Disclaimer: Everything and anything related to the Twilight saga belongs to Stephenie Meyer. This is just a work of fiction based on her writings. No harm is meant by it.
Beta'd: by the very awesome WriteOnTime.
A/N: seevousplay and I began work on the this story back in 2009, but due to time, we never got a chance to finish it, until now. We really hope you enjoy it. :-)
Second Kisses; a Christmas Tale
By: seevousplay & the-glory-days
My life consists of nothing but embarrassing, disastrous events, and moments in time I wish I could erase. I fall, slip, trip, stumble, stutter—you name it, I probably do it. A lot. I lack grace, a sense of balance, and even the natural ability to talk to people. I'm reserved, quiet, aloof, cold, a loner—you name it, I probably am it, and I've probably been called it. Most people call it being antisocial; I call it being me.
Whatever. They say potato and I say potahto. Well, I say potato as well, but you understand what I'm trying to say.
I like strange music, odd movies, and eccentric food. I wear thrift store clothing, holey jeans, and shirts previously worn by strangers. I'm just downright odd to most people.
I don't wear the latest trends because I don't care to fit in with everyone else. Plus, a pair of worn- in jeans are way more comfortable than a new pair. I don't listen to popular music because it's inane, and to be frank, it's pretty terrible nowadays. I like exploring my palate and not relying on pizza for nourishment like many people I know.
I chose all those things.
I have no parents, one friend, a few acquaintances, and several people who seem to want to walk all over me and my waning self-esteem and pride.
I lost my parents when I was twenty-one, in a car accident I inadvertently caused. They were driving to see me graduate from college. Ever since then, I've pretty much shut myself off from the world.
It's been four years, and not a day goes by that I don't think about them. Now, I know what "they" say, that it wasn't my fault, that I couldn't have known… whatever. They're gone, and they were going to my graduation. Think about it. If they hadn't had been coming to see me, they'd be alive, probably decorating a fucking seven-foot Christmas tree with those falling lights my mother loved so much.
The few acquaintances I do have are through the one friend I have. I don't call them friends because, well, they're not my friends. I hardly know their names, let alone things they actually like to do. The only time I see them is when I am with the one person I can call a friend.
Edward is my friend, albeit, my only friend.
He is the one presence in my mind-numbing reality that makes living a genuine option.
Nevertheless, I never thought the following would happen.
December 24th, Christmas Eve.
The sun's just setting, and the pink and golden yellow hues in the sky can still be seen despite the snow. From my apartment window, I can see people running happily from one end of the street to the other, no doubt going to a family dinner, or a corporate party.
There's a party at my not-so-wonderful place of business tonight too, in about an hour. It's at this incredible French restaurant called Belle La Vie. They have the very best Coq au Vin. I would probably –probably not— have gone just for that, despite the horde of coworkers, but my rather stupid d'un colleague, Lauren asked Jessica (who's faire l'amour avec with the boss) to call said boss, Mike, to see if I could work the graveyard shift so that Lauren, could go to the corporate dinner.
"Swan, it's Mike. Hi, sorry for the short notice, but I need you to come in for the graveyard shift tonight," he tells me, and I know the background noises I hear aren't coming from any television set.
"We all know you don't do the Christmas thing, and Lauren's got an early afternoon flight to catch to get back home for the holidays. You understand, don't you?" Not waiting for a reply, he continues, "Great, great. Remember, you come in at nine-thirty."
Just because I don't—how did he say it, "Do the Christmas thing?"—I have to get an added shift tacked on? A drinking bird can do my job; no, seriously. I work in a publishing office, on the fourteenth floor of a massive corporate office. I sit in a four-by-four cubicle, with torn and dirty cream walls, staring at a computer screen all day, forwarding emails to the proper editors.
When I took this job, three years ago, I was fresh out of college, just starting to move on after my parents' death. I was relearning how to live, now on my own, and wholly unaware as to what my actual job was. I took the interview, got the job, and got into my cube. I thought I'd be interacting with writers and other editors, but instead, I do basic office work. I get coffee for the staff. I take phone calls, and I forward emails to the actual editors.
I asked for a promotion two years ago, asked to take on one little project, just one, to see if I was qualified to become an editor for the house. Mike wouldn't hear anything of it, and I vaguely remember the words, "Don't mess up a good thing," come out of his mouth as he dismissed me.
I've been in that cube ever since.
Edward tells me to quit on a weekly basis, or sometimes daily, when I have to intercept some not-so-subtle sexual innuendos from Jessica to Mike. Lauren, my coworker, has been at the company for little less than a year, and already they're training her for a promotion. They're giving her the job I practically begged for two years ago.
I can see why, I guess. She's a people person. Or well, a people person if that means she lies through her teeth, smiles, wears low-cut tops, and compliments the boss. She knows how to handle people, and when writers call in, she's sweet as fucking taffy to them. That doesn't exactly mean she knows how to spell, or even how to catch mistakes. Still, she's the trainee, and I'm the drinking bird.
I am Isabella Swan; twenty-five year old, single, spinster, drinking bird.
It is just past nine-thirty when I walk into the frigidly gloomy office space. While it's never exactly warm in here—I'm perpetually shivering – it is never this cold. My guess is that someone forgot that it was a working holiday, and turned off the auto-thermostat. I pull my coat a little closer to my person and walk to my desk, noticing quite a large pile of work that I distinctly remember Lauren having on her desk the previous day.
Thanks for taking care of this for me. With all my new training, I just can't seem to get around to doing this. I've informed Mike that you'd taken the work from me. It'll be done by Monday, right?
Sitting down, I look through the files on my desk, and notice that most of them are weeks late. A few of them are payroll, some of them are PO requests, and with Lauren telling Mike I took the work, I will probably get the brunt of the yelling when they finally get done.
I start to sort the piles based on their original due date, and then get to work on them, turning on my PC, signing into my office email. I was sure the phones would be dead, but I probably had a bit of emails to sort after paperwork got done.
I start the tedious job of fixing Lauren's mistakes and make specific notes into each file, over and over and over again for the first half of my shift. I finish all of her work in less than three hours, and with the remaining time, I decide that it's as good a time as any for a cup of coffee.
I hate my job, and after having to correct Lauren's ridiculous babble and do her job, I'm even worse for wear.
Grabbing my mug, I walk to the break room to turn on the coffee pot and wait for my next fix. My tedious job is grating on my nerves. It isn't just the job; it's everything. I'm not… I'm not fixable. I'm never ever going to run right, and knowing that things are going to stay mundane for the rest of my life sucks.
I set my mug down on the counter top and walk out of the break room toward the windows. Though the inside of the office is dull, we have a beautiful view of the city, fourteen stories high in the sky.
Fourteen stories is a pretty far fall. I mean, it's a sure fire way to…
I walk into Mike's office and open the window, finding it odd that it actually opens. Office building windows don't open this high up.
The cold air blasts me in a fresh, freezing wave, right in the face. It's refreshing, it is… It makes me feel. My cheeks and nose pink from the cold. I carefully look down at the snow-covered ground fourteen stories below me and think about what it would be like to just fall. To just float in the wind.
"Whoa, that's a long way down."
I turn around quickly, a vaguely familiar voice catches my attention from just behind me. While I twist to see my company's face, I slip, and…
The fall isn't exactly what I expect. It's oddly peaceful as I fall into the night air. I see the ground approaching fast, feel the wind whipping and biting at my skin as I fall down, down, down, until there is nothing.
I blink awake. My body is strangely warm in the cold snow under me.
"So, did it hurt?"
I whip around, the voice, the same voice from before, and there he is.
"Did what hurt?"
"Falling from heaven?"
Rolling my eyes, I stand on wobbly legs and try to get the snow off my backside and the lapels of my coat. "You're Edward's friend right? Uh, Embry?"
He scoffs and crosses his arms. "No, definitely not Embry. My name is Emmett."
"Emmett, right," I answer, stepping out of my quazi-snow angel. When I turn around to stare at the impression, I immediately gasp, repulsed by what I see.
"Is that, is that me?" I screech, looking down at the mangled and bloody corpse at my feet. "Oh god, what the fuck is that?"
"That's you. That's what happens when you jump out of a fourteen-story window, Bella Swan."
Turning around fast, I shake my head rapidly. I can feel a sob building in my chest. "No, that's not true. I didn't jump. You—you scared me, and I slipped. I'm… I'm dead?"
"What's the difference? You were thinking about it anyway," he replies curtly, taking my hand. "It's gonna be alright, little Swan. Come on, let's get out of here."
"Wait, no, that's my body. I can't just leave it there. This is... This is unreal, Emmett. I'm not dead. This is a joke, or something. I –"
"Bella, you fell out of your office building. There's no way you would have survived that. Hear that? Someone saw you fall and called for an ambulance." He gestures to the sounds of sirens in the distance.
I can't help it as I start crying. I start to sobbing so hard, Emmett physically has to pull me away from my last tangible memento of the world. As we walk away, I curl into him, into his frigid frame, and continue to cry into his sleeve, glad that he is quiet and letting me do this.
When we stop, Emmett tugs softly at my side and waits for me to look up and see what he's stopped for.
My parents' house?
"What…what are we doing here?" It looks just the same as I remember it. The lights are on and the house is dressed in Christmas decorations. The lights are the same as my mother's. The large bulbs are grouped onto a multicolored strand that runs across the entire length of the house. The door is still bright yellow, with big brass knobs that don't match the rest of the fixtures.
"Why are we here, Emmett?"
He doesn't say anything. He just nudges his head toward the side window. From where I am, I can see the Christmas tree, lit up, and people sitting around it, holding presents. I can't help myself from walking closer. Close enough to see that it isn't just random people living in my parents' old house. It is, in fact, my parents and I, sitting by the tree with smiles.
"Emmett, what's going on?"
"Just watch," he whispers to me cryptically, and then suddenly, I can hear the conversations from beyond the glass, and can feel the warmth of my childhood home seeping into my pores.
"Bella, why don't you open yours?" Charlie, my father, asks, wrapping his arm around my mother, Renee. "Your mom picked it out for you."
"I told you I didn't want anything for Christmas," I hear myself say. My tone is downright ungrateful. I watch as my parents' smiles turn downward, as I unappreciatively pull away the wrapping, not even bothering to smile at the iPod that I'd received. "Thanks."
I watch from the window as the Bella inside sets it aside and balls up the wrapping paper. I see my father's face try to regain that original smile and I hear him say, "Your mom and I put our old favorites on there. We know you don't really like all the new music and stuff, but the classics are called 'classics' for a reason." His joke falls on deaf ears as the me inside just goes to throw away the wrapping.
"You know, Bella?" My mother says, following after me into the kitchen. "You could at least pretend to be grateful. It's Christmas, and we're all here, as a family. You could just try to appreciate that. I mean, this could be your last Christmas."
"Christmas is overrated," I hear and see myself scoff and roll my eyes.
My mother's carefully blank face cracks. She sporting a frown and a tear falls from her eyes as I walk back into the living room.
"Mom, no," I cry, pounding my fists into the glass. "I didn't mean it like that. I didn't mean it! I love the iPod, I use it every day! Mom!"
"They can't hear you," Emmett says, putting his hand on my shoulder. "The iPod is sick, Bella. You've got some good tunes on this bad boy," he grins, handing back my iPod.
"What? Where did you—"
"Oh I grabbed it before we left your body," he shrugs like it's no big deal.
"Oh, you took it from my dead body. Real cool," I reply sardonically, taking it back from him and holding it to my chest. "Why did you bring me here?"
"You mean you don't know yet? What kind of person who works in publishing doesn't know what's going on?" Emmett asks, a small smile gracing his face. "I'm the Ghost of Christmas Past, Bella."
"The Ghost of Christmas Past? You're kidding, right?" I sigh, looking down at the snow by my feet. "I didn't mean it like that," I tell him. "What I told my mom and dad. I mean, like, it was my final year in college, and I was broke. I felt bad, I couldn't even spring for a coffee mug for them for Christmas. I knew things were tight for them. I just..."
I look back into the window and stare at my parents as they sit on the floor by the Christmas tree, just like they did every year, next to the fire place, drinking hot chocolate while I open my presents. They had no idea at the time that that would be the last time they did so.
"Yeah, well," Emmett shrugs, pulling my attention off them and back to him. "They didn't get the memo, Bells. Now, come on, we've got more to see."
"Wait, no, I don't want to go," I try, looking back at the window. I smile sadly at the family I no longer have, hearing, "We love you, Bells," for the last time, just as it disappears like fog before my eyes.
"Emmett, no! Bring them back. Emmett! Please bring them back! What happened to them? I want them back," I gasp, pounding at his chest. "Please, Emmett, please bring them back."
"No use trying to live in the past, Bella. I mean, you've already laid the foundation. I can't change it. I told you, we have more to see, and if we dawdle, I'm going to be in deep shit with the old lady."
He grabs my hand again, pulling me close as I start to cry again. "Emmett, please, don't make me go. I want to stay here with them. If I'm really dead, I want to stay here."
"We can't stay, Bella. There's more to see," he tells me, a sad tone in his voice. "Everything's gonna be fine, little one."
He nudges me again, and this time, we are in my apartment. Well, a primitive version of my apartment. There are moving boxes in the corners and dishes piled into the sink. There is a table and a sofa facing the television and entertainment center. None of my photos are up, none of my purchased artwork is on the walls.
"What? I don't," I start, but he cuts me off and points toward the far wall. I look up and see myself sitting in my favorite wingback chair, looking out the window toward the ground below.
"Some Christmas," I hear Emmett whisper, walking around my apartment. "I mean, you don't even have a fucking tree. Who doesn't have a tree on Christmas?"
"Jewish people and me, apparently," I say, walking across the apartment to see what is so fascinating out the window. I wave my hand in front of my past-self's face, trying to get my attention.
Then I hear myself, but it isn't like I'm talking, it's like –
"Your inner monologue, Bella," Emmett explains. "So cynical."
Christmas, what it used to represent, that's one thing. Gathering around the ones you love, thankful to have them, singing carols and wishing peace on earth and good will towards men. Sure, cool, that's all fun and dandy when you have loved ones to be thankful for.
A knock at the door makes me – present me and past me – jump. I watch myself walk to the door and see Edward walking in holding a circularly-wrapped object in his hands.
"What the fuck is that, Edward Cullen?" I hear myself say.
"It's good to see you too, Bella," he replies, kissing my cheek as he walks in. I observe as he walks past my stunned self to my kitchen area, and then as he tells me I have to choose between a tree and a wreath. Then I can hear myself thinking again.
Hmm, that's a hard decision. A six- foot tree bare of all decorations, or tree skirt, or presents underneath, or a stupid fucking wreath that I only had to see twice a day when I was coming and going?
"I'll take the stupid wreath, but only because a tree would fucking suck to drag out of here on the twenty-sixth," I hear myself reason to him.
"Bah-motherfucking- humbug, Edward."
He laughs loudly as he grabs a hammer and nail from my utility drawer, and practically skips back toward my apartment door, singing "Jingle Bell Rock" under his breath. I watch as he uses the hammer as his drum beat to punctuate his songs.
I smile, because he is just so lame.
It's perfect. He's perfect.
Emmett nudges me as Edward finishes up, making sure I keep paying attention.
"Bella, can you at least pretend that you like the wreath?" Edward asks, smiling down at me as he hands back the hammer. As I watch myself put it away, he pulls a little sprig of mistletoe from his coat pocket, and sets it up on my overhead fan. "For my benefit at least?"
"I wondered when he did that!" I gasp, looking to Emmett incredulously. Emmett just chuckles and looks back to Edward.
Edward backs up just a bit, waiting for me to come back to him. When I approach him, he wraps his arms around me and holds me to him. "Please?"
I can hear my own heartbeat pounding in the air. I know that Emmett can hear it too. I wonder if Edward had felt it then.
"Fine," I scoff. "I absolutely adore the splendid yuletide wreath that you've bequeathed to me. How ever can I repay you for your kind generosity, good sir?" My voice is monotone and sarcastic as I bat my eyelashes at Edward.
"Actually, fair maiden, there is one thing," he says, tilting his head up. I watch myself look up to find the sprig of mistletoe glinting in the light. I gasp and pull myself away from him.
Emmett bumps my arm, and when I look up at him, he grins. "Hey, did you know that kissing under the mistletoe is like a promise to marry and be happy and in love forever?"
Shaking my head, I reply, "That's not what he meant by it. He was trying to cheer me up." I look back to Edward and myself, and watch as the scene unfolds.
"You know I don't do that traditional Christmas bullshit, Edward," I hear myself tell him. Edward's face falls as I turn my back on him, shaking my head. "I hate that, I mean, really? Why mistletoe?"
As I watch Edward, he plasters a big smile on his face before my past self turns around again, none the wiser.
"Dude wanted to kiss you, and you clearly dissed him," Emmett laughs, wrapping his hand around my own again. "You know that right?"
"What? Edward? No way. He's just a friend."
"You saw homeboy's face there," Emmett contends. "I mean, he was totally ready to kiss you, and you had to pull the pessimistic 'I don't believe in Christmas' shit."
As Emmett starts to pull me away, I watch as Edward interacts with me so seamlessly, talking and laughing with me like nothing had happened. But… I saw his face fall. Didn't I?
"You did, Swan," Emmett interjects.
"I'm not good for him," I justify. "He doesn't like me like that. I mean, I'm just Bella. He's too nice to me as it is."
"Whatever you say, Bella."
"Wait, I don't want to go yet. Just… Can we stay a while longer?"
Emmett, looks down at his watch and quickly shakes his head. "Nope. We're late as it is, and Rosie is not a patient woman."
I look up to ask him who Rosie was, when all of the sudden the hand that's on my wrist is gone, replaced by the tight, ice-cold grip of Edward's gorgeous friend, Rosalie.
"You're Rosie," I gasp, looking up into her murderous gaze.
"And you're late. I don't like people who are late. And I definitely don't like people who make me work on Christmas Eve. It's a holiday, for Pete's sake. I'd like a fucking break, too."
"But you're the Ghost of Christmas Present. Right?" I immediately step back as Rosalie steps forward and glares menacingly at me.
"Don't get smart with me," she warns, pointing her finger at me. "I'm a ghost; the Christmas part is added for people like you who decide that Christmas Eve is a good day to off themselves."
"I didn't 'off' myself. Your behemoth of a boyfriend scared me, and I fell out of the window," I defend myself as I follow Rosalie. The gorgeous blonde walks quickly. Her long legs gracefully navigate over the icy sidewalk.
"And wait a minute. How can you be a ghost? And for that matter, Emmett? How is that even possible? You two are still alive, aren't you?"
"Firstly, you were thinking of jumping. Secondly, you now decide to ask that question. Why didn't that cross your mind before? Thirdly, the Ghost of Christmas Past is not my boyfriend. He and I have taken the shape and personas of people you know. We act like those people because that's what you choose. If I revealed what I really looked like, you probably wouldn't be following me."
I stand gawking at the ghost who resembles Rosalie, afraid to follow her, but I do. I focus on the bottom of her white gown as it floats magnificently in the cold, winter wind. I'm slightly entranced by the way it whips around her legs and how she doesn't seem to be bothered by the biting wind.
She abruptly stops walking and I find myself almost walking into her. When Rosalie notices how close I am to her, she scowls, and I suddenly feel the familiar sensation of being lifted, and I find myself no longer outside.
"Why are we in my apartment?" I ask, and she points to what is going on.
"Before I take you to what's going on right now, I wanted to take you back to a few hours ago." She shifts her gaze to the me in the room, who is struggling to get her shoes on while talking on the phone.
"I can't go, Edward," I hear myself say, and cringe as I see myself bang my knee into the nightstand as I had earlier in the night.
I listen to Edward's response echo throughout the room as if the phone has been put on speaker.
"Are you okay?" he asks, and I answer that I am.
"Not very coordinated, are you?" Rosalie rhetorically questions as my past self hits her elbow against the wall.
"So why aren't you coming?" I hear Edward ask, and the disappointment in his tone is crystal clear, but at the time I hadn't noticed.
"Always breaking his heart," Rosalie says, but before I can comment on the strange statement, I hear myself talking to Edward.
"Mike asked me to come in and finish up some stuff. I really need the money."
"But it's Christmas Eve, Bella," he argues. "I really want you to come with me. You promised. Come on, Bella," he pleads over the phone, and the me in my apartment couldn't have cared less.
"No can do, Edward."
"You couldn't have been any colder right there, Bella," Rosalie addresses me harshly. "And people say I'm frigid. That was downright icy. Do you even give a shit about Edward?" She asks, and it's clear that she didn't like the way I had treated Edward. To be honest, looking at it now, I don't like the way I treated Edward.
"Of course I care. He's my only friend."
"And what the hell am I?" Rosalie shouts. "I'm your friend. Emmett. Alice. And Jasper, too. We're all your friends."
"You're Edward's friends. Actually, you're a ghost, but for the sake of this argument, you guys only hang out with me because Edward always brings me along," I challenge, and Rosalie shakes her head.
"Bella, I can't believe you actually think that," she answers, shaking her head in disbelief.
"Well, is this it?" I ask, trying to change the subject. "Now, do I get to see the Ghost of Christmas Future?"
Rosalie clears her throat and once again glares down at me. She is frighteningly good at it. Her gaze is piercing and almost shrewd. She shakes her head and snaps her fingers, and suddenly we are standing inside of the apartment she shares with Emmett.
I've been there a few times for dinners Edward had dragged me to. It was a nice place; big, but still cozy.
Inside the apartment, Rosalie and one of Edward's friend, Alice, are busy setting up the table as Emmett watches television in the living room.
"I don't get why we're here," I tell Rosalie.
"This is what's going on right now." As soon as Rosalie answers, the doorbell rings and in enters a sullen-looking Edward.
"Hey man. What's with the long face?" Emmett asks him as he locks the door behind him. Edward shakes his head; he doesn't want to talk about it.
"Where should I put this cake?" Edward asks, avoiding Emmett's stare. I observe as Emmett points to the kitchen and watches his friend walk slowly toward it with his head facing down. Emmett shakes his head and sits back down on the couch.
"Hey, I look good," Rosalie says as she watches Edward greet the Rosalie in the kitchen.
"You always look nice," I add, but Rosalie ignores the compliment and remains silent as we continue to watch the scene in front of us.
"Where's Bella?" Alice asks and takes the cake from Edward's hands. It's a red velvet cake. I don't have to look inside the box to know. It's his favorite kind of cake. He brings it for every special occasion.
"Not coming," he replies dejectedly and slumps into one of the kitchen chairs. I want to reach out and hug him. Which is an odd feeling for me, but he looks so morose. His usually bright eyes are dull, and his ever-present smile is nowhere to be found.
"Maybe you should have thought of hugging him before you went and killed yourself," Rosalie points out. I roll my eyes.
"For the last time, I didn't kill myself. I fell from the window after Emmett scared me."
"If that makes you feel better, keep believing that bullshit," Rosalie answers sarcastically.
I ignore her and go back to watching the group in the kitchen. It is only aiding in making me feel worse. Everything about Edward seems off. This isn't the Edward I'm used to seeing. It always seemed that nothing affected his mood. He always seems to be in good mood.
"Why isn't she coming?" Alice asks as she takes a seat beside Edward. She places a comforting hand on his shoulder and Rosalie stands to his right and places a hand on his other shoulder.
"She has to work."
"Work. Who the hell works on Christmas Eve?" Rosalie yells, and Alice shakes her head.
"Well, Jasper's a paramedic. That's different. Besides, he'll be here by one at the latest. Bella's not coming, period, and is in an office doing god-knows- whose paperwork. We all know the girl can't say no."
"Except to me," Edward huffs in disappointment.
"I can't believe she's so oblivious to it all," Alice says. What did she mean by "oblivious to it all?" What was she trying to say about me?
"She means that you are oblivious to the fact that Edward loves you," Rosalie answers sardonically. She rolls her eyes and glares insultingly at me.
"Edward...loves me? You must be joking."
"I'm not joking. Just keep watching. I'm sure he's about to go into one of his 'Bella's-the–most- perfect-girl-in-the-world' speeches. At first they were really sweet, but now they're becoming depressing since you can't seem to give the guy a break."
"He makes spee-"
"Shut it, will you?" Rosalie interrupts. "I want to hear what he has to say this time."
"Have you told Bella that you like her?" The Rosalie in the room asks. Edward shakes his head and looks down at his lap. He is fidgeting and wringing his hands. It is something completely out of his nature. He is always composed.
"He doesn't like her, Rose. He loves her."
"See?" Rosalie looks to me and nods her head proudly. "Told you so."
"He hasn't said it," I smartly reply, and Rosalie stares at me.
"Yet. So keep your mouth shut and listen."
"And she couldn't care less," Edward miserably adds, and I gasp.
"I care. I care so much. You're the only one I have to care about it," I shout vainly at him. There's no point since he can't hear me.
"Is that the gift you got her?" Alice points to wrapped box in front of Edward.
"He got me a gift?" I ask out loud, and Rosalie once again tells me to be quiet.
"Yeah, I found this awesome coffee mug in a book shop. It has a quote from her favorite book on it."
"Oh my god," I whisper as Edward recites Mr. Darcy from memory.
"'You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.'"
"Of course he did. The man is in love with you."
"That doesn't prove that he's in love with me. It just means he's a good friend, who listens."
Rosalie groans and moves to stand behind Edward. She points to his face and for a moment, I think she is going to grab him. I wonder if he can sense Rosalie and if the real Rosalie or even Alice can sense the ghost beside them.
"Do you see that face?" I nod, clueless as to what she is trying to say.
"This man is hopelessly in love with you. All he ever does is talk about you when you're not here. He's always wondering how you're doing. What you're doing. If you're okay. If you'd mind if he just went over to visit."
"That doesn't mean-"
"Damn it, Bella! Why are you so stubborn? He loves you. He. Loves. You. Why can't you get that through your thick skull?"
I watch Edward as he continues talking to Alice and Rosalie. He seems nothing like the guy who strolls confidently into my apartment like he owns it, each and every time. There is no light in his eyes. No spark. There is always a twinkle there, and right now there is nothing.
I have managed to put it out completely.
Rosalie is right. He does talk about me. For the next ten minutes as I stand there, it's all he does, and Alice and Rosalie just smile listen and smile. He talks about how stubborn I am, how I don't think Alice and Rosalie like me, and about how he loves the way I talk about things I enjoy.
I can't help but smile as he continues talking. My heart beats rapidly against my chest, and it feels like my stomach is flipping.
We are there longer than I thought we'd be. I watch as the group eventually stands from the kitchen table and begins to place their dinner on the table in the makeshift dining room Rosalie has created in the living room.
It seems that Edward is starting to look more like himself. The light is back in his eyes, and he is even laughing at some ridiculous joke Emmett just told before his cell phone rings.
I hear him say hello, but I can't hear the person on the other line. I turn to ask Rosalie why that is, but she just shakes her head and nods toward Edward.
"Keep watching, Bella," she whispers, and the shrewdness that usually masks her eyes and voice isn't present. I wonder why she has done a complete one-eighty from the ghost I met not an hour before.
I hear him gasp and then a scream rips from his throat before I turn to look at him. Edward sinks to the floor and keeps repeating, "Are you sure" and a chorus of no's. He shakes his head furiously in disbelief and punches the wall beside him.
"What's going on?" I yell, but Rosalie doesn't answer.
Emmett and Alice are the first to come to Edward, but he pushes them away. I see the tears streaming down his face, but before I can do or say anything, I felt the familiar feeling of me going somewhere.
"No. Rose. No! What's going on? Why is he crying? Why is he screaming?" I yell frantically as the scene before me starts to fade away. I try to hold on to the fading walls that appear to be caving in around us, but it's useless. Before I know it, we are standing in a brightly-lit, white room and Edward is shaking as he speaks to a doctor.
"Where are we? Take me back! Take me back to Edward! Right now! Take me back!" I scream unrelentingly at Rosalie. I attempt to shove her, but it's no use. My hand goes straight through her cold, lucent frame, and I fall to the floor. I almost refuse to stand up, but I push myself up to see Edward.
"How did you do that? Better yet, what's going on?" I ask Rose, but she remains silent and gestures toward the doctor and Edward.
"So, so you don't know if it's actually her?" Edward stammers.
"She had no identification on her person. However, the police haven't come by with her belongings yet. They found a purse in the building she fell from."
Edward gasps as his knees buckle, and he falls back against Emmett who is standing beside him. Rosalie is standing beside him as Alice stands beside Jasper on the other side of the room.
"However, your friend, Mr. Whitlock, seems to believe that she's a friend of yours. He's quite sure of it."
Edward's head snaps toward Jasper, and I watch as Jasper nods his head gravely.
"I'm so sorry, Edward," he apologizes. Edward struggles to breathe as Emmett rub his shoulder in comfort. Both Alice and Rosalie begin to tear up upon Jasper's admission.
"It's me, isn't it?" I turn and ask Rosalie.
"Yes," is all she says, as we continue to watch the scene pan out.
"I don't think I can do this," Edward says, but he still manages to walk toward the examination table.
"Take all the time you need," the morgue attendant by the door informs him. Edward nods once and pulls up the white sheet by my left hand first. I know exactly what he was looking for.
"Oh god," I hear him cry out as he stumbles back against Emmett, who just barely catches him.
"Is it her?" Alice meekly asks and Edward nods. He can't speak. Tears are falling quickly down his cheeks. I feel horrible for putting him through all of this.
"How did he know it was you?" Rosalie asks beside me, startling me. She has been so quiet for the past ten minutes.
"My watch," I answer and lift my hand to show her. "He gave it to me two years ago as a birthday present. I never take it off. It's water resistant, so I never have to. He knows that."
I listen to Edward sob while Emmett gently helps him sit on a chair.
"I'm so sorry, Edward. I know how you felt about her," Emmett says. Rosalie comes to his side and rubs Edward's arm.
"I. I. I can't believe she would do this. Why didn't she say anything? Why didn't I say anything?"
"Edward, you can't blame yourself."
"But I can Jasper, I really can. Did you know that just after her parents died, she told me that she didn't deserve love? She spouted some crap about how she'd been the reason for her parent's death, and how not being loved would be her retribution."
"That's pretty sad, Bella. Everyone deserves love."
I turn toward Rosalie to further elaborate on what Edward said, but she is no longer there and the room is no longer bright.
"Rosalie? Rosalie? Rosalie! Where are you?"
I can't see anything anymore but darkness, but there is a familiar voice scolding me.
"Jesus, Bella, shut up already would you?"
Rosalie is gone, and in her place is Alice, and the lights in the room have come back on.
"You can refer to me as the Ghost of Christmas Future, or Alice, I guess, if that's easier. But you're late. We're losing time. Hurry up."
I shake my head and pull out of Alice's icy grip, moving around the examination table to where Edward is sitting. I reach down to run my hand through his hair like he likes. It always calms him down when I do that. This time though, my hand goes right through him, and I stumble forward, directly through his sobbing body.
"This is gonna get real sad, real fast," Alice sighs impatiently. "Fine, you leave me no choice."
Before I can stop her, the scenery changes again, and just like with Emmett and Rosalie, I am somewhere completely different. Alice has taken me to a graveyard, and we are kneeling before my headstone.
"Your outfit sucks, by the way." Alice snidely remarks as she sits on a close-by stone and stares down at her nails.
"This sucks. Now we're early. My timing used to be perfect. I blame you."
"Early for what?"
Before Alice can answer, Edward appears, kneeling directly where I am.
"Bella." The word is like a cry from his lips, and when I look at him, I see the lines edging his face. Not the type I think I'd see on his aged face. No, these aren't laugh lines. He looks … sad. Sad and like a shell of the Edward I know.
"It's been ten years, Bella. Merry Christmas." He laughs slightly, the sound breaking into a cry as he wipes his eyes. "I know you hate Christmases. It's funny. All those years I tried to make you see, and now. Now I can't stand the sight of wreaths, trees, or even wrapping paper. I. I. I miss you so much. You will never know how much. My therapist said I died with you. Says you wouldn't want me to be this way, but I can't. Everything I see reminds me of you."
"Jesus, this is so Hallmark."
Alice's comment makes me think, I mean it really makes me think. This isn't what I wanted. This isn't what I wanted for Edward.
"Whatever. You can't tell me that if he came here with a wife and kids that you'd be happy?" Alice scoffs, still examining her nails. Getting up, she continues. "And look at his outfit. He's totally single. No one gets away with that kind of flannel anymore."
"You know, you're a lot nicer when you're not a ghost," I groan, watching Edward carefully. "Fuck. Even when you made me wear that stupid red dress."
"You're buried in that stupid red dress. Edward loved that dress."
I shake my head, not wanting to believe it. "He didn't look twice at me in that dress. It was way too much for that dinner."
"Sure. That's why he picked it for your funeral clothes. I mean, if I committed suicide, I'd want the guy who loved me to pick something he thought I looked hideous in."
"I didn't kill myself. Emmett scared me! I fell, damn it. I fell!" I yell, standing up to pace. "I want to go home. This isn't happening. I probably fell asleep at my desk. This is totally like The Wizard of Oz. I'll wake up in my bed after a bad fever. There's no place like home, there's no place like home."
Alice, looks from her lap and laughs. "Oh my God. Get a grip, Bella. You're dead. You're dead, and he's alone and in love with your ghost."
"Shut up, Alice. Edward would never let this affect him like this. He's strong. Stronger than this. I know it. That's why I know this isn't real," I argue, but Alice shakes her head self-righteously.
"Yes, he would. He is. He loved you, and when you killed yourself, you pretty much killed him as well."
"Shut up!" I scream, not wanting to hear Alice, not wanting to hear the truth. I watch as Edward leans forward and brushes the snow off the front of my epitaph. He places a soft kiss on my engraved name, and walks away.
As he walks away, he hunches forward with his arms wrapped tightly around himself. I can hear him cry even as he walks farther away.
"Edward!" I call out to him, knowing he can't hear me, but I still have to try. "Edward!" I shout again.
"There's no use, Bella. He can't hear you."
"I can't believe I made this happen."
"Well, you did," Alice snidely remarks and snaps her fingers. "Watch your step," she laughs forebodingly.
I turn to see what she is talking about, and notice that the ground beneath my feet is starting to shake. The grass and dirt covering my grave is opening up, and before I can take a step back, I am falling into the ditch, screaming in horror.
I gasp as I sit up in bed. My heart is hammering against my chest, and I can feel sweat pouring down the back of my neck . I swipe at my hair that's matted itself to my forehead.
I can't remember what I was dreaming about, but I can't seem to steady my breathing. I look down at my shaking hands, trying to will them to stop.
My cell phone begins to ring almost instantly.
The loud shrill sound scares me, but I manage to grab my phone before it can go to voicemail.
"Swan, it's Mike. Hi, sorry for the short notice, but I need you to come in for the graveyard shift tonight," he tells me.
I can hear Lauren in the background yelling, but I say nothing.
"We all know you don't do the Christmas thing, and Lauren's got an early afternoon flight to catch to get back home for the holidays. You understand, don't you?" He doesn't wait for a reply. He continues, "Great, great. Remember, you come in at nine-thirty."
"Yeah, okay, Mike," I answer groggily and slowly stumble out of my bed to get dressed. My cell phone rings again as I reach for a pair of slacks.
"Hey Bella. Are you almost ready? I'm about to leave now." Edward says cheerfully, and I smile before realizing that I can't attend the party at Emmett and Rosalie's.
"I can't go, Edward," I say and swear as I bang my knee into my nightstand.
"Are you okay?" He asks, concerned, and I answer that I am.
"So why aren't you coming?"
"Mike asked me to come in and finish up some stuff. I really need the money."
"But it's Christmas Eve, Bella," he argues. "I really want you to come with me. You promised. Come on, Bella," he pleads over the phone as I hit my elbow against the wall in the hallway.
"No can do, Edward."
"Bella. Please," he pleads once more, but I bid him goodnight and tell him to have a good time.
As I reach for my coat, a sense of déjà vu overwhelms me. I feel as if I've been in this position before, as if I've lived this before and it hadn't ended well, and it had all started by saying yes to Mike.
I sit back down on my couch and contemplate what to do. I could finally do something for myself.
I reach for my cell phone and call up Mike, telling him that I won't be able to make it into the office. I finalize the conversation by stating that as of the January 1st, I would no longer be his employee.
The sense of relief that comes with telling Mike to fuck off is overpowering in a good way. I call Edward up immediately.
"Hey!" I loudly yell into the phone.
"Nothing. I was just wondering if you'd come over, so we can celebrate." I smile into the phone though he can't see it, but I just can't help it. I really want to share this with Edward. He's always been there for me, and he's never so much as told me to change who I am.
"I just quit my job!"
"Are you serious?" he asks loudly. I can hear him shuffling in his apartment. I can just imagine the look on his face. He's been telling me to quit my job almost from the day I started.
"Yeah. It feels good. I told Mike that as of the New Year, I will no longer be his employee."
"What did he say?"
"Not much. He said some crap about letting him down and not fulfilling my potential. I told him that he never let me move up in the company. It feels good."
"That's awesome, Bella. So, you're still coming with me?" His voice sounds uncertain.
"Yeah. Just swing by and come upstairs so you can help me carry some stuff downstairs."
"Oh, so I have to carry stuff? Is that all I'm good for?" he jokes, and the atmosphere of the conversation quickly shifts to a less tense feeling.
"Duh. That's why I keep you around."
"Good to know, Bella." Edward laughs. "I'll be there in fifteen."
I quickly hang up the phone, rush to the hallway closet, and grab the wreath Edward had given me the year before. I had planned to toss it in the garbage, but I kept it.
I rush to hang the wreath on the front of my apartment door. Luckily, the hole from where Edward had hammered the nail into the previous year was there, so the wreath was up in no time.
I find the sprig of mistletoe in the closet as well, and that overwhelming sense of déjà vu hits me again. I grab it and place it on my overhead fan. It looks just right hanging there.
As I collect my things to bring to the party, there's a knock on the door.
"You put the wreath up. I thought you threw it out," Edward says as he kisses my cheek and walks in.
"Yeah, not so much."
I try to sound nonchalant, like I didn't just have a mental breakdown or something. What else could explain the way I've suddenly turned into a Christmas loving Who from Whoville? I mean seriously, I put up mistletoe for Christ's sake. I close the door after letting Edward in, and turn around, asking him if he wants a drink, hoping that he'll follow me into the kitchen.
And because I know Edward like I thought I knew Edward, he does follow me into the kitchen, requesting some of my iced tea, standing just a few feet shy of where I've placed the mistletoe.
I absently wonder if he'll look up to the ceiling fan, where he put the mistletoe in Christmases past. I hope he doesn't, and grab the pitcher to pour him a glass. "I'm almost ready. You're faster than I thought. I think I'll wear that red dress, the one Alice gave me?"
He sputters out something, nothing I can comprehend, as I hand over the glass of tea for him. I don't bother with the mistletoe yet; instead, just head out of the kitchen to dig through my boring closet for the red dress I saved. I slip it on and zip it up, deciding to wear my black tights to keep my legs warm for the drive over. My hair... well, my hair is gonna have to stay the way it is, because I really don't have time to curl it, or even try to straighten it.
I quickly brush through it once or twice and pull it all back under my ear for a messy side bun, bobby-pinning a few stray strands back, and clipping in a red flower clip. I look through my jewelry box and see my mother's old Christmas brooch. I stop for a second and take it out, just looking at it. I don't know why I still have it, but now that I can see it, and I'm holding it, I decide to wear it and pin it to my dress, staring at myself in the mirror. I don't look terrible... just a little tired, and maybe a little nervous. But I am nervous, and I am tired, so I'm not too worried about all that. I grab my grandmother's pearl earrings and put them on too, and dig around my vanity drawers for a stick of eyeliner or something.
In a few minutes, I feel like I'm presentable enough, and go back to my closet for a pair of boots. I keep my combat boots tucked away for another day, and slip into a pair of black leather knee length boots. They'll keep me warm, and hopefully earn me some points with Alice, too.
When I head back out to the kitchen, I turn out all the lights except the kitchen light, and then stand directly under the ceiling fan and mistletoe. I let him come to me.
"How is the tea?"
"Good as always, B," he says, setting his glass down on the counter beside us. He scoots closer to me... just another step and he'd be under the mistletoe. I shrug my shoulders and smile. "Good."
He takes the final step in, and rests one hand on the crook of my elbow, brushing at the three-quarter-length sleeve. "You look fantastic," he murmurs softly, looking at me in a way I feel is familiar.
I blush, of course, and look at my feet before I look up at him again. "Thanks," I giggle, looking up. I point to where I'm looking, and say, "Did you know mistletoe is, like, a sign of marriage and true love?"
He quickly looks from me to the mistletoe and back up again. He smiles, and then licks his lips. "Emmett says that all the time during the Christmas season," he says, inching closer and closer. "I thought—I," he stutters. "I thought this was just Christmas bullshit to you."
"I thought so too," I shrug, smiling. "But, I mean, we're already here, we might as well... you know, for the sake of the mistletoe." I wonder if I'm going about all this the right way. I wonder if this déjà vu feeling is just wrong, and think that at any second, he's going to back up and laugh.
He doesn't. Instead, he pushes himself forward, closer to me still, and wraps his arms around my waist. I smile up at him, and inch up onto my toes. "Merry Christmas, Edward," I whisper.
He doesn't say anything back, just stares at me for a second, his eyes darting from my eyes to my lips, and then back. Finally, he tilts his head down and his lips meet mine for the first time.
I don't want to sound cliché or anything, but the kiss is fucking magic. Edward definitely knows what he's doing in the lip-lock department. When he pulls back, I can't help but sigh, biting my lip to stop myself from confessing my undying love for him.
It takes a second for him to recover, but when he does, he rests his hands at my hips and takes a step back, just looking at me. "Bella?" He asks, like it isn't me. It reminds me of how Belle looks at the Prince after he goes back to being human again. I resist the urge to quote my favorite Disney movie, and just let him stare a little longer.
Finally, he grips my waist and lifts me up, twirling me around in a circle and laughs. "Are you—I mean, you're feeling well, right?" he asks me, still laughing as he steps forward, his whole body flush against my own.
"I feel perfect. I'm sorry I canceled on you earlier. I just… I don't know what I was thinking. This is Christmas Eve... I shouldn't be in an office building, I should be with the person I love, sitting on Emmett's couch, drinking Rose's hot chocolate, and sharing a slice of red velvet cake with you."
He nods, still looking at me with a curious expression, and then his eyes go wide. "Wait, say that again."
"Red velvet cake? Did you forget to buy one this year? I mean, if you're okay with being late, I can make a quick spice cake. I have all the stuff we need, I just need the time for it to bake. Is that all right?"
"No, not about the cake, Bella. Say it again."
"Say what again, Edward?"
"That you love me," he says, his voice soft.
"Oh," I say, blushing again. I look down at his hands on my waist and bite my lip. "Well, um, I love you, Edward. I—You're—I couldn't—I mean, I don't know what I'd do without you, and I don't want you to wear gross flannel shirts and cry and have to—" I pause, shaking my head, not knowing where that final thought came from. "I just love you."
"You do?" He asks, clearly amused by my rant. "Really?"
"Of course I do. You're the only person I'll let shove Christmas down my throat. You get me, and you don't want to change me."
"So this mistletoe stuff, it isn't just Christmas bullshit? Really. You mean it?"
Looking up at the mistletoe, I grin. "I mean it, Edward. I love you."
He pulls me against him, burying his face in my neck as he hugs me tight to his chest. "Oh God, Bella, I love you too. I've loved you since the first time I saw you. You're—Christ, I love you."
I can feel the moisture against my throat as he confesses, and when he pulls back with watery eyes, I just run my thumbs under them and wipe the tears away, trying not to cry myself. I reach up to run one of my hands through his hair, and watch as he closes his eyes, content.
"So, um, did you need me to make a cake? I got confused."
He leans in and kisses me again – still magical, thank you very much – and then presses his forehead to mine, brushing his nose against my own. "No, sweet girl, I do not need you to make a cake. I got my red velvet cake from Mrs. Crowley this morning."
"Good, I really didn't want to have to bother with that. I'd much rather do this," I whisper, pushing my lips against his again.
He nods into the kiss and holds me tight.
So what if we're a little late to the Christmas party?