A/N ~ In my original draft for Meet Me In the Meadow, not all of their moments took place in the meadow, so here are a couple of scenes that took place in between meadow time. :) Other scenes were outlined as well, so I may write those in future. I got so much inspiration from this challenge, thanks to F.W.C and TwiPics for the opportunity. And thanks for reading!
Outside the Meadow
The year I realized that I was a child and my best friend had outgrown me and our meadow playground was a rough one. Making a fool of myself with our stupid Snow Family had ruined my friendship with Edward for good. I didn't have the meadow, or Edward anymore. Summer break should be highly anticipated by a not-quite-11-year-old, but I was dreading it. Yeah, it would suck big time.
Summer kicked off by kicking me in the backside. Hard. It was bad enough that this stupid little town still had a Welcome Wagon, but Mom – my own mother! – was the head of the committee. Not that many people actually moved here; more were likely to leave (lucky them), but it just so happened that this unfortunate family had an unfortunate daughter and so I was dragged along to "WELCOME!" (with big, happy smiley faces) her. Unfortunate.
From the moment I was nudged towards her and recited my lines, "Welcome to Forks! I'm Bella," and received my first eye roll and sneer from Rosalie-gag-Hale, I knew we'd be enemies. She was tall and blond and wore a ton of make-up. She looked me up and down with repulsion. Standing one step lower than her on the porch, I was eye level with her chest. Rosalie-gag-Hale had breasts. Actual breasts and by the look of it, a real bra, not just a training one. I glanced down at my flat, pre-pubescent chest and sighed. I wished I hadn't laughed when Jessica had shown Angela and me those breast enlarging exercises. They must work because Jess actually needed her training bra. I figured Angela had given up on it, as I had, because she was still as flat as me. Rosalie-gag-Hale put Jess' rack to shame.
I felt bad for a nano second about judging her by her breasts and without even knowing her when she lifted my wrist for a better look. "Aw! Cool bracelet!"
I beamed with pride over my hand-made friendship bracelet. I had made Edward a matching one with our favourite colours – blue, purple, yellow and grey – in case we became friends again. I had also made Alice and Jasper their own set because they would be coming and they were still my friends – I hadn't made an idiot out of myself in front of them. Yet. As Rosalie admired my work, I even contemplated making her one as well – not in Edward and my colours, of course. In the spirit of a good Forks welcome, I could swallow my breast envy and make her one too.
"I had loads of those too – in grade 5."
Okay. No bracelet for Rosalie-gag-Hale. I did consider starting an incredibly long string of woven threads as a noose for her though. I could have it ready for Christmas, if I worked really hard on it.
Edward turned 13 and I heaved a sigh of relief. Even if we weren't exactly hanging out, or even speaking, he was an actual teenager without ever having caught Tween, and I was glad he was able to avoid it. Though there were now stronger murmurs of me getting it, myself. *shudder* I didn't even get to wish him Happy Birthday because big dumb Emmett was there all day. He was constantly with him. Ugh.
I was watching through my window for Alice and Jasper to finally get here when I heard Edward's laugh. It made me smile. Then Emmett's deep voice ruined it. A scowl took its place when a distinctly feminine giggle joined the mix. Thinking I'd missed their arrival, I raced down the stairs and ran to the hedge. Not Alice – Rosalie-gag-Hale and her non-childish body was on the other side of our hedge! Worse, she was squeezed tightly between the two boys as they read through yearbook inscriptions. What did she care? She didn't know any of these kids and just how in the hell had she met my Edward already? I slunk back into my house, unnoticed.
My twin friends called on me after their arrival. Jasper had gotten more quiet than he was previously, so his accent didn't make me go stupid like it usually did. And Alice became my summer bestie, bonded by our mutual dislike for Rosalie-gag-Hale. She was glued to Emmett who was glued to Edward, ALL SUMMER! We made rude faces behind her back and invented a secret language that we used to talk about her to her stupid face. We were cool. At the end of the summer, I gave Edward's friendship bracelet to Alice. She had earned it.
0 ~ 0
My helpful-but-not parents made arrangements for Edward to walk me to school now that we had the same start and finish time and Dad wasn't driving me. In 6th grade, I was old enough to walk – but not alone. UGH! Shrek and the She-Devil would meet us two blocks down and I'd lag behind like an unwanted ugly puppy. It was horrible and degrading. I made it clear that his obligations did not include walking me home, as well. I couldn't start and end every day that way. I was home, safe, before both parents got in and they never knew otherwise.
I had to admit, after awhile, those first two blocks alone with Edward, were the highlight of my days. We were almost back to normal in those blocks. I was accepting that the gap between us was due to our ages and I couldn't do a thing about that. He must have forgotten how stupid I was in the meadow that day. Still, that was the only time we saw or spoke to each other. If the odd meeting happened at other times, we were nod and wave friends. It was difficult, but I was dealing with the change.
One day, mid-spring, he caught me by surprise running up behind me for the last two blocks on the way home from school.
"Bah bahhh-bah-bah-bah-baaahhh-bahh… know what this week is?"
I grinned as he stepped in stride beside me, now whistling.
"The next Star Wars movie is out! We should go!"
We had gone on opening day to the previous one – in costume. "Yeah?" I asked, full of hope.
"I gapped on getting tickets, sorry. By the time I ordered, opening day was sold out. But I got tickets for Friday! After school?"
"You ordered them? For us?"
His positively perfected Indy-but-soooo-much-cuter grin came into play as he nudged me. "Who else would I go with?"
I felt my cheeks flushing and hoped he didn't notice. "I'll have to ask. And how much for the ticket? Can I give you the money Friday when I get my allowance?"
"Nah, don't worry about it. And tell your dad we'll go right from school so you won't be alone and we'll be home early. I'll check the bus schedules this week to give you a time frame. Cool?"
I pleaded with the gods to make my dad agree – the last time Dr Cullen had taken us to the movie. This time, we'd be going into Port Angeles on the bus, alone. Just Edward and me. Almost like a date. I didn't mention that part, so my parents agreed and one of them would pick us up when the movie ended. I began to see that they thought of Edward more like a babysitter than my friend. He definitely wasn't a date. But he asked me… And he bought my ticket. Those were date signs, I knew that much. It was a date. Maybe.
Feeling accomplished and very almost-teen (though in reality not even 12), I put on my most mature-looking clothes before school, cursing that I wouldn't have time to properly get ready for my first maybe-date. I even dug out the purse I had gotten for Christmas but had never seen the use for. The older girls always carried a purse.
Emmett flew up behind us on the way to school, an arm around each of our shoulders and his head stuck between us. "You kids ready for the big date?"
"Bite me, Em," Edward snarled and shrugged his hand off his shoulder. Then he turned around and shoved him away from me. It was an impressive display. Shrek was much larger than my Edward. Emmett's dumb laugh tapered off when Rosalie-gag-Hale joined us. Edward took my arm and pulled us further ahead from them. "Don't listen to Em. He's being an idiot."
I wondered if they had fallen out – Edward seemed really angry with him. His cheeks were flushed and he was staring at the ground as we walked in a quick pace. Filled with happiness, I thought this could possibly be my Best Day Ever.
Edward was waiting for me after school, alone. The schoolyard had emptied quickly, even for a Friday. I was just really glad to see him alone and not with Shrek.
"I was beginning to think you'd forgotten and just gone home!"
I shook my head as I approached him. "Excitable bladder," I blurted and immediately blushed. I expected him to laugh, but he just stood there with a strange look on his face. Did the fact that I urinate disgust him? Or was it childish to discuss it? Childish.
"You look different," he finally commented. "Anyway, we should go. We missed the first bus and there will still be a line-up for good seats. We won't get 'our seats', you know." 'Our seats' were in the middle of the 7th row. Always.
Dad gave me money to buy our snacks since Edward paid for the tickets. I left him with the money in the snack line while I tended to my excitable bladder once more. I took a moment to reapply the make-up I had put on earlier. He had noticed that I looked older, after all. I figured he'd appreciate my efforts to not look like a kid, in case we ran into anyone from school. I had noticed he wasn't my Edward at school when his friends were around. But tonight, he was. My. Edward.
He gave me a curious look when I joined him at the snack counter. "Popcorn or drinks? We have to hurry, it's starting soon."
It took just a second to decide which I'd carry – he'd gotten us each a drink, but one jumbo popcorn to share. It was overflowing. If I took that, only half of it would make it to the seats. This one was easy. I took the drinks.
The theatre was darkened already and we could tell our seats weren't vacant. Edward spotted 2 open near the other end of the 3rd row and nudged me to go first. We had to climb over a dozen sets of legs to get there and I almost made it without incident. This time, it wasn't entirely my fault. Edward tripped on someone's foot, slamming into me from behind. I saved one drink but the other popped its lid and emptied, to the loud dismay of the sprayed people around us. I apologized profusely, wanting to crawl under the seat while I pleaded with myself internally not to cry again.
"Okay, okay!" Edward hissed at the grumblers. "Geez! It was an accident! Are you okay Bella?"
I slumped down in the furthest seat as he sat beside me. I nodded tersely, becoming aware of a wetness spreading rapidly under me.
He leaned in towards me to whisper. "I'm really sorry, Bella. My feet are just too big for my body. I trip all the time. I should have gone first. Hey, at least you only got popcorn down your back, it could have been the drinks!"
I grinned at his alternate scenario as I discreetly chucked ice cubes off my seat, onto the floor. The bulk of the splattered Coke, it seemed, was on my seat. I really, really wanted to cry.
And then, my Edward picked popcorn from my hair. And ate it. And then gave me his cuter-than-ANYTHING crooked grin and slouched down in his seat so our heads were level.
The movie was long – really long when my jeans were absorbing every ounce of the Coke that saturated my seat. I had willingly given Edward the intact drink so that I wouldn't encourage my extremely excitable bladder and make me have to crawl over all of those legs again with wet pants. Edward was acting oddly himself. Anytime he leaned in to talk to me, he'd flinch. A few times he turned around angrily and more than a few times, his middle finger extended between our heads. He also must have been really hungry because he continued to pick popcorn from my hair and eat it.
I finally understood the reason for his strange behaviour near the end of the movie. Someone was throwing popcorn at him from behind. "Forget about them, Bella. This is our movie." He put his arm protectively around me to block me from further peltings and soon I forgot about that and my wet bum. It was just me and Edward and Obi-Wan, Anakin and Padme. I convinced him to stay and watch the credits while everyone else cleared out. I hoped the whole lobby would be empty by the time we left.
No such luck. It was packed.
"Aw! The cute couple managed to release each other long enough to walk out!"
"Screw you, Em," Edward seethed and glanced at me apologetically. That's who was throwing the popcorn. Shrek and his She-Devil must have been behind us. "What are you doing here anyway? You said you were coming tomorrow."
Shrek shrugged with his dopey grin, flashing his perfectly aligned Chiclet teeth. "Couldn't miss this! I traded tickets with Newton. So, did we have fun kids?"
"Edward…" I tugged on his arm, hearing snickers behind me. "Can we go outside?"
"Sure…" he nodded at me, letting me hold my grip on his arm as he turned back to Emmett. "It would have been more fun if we didn't have a couple of immature morons behind us."
"We were just sharing our popcorn with you," he smirked. "We saw you lost half of yours."
Rosalie-gag-Hale smirked beside him. "Very graceful entrance."
"Edward, please?" I pleaded, anxious for the cover of the darkness outside. He hadn't noticed my soaked backside and I wanted to keep it that way.
"So why did you leave your costume at home?" Rosalie-gag-Hale directed her question towards me. How did she know we wore costumes the last time? "Did you figure the Sith make-up was enough of a statement?"
My jaw dropped and I stared at my feet, taking up Edward's habit.
"Rosalie, come on – you probably did the same thing when you were learning…" Edward, trying to defend me but making me feel even more stupid in doing so.
"Oh my god!"
I froze as she stepped behind me. "Go? Please?" A stifled sob came out as I tugged on him harder.
"Oh sweetie! Were the battle scenes too scary for you? Or do you always wet yourself when you sit close to Edward?"
"Bitch!" I spewed and then gasped at my own use of profanity. Suddenly, Edward was directly behind me, ushering me to the door very swiftly. "It's Coke!" I insisted when he turned me to face him outside.
"I realize that, Bella," he said softly. He removed his hoodie and tied it around my waist, covering the bulk of my humiliation. I stared at his feet while he worked on that. They were big. "This was all my fault… why didn't you tell me the seat was wet? We could have moved."
I didn't have a reply. I simply chewed on my bottom lip and glued my eyes to his big feet. I felt his fingers moving to my chin to tilt it up. He bent his knees to lower himself and made me look at him.
"Bella, I'm really sorry."
Uncontrollable sobs were threatening and I used every ounce of control to hold them in. If I opened my mouth, I would lose that battle.
"Sorry, Bella." Not from my Edward this time; from an unwanted voice. I didn't want to hear it. But Edward turned to glance at Emmett as they joined us. "We're going for pizza. Wanna come?"
"I'm sure Bella's pretty uncomfortable – I should take her home," Edward replied.
"My dad's coming," I reminded him in a low voice.
"Cool! So Edward can come with us?"
I nodded, eyes back on his feet. I was barely holding on. Edward was saying something like, "I can wait with you if you want… are you sure?" His feet were really, really big. "No. It's fine. Go." I watched his big feet walk away with the others and heard him chastise his friends as they rounded the corner. "That wasn't cool… what are you? In grade 5?"
I flinched, hearing him use the same insult Rosalie-gag-Hale had tossed at me last summer. And I wasn't so far removed from 5th grade to not feel slighted. He still saw me as a child. I was close to hyperventilating when my dad pulled up in his cruiser. My tear dam burst the moment I got in the car. "Daddy!" I cried as I threw myself in his arms. It took the whole ride home for me to get out the whole story – excluding the part where I had hoped it was a date. He was furious that Edward had left me alone to wait, even though it really was only for a minute. As soon as we pulled into our driveway, I bolted for the house and he fumed on his way over to the Cullens next door.
The Bitch was right, I thought as I gazed at my reflection – black smudges surrounded my red-rimmed eyes. Dark Side.
Numbness set in after I scrubbed myself clean of stupid make-up, tears and humiliation. I fell into bed, where I wanted to stay for the rest of my life. Mom brought breakfast up to me and came back to check on me an hour later. She frowned down at my picked-at plate. "Maybe you'll be hungrier for lunch. Oh, and you've got a visitor, if you feel up to it." Seeing my hesitant look, she kissed my forehead and straightened my hair a bit. "A very remorseful young man awaits you. Go easy on him. I think he's had a rough go of it already."
"Is Dad home?"
Mom shook her head with an understanding grin. "Shall I send him up, then?"
I nodded with gratitude and made certain my pajamas covered everything, grabbed a book and threw myself back on my bed. I could hear his footsteps on the stairs and then there was a soft knock on my door.
"Come in," I called out, casually turning a page as he entered. "Oh. Hey." I didn't take my eyes from my book for more than a second. When he remained at the door, silent, I took another glance. "You can come in. Or you can go. I'll tell them we made up. They're making you apologize, right?"
He stepped in and nudged the door shut. Leaning on it, he stared at his feet now that I was looking at him. "Are you okay?"
"As you can see… I am alive and well – in my puppy pj's."
He snorted a chuckle, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "My dad… well, he said that your dad said you were scared shitless. Their words, not mine. I'm sorry…"
I could kind of understand Edward being dense – he was young and under the influence of the Great Idiot Emmett – but how could two grown men be so blind? "I wasn't scared! Shitless or otherwise!" My hand flew to my mouth automatically.
"It's okay. She wouldn't have heard that."
"I wasn't scared, Edward!" I hissed in a lower voice. "I was mortified! Humiliated! If I could have Force jumped into the next town or the next planet, I would have! My dad confused my meltdown with fear – because I'm a girl. A stupid little girl." And the blasted tears started up again. This time, Edward moved towards me with only a few blinks of hesitance. Kneeling on the floor beside my bed, he pulled my hands from my face and held them.
"Bella, I'm so sorry. You're not stupid – far from it. All of this was my fault. I didn't want it to go that way…"
"You should go."
He shook his head. "I don't want to."
Scowling at him through my tears, I tugged my hands from his. "You've apologized, done your part… you can go! Edward… please? I don't want to cry in front of you."
"I don't want you to cry because of this at all! Look, Bella… I won't feel better about this until you do. I'm not leaving until you feel better… until you smile… and really forgive me." And then his arms were around me and despite my protests, it felt good to cry on him. I was powerless against my pre-teen tears anyway; humiliated or not – it felt good to be in his arms. For several minutes, he did nothing but let me cry. After that he stroked my hair and shushed me softly, pulling away just enough to look at me before hugging me again. "I'm so sorry. I never should have left you alone like that. It was irresponsible."
I pulled back with a teary smirk. "Our dads' words, not your own."
He began to deny it, but a tiny smile broke out with his reddening cheeks. "Okay, that's true. But they're right. I am old enough to know that was wrong. And I'm taking full responsibility for my mistake. That's not who I am, Bella… you know that. You know me. I don't know why I didn't stay with you…"
I knew why. Breasts – non-kiddie breasts. And it was the last thing I wanted to deal with on top of my already wounded ego. "I don't want to talk about this anymore. Can we not talk about this? Like, ever?"
He chuckled as he stared down at my hands folded in my lap. His head was bent next to mine and I could feel his breath on my cheek. "What are you reading?" he asked softly.
"Um… it's a Harry Potter book…" I cringed, knowing he'd think that was childish too.
"Cool. Can I borrow it when you're done? I read the first three, but I haven't got that one." He thumbed through it and then snapped it shut. "I don't want to spoil it… just let me know when you're done." He reached over to set it on my nightstand before looking back at me with sad eyes. "We should hang out more. I miss you, Bella."
"I haven't gone anywhere," I quipped with a little more snark than intended. His eyes never lied and the way his voice cracked when he said those words made him seem even more sincere. "We could hang out. I miss you too." A lot. But some things couldn't be spoken out loud.
His smile was back. It made me smile just looking at it. "I like your pj's. Remember those slippers you used to have? Scottie dogs? Right?"
I laughed remembering how cumbersome those were to get around in, but I loved them. And then I recalled how he used to steal them off my feet and do silly puppet shows at the foot of my bed and laughed harder… mostly through my nose. And because I'd been crying so much it was really gross. Edward made a cute 'gross' face and threw my box of Kleenex at me.
"It's a good thing we're Eternally Bound or I'd be outta here after that display," he teased as I blew my nose loudly.
"Bet you wish someone else had been in the meadow with you that day."
"Never." His eyes held mine with no lies evident in them. "Never," he repeated again solemnly.
"Then I bet you at least wish I wasn't so gross."
"If you didn't laugh through your nose and sit on large Cokes for 3 hours, you wouldn't be my Bella. I like this Bella – don't change."
For good measure, I grossed him out again via my running nose/snort laugh, but felt much more at ease doing so. He laughed and flipped himself around so he was sitting on the floor with his back against my bed. I laid out on my stomach, my head next to his.
"Hey, I was thinking… well, it won't be for awhile because I'm sorta grounded for like, a decade…" He rolled his eyes, but his best grin was in use too. "But when I'm finally sprung from house arrest, we should have a marathon. Watch all of the Original Trilogy and The Phantom Menace and then we'll go see the new one again. This time, with dry seats and no idiots stalking us. What do you think?"
"I think the last one might be out by the time you're un-grounded," I teased.
"Good point. Then we should decide whether to do it by release date, or timeline – OT and then prequels or 1 through 6?"
I shook my head. "6 down to 1. We should go backwards."
"Brilliant! Backwards – that's so us," he chuckled. I liked the sound of his laugh so much. "Bella, are we okay?"
I gave him a nod, avoiding his eyes. Part of me felt like I had my Edward back for good, but a part deeper inside conjured up a new Edward; the-brilliant-actor-Edward earning himself a shorter sentence by suckering me. I thought it safer to keep both in mind from then on. Too bad it was so easily pushed to the back of my mind. I remembered much too late during our next and Absolute Final trip to the stupid meadow.
0 ~ 0
Beginning high school is nerve-wracking for anyone, but I had the added pressure of seeing much more of My Friend Edward. He had attempted to discuss our meadow kiss incident after his cousins returned to Texas but I was having none of it. I played the whole, "No, it's cool – I just wigged out when I thought everyone would think it was more than it was, but I'm totally over it. We're cool…" thing. And, we were friends. Friends who walked to school together and sometimes home, as well.
The first month, I felt like a reluctant rock star when girls who had never spoken a word to me would come up and ask about "that cute guy". In other words, how did a dweeb like me warrant time with a hot junior. My tag line became: "That's Just Edward. We've been friends forever." It was even easier being with him around his other friends. Emmett was still Emmett – not an a-hole, just a big goof. And while I wouldn't say I was friendly with Rosalie… I was at least more confident that she wouldn't sink her claws in my… Just Edward. She had nabbed Em for herself and so Edward would never touch her. That felt good, as a friend, of course. He deserved so much better.
By the end of my sophomore year, I was totally comfortable with our friendship. He was… Just My Edward. We were co-weeding one day (he came and helped me with Mom's garden so I went and helped with Mrs Cullen's later on) and he started up the most out-of-nowhere conversation.
"So, do you think your dad will let you go to prom?"
I snorted and wiped the sweat from my forehead. "Two years from now? Yeah, probably. Well… maybe."
He chuckled beside me. Such random thoughts came to his head. But I was glad he was pulling out stupid things and making jokes rather than being gloomy. He was graduating, and getting too old to be hanging on to the full-on teen angst. When he put his head down and went back to weeding in earnest was when I realized that his prom was coming up. He was talking about prom, in general – I was supposed to ask him if he was going.
"So, is your dad letting you go?" I teased, for openers. I was rewarded with his crooked grin so I asked more seriously. "Are you going?"
He shrugged. "Yeah – probably not."
He let out a long breath and flipped from his knees to his backside, arms hanging casually over his bent knees. "I dunno. I hadn't even given it much thought until last night."
I mirrored his position, ready for a chat. "What happened last night?"
"A really uncomfortable conversation with my dad happened last night." He rolled his eyes and dropped his head onto his knees. His hands went into his hair. "I don't really want to talk about it."
I placed my chin on my knees, staring at him. "You're sure?" He seemed like he wanted to talk.
"He just…" His words faded as he drew his hands down his face. "He thinks it would be a good experience for me."
I offered a sympathetic grin. I had no idea what kind of experience Dr Cullen thought his son would gain, but I knew I had little interest in proms. I assumed he felt the same. "Prom… something everyone should… endure."
"Something like that," he chuckled. "Rosalie is making Emmett endure it."
"Figures." I rolled my eyes. "I bet she's had her dress for months."
"She has!" His regular laugh was back, not the forced chuckle – just barely above a giggle, but much lower so it didn't seem as girly as it should.
"Who would you go with?" I prodded him verbally as I nudged at his feet with mine. "Have you got it narrowed down?"
"Ahhhh!" He tossed his head back with a deeper, older sounding chuckle.
"What? I know dozens of girls who would scratch each other's eyes out to go to prom with you!"
He dropped his head forward onto his knees, still chuckling softly and said something like, "Not interested in them."
"So what's the problem, really? Did you wait too long? There has to be someone… even someone you went out with like, once or something."
Lifting his head just enough to look at me, he shook it with amusement in his eyes.
"Okay Cullen. On your feet!" I stood and brushed the dirt off my butt. "We're gonna go find you a prom date!"
"In my house?" he teased when I dragged him inside. "There are girls – in my house?"
"Loads! It's called Facebook. The only place to find a date. Go get your yearbook."
We spent hours looking up every girl from his year to assess them as potential dates. "Presenting… Veronica. Really? There's a girl in our school named Veronica? Hmm. Anyway, Veronica likes kittens and snowflakes and Megadeath. Interesting. Oh look! She photoshopped a kitten into the band! And it's snowing! Awww! She's very talented Edward."
"Next!" Edward laughed as he cleared Veronica from the list.
"Heather," I said breathlessly. "You have to say it just that way. Try it."
"Try the next one. I'd never be able to call her by name without laughing thanks to you. Please refrain from name jokes…"
"Hey, I can totally razz other girls' names with a handle like mine." I typed in the next search.
"She's going out with the captain of the football team," he informed me.
"Right. She's too promiscuous for you," I quipped. He laughed and cleared the next one without comment.
"Hey!" I protested. "Why not?"
"Just no. Not her either. She has a sheep laugh – baaa-baaaaaa. I'm not kidding."
"Really dumb. I mean, really dumb. She's got one of Jessica Simpson's brain cells. That's it. Just the one."
"Have you smelled her? There's issues."
Catching on to my exasperation, he studied the next one very seriously before a tiny frown appeared. "There's just something off… she's… pointy."
I raised an eyebrow at that one. "Pointy?"
"Pointy," he nodded. "She makes me think of math class, using those triangular protractors. See? Obtuse angle right there…"
I was laughing so hard at that point, I missed where he indicated. "Well, clearly there is no girl in Forks who meets your lofty standards. You're picky!"
"I'm not! I just know what I don't like and it's stupid to waste a whole bunch of money on something I don't want to go to with someone I don't want to be with."
"So there's no one? At all?"
He shrugged, in sulk mode. "The only one I'm interested in isn't interested in me."
Ouch. I patted his shoulder while I tried to recall which girls he had skipped without comment. She had to be one of those. And I did feel bad for him – having had that happen to me a few times… by him. I reminded myself that he was Just Edward, my friend. No room for old dreams of romance. "I know how that feels dude."
He narrowed his eyes at me, crooked grin slowly emerging. "Dude? Really? You're banned from Emmett."
"Pfft! Like Emmett influences me in any way…"
"Dude! You sounded just like him!" He roared with laughter and kicked my rolling chair away with me in it. "It's creepy looking at you and hearing Em."
Mrs Cullen stopped the chair from hitting the wall, shooting her son a warning look. "Staying for dinner, Bella?"
"Dinner? Wow! It's that late?"
"We're eating early. Edward's dad has to leave for work soon. You're welcome to join us."
"Thanks Mrs Cullen, but I'm supposed to be helping my mom with dinner. It's my dad's birthday. Hey! You and Edward should come over for cake later on! Cherry-chocolate – we made it this morning."
"That sounds lovely, dear. I think we will!" Mrs Cullen smiled and gave my shoulder a quick squeeze as she walked me out.
"See you Edward," I called over my shoulder.
"Later… dude." I could hear him cracking up and I could hardly flip him the bird with his mom beside me. Ugh. Who was like Emmett?
Growing bored with watching 3 of our 4 parents get tipsy after cake, we went to find a deck of cards. Edward seemed bored with that as well. "We should go to my house. I rented the new Star Wars game."
Another video game. Great. I gave a silent, sardonic thanks to Emmett for ruining my Edward. The grin on his face when I agreed to go undid my frustration with this and his earlier Emmett-ness. It wouldn't kill me to try something he loved doing. Three missions in, I was hooked.
"Bella, you should probably take a break. You're gonna be sore tomorrow."
"Pfft! I'm fine! You're just a wuss!"
"Okay…" he chuckled. "You should probably take out that droid then… ohhh! Too late."
I thought, but didn't utter, some choice words for that blasted Destroyer Droid. Edward put his own controller aside and stretched.
"Any luck with the prom date search?" I asked to cut the silence.
"Uh, no. It would make life a whole lot easier if you'd just go with me."
I snorted out a laugh. "Right. Too bad Alice isn't closer. She'd love to get all dressed up…"
"Like I'd go to prom with my cousin!" he scowled. "I'm not that desperate."
"Like that's worse than showing up with the kid from next door!"
He didn't laugh with me – he looked rather grumpy, in fact. I wondered if boys had certain times they just felt irritable and not in the mood to be social at all – like I had, monthly. He got irritable a lot more often than I had cramps though. Even when we had gone to the final Star Wars movie – Edward talked me into going and his excitement over it finally got to me. I managed to tuck away my memories of humiliation and look forward to it as well. There was a group of us going, so it made it easier. We all met up and filed into the last row. Even before the movie started, Edward began to look sullen and throughout, became more withdrawn and cranky. Even with Em's comical commentary, he barely cracked a grin. Mike was into it though – he chattered away on my other side, keeping me interested in the cheese-fest on the screen. Secretly, I was still a mega Star Wars Geek and I was sad that the epic was ending. I just kept wishing Edward was enjoying it more. It was 'our thing' for so long and he wasn't into it at all. I had managed to tease him out of his funk on the way home that day, so I decided to give it a shot with this whole prom issue too.
"You don't want to be known as Forks' youngest pedophile just to get a prom date, do you?"
No smirk emerged. No just-barely-past-a-giggle laugh. Instead, I got a deeper scowl. "Why would you say that? That's not even funny, Bella! Look, just forget it. Forget I asked. Forget I said one word about this fucking prom!"
I gasped. Edward didn't toss that word out in every other sentence like a lot of the boys did. He was really angry. "I… I'm sorry…"
He stood abruptly and raked his fingers through his hair as he paced in front of the TV with no acknowledgement of my apology. "My mom just came in. You should go," he said in a low voice without looking my way. I was dismissed.
Dad was the next to bring up the topic, two weeks later. "I just saw Edward – he didn't go to his prom?"
"Guess not," I shrugged, not surprised. I hadn't mentioned it again and neither had Edward.
"Aw! Honey, you should go over and keep him company," Mom urged. "It would be miserable to spend your prom night alone." I wasn't sure he'd want my company after asking me to leave the last time I was there, discussing prom, but I could hardly tell my parents that.
"Hi." I stood awkwardly at his door when he opened it. "Want some company?" I was relieved to see his cuter-than-ever grin as he held the door open wide.
"Thank god you're here. I'm bored out of my mind! My PlayStation blew up, so gaming is out and everyone else is at…" His eyes flicked away nervously. "Um… want to go grab a pizza and we'll have a movie night? My parents left me the car keys in case I wanted to go… they, um… they went out with friends of theirs. Some anniversary party or something."
An hour later, we were back at his house with pizza and Cokes. He turned on some music and ran down some movie options while we ate.
"I'm thinking either Spiderman or Jaws," he informed me.
I scrunched up my nose. "Spiderman? Really? That's kind of cheesy, isn't it?"
He grinned around his pizza. "We only watch cheesy, Bella. It's our thing."
Our thing… "Yeah, but retro cheesy is cool – new cheesy, not so much. I mean, that's why the Original Trilogy is so much better than the Prequels of Star Wars. I think Lucas went for serious in the new ones and still got cheesy – that makes it kind of lame."
He nodded with enthusiasm. "Yeah, but they're going for cheesy in Spiderman, trust me."
I did. Sort of. But still… "I vote Jaws."
He hesitated, like he was thinking of another option and then said something like, "I'll agree to Jaws if you'll dance with me."
I stared in astonishment. I had to have heard wrong. "Um… what?"
"Dance with me," he said a little bolder. "Just one song."
Blushing, I chewed on my lip and twisted my napkin into a tight rope. "Edward… I can't dance."
"What are you talking about? You took lessons for like, 8 years!"
He knew that? "Yeah, but then my legs grew, like 2' in a month and now I'm lucky if I can walk without falling over. I'm like a new foal."
He chuckled. "I'm just past that feeling myself, so I won't care if you step on my toes or kick my shins. And I won't let you fall either. Come on." He stood and held his hand out for me. "Please Bella?"
A slow song was playing and he held onto my waist as we swayed together. My hands were on his shoulders to start off – it was near the end before I got the courage to wrap them behind his neck and rest my head on his chest. He kept my legs in control, but my heart was thumping and making me dizzy. I wished we had a longer song.
He gave me a shy smile as his hands dropped from my waist. "Obligation fulfilled. Movie?"
Obligation? He felt obligated to dance with me? Holy crap. Edward had gotten so complicated! If he wasn't moody, he said things that didn't make sense to me. Still, I preferred being in the dark to being tossed out so I smiled and nodded and we settled in to watch. We got into our Bella and Edward thing really quickly and when Jaws ended, I eagerly agreed to give Spidey a shot. He was right, of course. We cracked jokes throughout, completely at ease once again and even snuggled under a blanket when the night air got chillier and we were too lazy to get up and close the window. After the second movie, Edward found an old Bela Lugosi flick on TV and of course, comparisons between he and I came up – since we shared the same name.
Lugosi was chasing me towards the meadow and Edward was in my window, calling out to me. I ran directly into a wall – well, it felt like a wall, but it was actually Emmett's chest. Emmett? No, Spidey. He spun a web, picked me up and we swung over to my window where he deposited me in Edward's arms. *sigh*
"Bella? Sleepyhead… It's time to wake up now…" Edward's low voice was soft and comforting. It was warm… so warm… I didn't want to wake up. I buried in deeper and hugged my pillow. It groaned. My eyes flew open – my pillow was Edward.
"Emmett is Spiderman," I blurted as I untangled myself from the blanket in order to get myself off Edward.
Chuckling, he helped with my task. "Is that right? Bella, you were dreaming about Emmett?"
"No! I was dreaming about…" A flush rose to my cheeks. It had been a perfect night and I was about to ruin it for both of us. "Bela Lugosi. It's your fault! I always end up with the last thing I was doing before falling asleep in my dreams and you know I always fall asleep when I get warm!" I kicked the last of the blanket off and hugged myself, feeling the chill in the room once again. He looked amused. He looked cute… really cute. Damn him. He's Just Edward… I mimicked his smile and folded my legs underneath myself to keep my feet warm. "I like how we are now. It took us awhile to figure out how to go from playing together to just hanging out, but I like this… how we are."
"How are we?"
I gulped, hearing a new voice from Edward; it was deep but soft and just a bit gravelly. "We… uh… we're just… Just Edward and Bella."
"Just Edward and Bella," he repeated in that same voice. Maybe he was coming down with a cold because of the draft in the room. I had hogged most of the blanket.
"Friends… you know…" I added.
"Friends," he repeated. His eyes looked lost in thought… not angry, like they often were, but maybe just a little… sad? They flicked away and closed briefly and when he looked back, the brightness had returned. "Well, my friend, we should get you home. It's late and I don't want to get you in trouble."
He walked me home – he could have stood at his front door and waited five seconds for me to dash to my front door, but he walked with me. His hands were deeply buried in his pockets when we stood outside my door. I couldn't think of one thing to say to break the silence. It was the first time I would have welcomed a random blurt from my mouth, but it offered nothing.
"Okay, well…" Edward broke it instead. "Thanks for spending prom night with me." His cuter-than-anything-ever-crooked-smile lit up my porch. "That was a lot more fun than prom."
"Doing our thing…"
"Our thing…" he repeated.
"Hey, you can return the favour in two years. I really don't see me going to my prom either."
He stared down at his feet while he nodded. "Any time, dude."
"Thanks, dude." I picked up on his subtle reminder that we were friends – Just Edward and Bella and took it to heart. I wouldn't make the same mistake I had the other times. I said goodnight to my friend and stowed the memory of the night with my best collection of Edward/Bella times from when we were kids.