurring the friendship lines and pushed them aside altogether came to mind, taking me back to a simpler time. It was all so easy then, effortless, like breathing. We had been best friends all our lives-our parents best friends for most of theirs. We even spent most holidays together. For months, it seemed, he had been blurring the lines, testing the boundaries. He'd hold my hand as we walked down the beach, tuck a hair behind my ear, or wrap his arms around me as we sat around the bonfire. There was a quiet fire I could see dancing in his dark eyes, along with a cautious hopefulness when I didn't pull away. I was nervous at the prospect of our progressing relationship. I had only ever dated one other boy: Mike Newton. He had been hounding me all of sophomore year, and finally, one day, I gave in. I agreed to one date-dinner and a movie. One turned into two, and then a third with Angela and Ben tagging along. Before I knew it, the whole school was talking. I tried to end it without hurting his feelings. I mean, he was cute and nice, in the adorable-puppy-that–eats-your-shoes kind of way, but I had no interest in dating Mike Newton.
He didn't talk to me for several weeks following that conversation.
So, that night, when Jake and I had walked away from the crowded bonfire and strolled down the beach, my stomach was full of butterflies. On some level, I had always been in love with him. He was warm, easy going, and incredibly sweet. But lately, he'd become so much more than my loveable, carefree friend. He was tall, his muscles had filled out in all the right places, and every girl noticed him when he walked by. Somehow, he seemed never to care. There was also a passion burning in his eyes, a new confidence in his gait. We ended up stopping at an old bleached piece of driftwood that was half buried in the sand and sat down. For just a moment, the moon broke through the clouds, bathing us in a romantic glow as it glittered across the dark ocean waters. He dropped my hand and wrapped both arms around me, pulling me impossibly close, until I was sitting between his legs. I shivered from his touch. In this close proximity, I could feel the heat of his body soaking through the thin fabric of my shirt. I gulped loudly. My heart was hammering away, threatening to rip out of my chest, and I prayed that he couldn't hear it, too. He brought one large hand up to my chin and turned me to face him. Our lips were but a breath apart. I looked up to meet his eyes-they were almost black-I could see the moonlight shining in them. In one agonizingly slow movement, he leaned forward and tenderly brushed his lips against mine. The sensation was warm and soft and everything I had ever dreamed of. He applied a little more pressure, and soon, our lips were moving together; my lips parted, and our tongues met. We continued to kiss beneath the soft moonlight, the bonfire crackling in the distance, until we were stealing the breaths from each other's lungs. In that moment, the entire world faded away, and I was lost in my first kiss with Jacob Black.
"Bella?" Edward's velvety voice broke through my reverie, abruptly bringing me back to the present. He sat down next to me in the sand, throwing his arm around my shoulders.
"Are you okay, love?" he asked. I looked over at him with a small smile on my lips and nodded. I knew he could see the truth in my eyes-I'm sure they were glistening with unshed tears. But he didn't push. He never did. He had long ago accepted my refusal to talk about the past or why I left home, why I refused to return. It had been five years since I was home, and the ache in my heart was still the same. Sometimes, it seemed like only yesterday that I left. I could still feel his warm, strong arms wrapped around me, and his kiss still tingled on my lips. I could see the pain flicker in his dark eyes; I could still hear his desperate plea for me to stay. But I couldn't. The scars were too deep, and I was too scared. I ran from him, from us, from the memories, from the pain. I found myself in southern California, and even with the life I had somehow built for myself, I still couldn't seem to let him go. He left a shadow across my heart that kept me from moving forward, from loving another with the same reckless abandon.
Edward kissed my temple and pulled me closer, and I could feel the guilt in my gut. He loved me. I had once hoped it to be enough—enough to forget, to wash away the pain. Maybe if I could start a new life, have a new family… And Edward was a wonderful man. He's polite, reformed. His family was wealthy, his father was a renowned doctor, and his entire family had accepted me as a part of theirs. He, however, was sometimes as guarded as me. He wasn't an emotional man. Where Jacob was passionate and wore his heart on his sleeve, Edward was not. I knew he'd never let me all the way in.
Maybe that's why I stayed.
It was safe. The love we shared was enjoyable; it made life bearable, but it would never be enough to fill the emptiness I felt inside. But it could also never destroy me. I ran away from Jake because I thought I could prevent the loss of him destroying me. Instead, what I found was emptiness and numbness.
I sighed as I laid my head against Edward's shoulder and stared out into the dark blue waters. The sun had almost completely disappeared, leaving us in calm darkness. Another memory flashed before my eyes.
Jake and I had driven out to the beach, parking my old truck in the sand. We brought plenty of blankets and pillows to lie in the back with. The air was chilly on that autumn night, but I was warm in Jake's embrace. Our kisses quickly grew hungry that night, his lips soft and warm, urgent and needy against mine. My fingers tangled in his shaggy black hair, and his hands elicited tingles as they skimmed my sides. He stopped at the hem of my shirt, breaking the kiss to search my eyes for permission. I nodded once, emphatically. Every part of me wanted every part of him. He lifted the shirt off over my head, bringing his lips back to mine for a moment before he began placing kisses up my jawline, whispering in my ear,"I'll love you forever, Bells." His husky voice sent waves of warmth and desire coursing through my veins and burning across my skin. His rough hands brushed across my middle, trailing tingles across my sensitive skin. His fingers hooked in the waistband of my jeans, tugging and pulling until they slipped smoothly off my legs and landed softly on the ground. I arched into his touch, exposing my neck and beckoning his kisses, his lips, his warmth.
He made love to me that night on the beach, beneath the romantic glow of a full moon and the soft twinkling of the stars. There was something so beautiful, so raw and so pure about the way Jake loved me-so incredibly basic and simple that it was like a necessity, like the air I needed to breathe or the water I needed to live. The fire that flickered in his dark eyes, that I could feel in the way he reverently touched me, was so intense, his love and passion a tangible, living, breathing entity. No matter how many times he told me he loved me or wanted me or how beautiful he believed me to be, it paled in comparison to the words and promises only his lips on mine, skin on skin, our bodies connected, his touch, could show.
He whispered sweetly, tenderly in my ear, each and every time I called out his name. "Forever." He repeated it over and over again, like a reminder and a promise. I could still feel that single word echo in my hollow chest, screaming in my tired mind.
"Let's go home, love." Edward's voice once again brought me back from my memory. The wound in my chest was burning and festering with fresh pain; new tears pricked at my eyes. I nodded once, and he stood, taking my hand to help me to my feet. His hand wrapped around mine as we made our way back up the beach to the home we shared. I tried to leave the memories here, at the beach. To love this man next to me.
But all too often, I found myself alone on the sand, wishing for the man I left behind.