AN: Thanks to LaMomo & Busymommy for their fabulous Beta'ing, as well as our awesome pre-readers!
Chapter 11: Raise Your Glass
So raise your glass if you are wrong
In all the right ways
All my underdogs
We will never be never be anything but loud
And nitty gritty dirty little freaks
Won't you come on and come on and raise your glass
Just come on and come on and raise your glass
Raise Your Glass by P!nk
On Wednesday morning, Bella sat in a booth at the diner, scribbling some potential lyrics in a notebook as she waited on Alice and Rose to join her for lunch. A tune and some words had been whirling around in her head all day and she made a mental note to ask Whit if he'd be interested in another jam session soon. She was in deep concentration when she felt the seat across from her shift. Raising her head with a welcoming smile, she was shocked to come face to face with a pair of aquamarine colored eyes. The smile slowly slipped from her face, transforming it into a blank mask.
Angela smiled sweetly and tapped her perfectly manicured fingernails on the tabletop. She cocked her head to the side and appraised Bella silently.
"You know who I am?" she asked, without preamble.
Angela grinned and folded her hands in front of her. "You're not at all what I expected, Bella Swan."
Bella raised an eyebrow. "Do tell, Miss Weber."
"From everything I've heard around town, I thought you'd be more, hmmmm," she paused thoughtfully, "more of the girl next door type."
"Okay, I'll take the bait. What's that supposed to mean?"
"First off, you're very pretty. Not supermodel gorgeous, but much more than the plain Jane I expected you to be. You also have this air of confidence that seems slightly out of place in this dingy little town," Angela commented.
She eyed her speculatively for a moment, before continuing and smirking. "You remind me a bit of myself, actually. I guess that's understandable since you've garnered Edward's attention."
"Excuse me?" Bella replied, not quite sure if that was an insult or not.
"Well, I mean, look at the big picture. Edward loves me; he has for years. Then a girl comes to town, who reminds him so much of his lost love. Naturally, an attachment formed. But I'm back now, so you can go back to whatever rock you crawled out from under." She smiled another eerily sweet smile.
Are you fucking kidding me? Oh, you misguided fool, you have no idea who you're talking to, Bella thought to herself.
"I think you might be a little on the delusional side, Ange."
The other girl's eyes widened. "Don't call me that."
"Look, Angela, I don't know what your problem is or what turned you into Super Bitch, but we were friends when we were kids-"
"No," she cut Bella off, motioning in between the two of them, "we were never friends. I was the girl you used whenever you and Emmett were fighting. The one you cast off quickly as soon as you were on speaking terms again. So, if the blame for me being a bitch is laid anywhere, it's on you. You ruined my childhood."
"Are you serious? You're going to blame that shit on me? How am I to blame for your choices?" Bella asked incredulously.
Angela's eyes turned ice cold and she straightened her posture. "You're not taking Edward from me. He's the perfect man: kind, sweet and loving. I made a mistake and I took him for granted. That won't happen again."
"You're missing a big piece of the equation here," a voice broke into the conversation. Both women looked up to see Alice and Rosalie. "Edward," Alice replied with venom in her voice. "He chose Bella, not you, Slutbag. Get out of my seat and out of our faces."
Angela swallowed, putting on a brave face, but Bella saw right through it. Hell, she herself was a little frightened of Alice at the moment, but the brunette only stood and smiled sweetly once again.
As she moved away from the table, Alice's hand shot out and gripped her bicep. Despite the fact there was over a six inch height difference, Alice's stance was imposing. "Stay. Away. From. My. Brother," she growled.
Before, when those words were directed toward her, Bella had felt nothing but annoyance at the elfin woman. But hearing them directed at Edward's ex this time brought forth a completely different feeling.
Angela jerked her arm away. "Really? Rosalie, you should keep your mutt on a leash."
Rose reached out and held Alice back from creating a scene. "Leave, Angela," Rose threatened, "before I let her kick your ass right here in the middle of the diner."
She rolled her eyes and glanced at Bella once more. "I'll be seeing you... Swan," she called out as she walked away.
Rosalie let go of Alice, whose fists were clenched tightly, causing her fingers to appear chalk white. Bella reached out and covered them with her own, coaxing the smaller woman to loosen her grip. Alice swallowed and looked down at her, giving her a shaky smile.
"Thanks, Bell," she murmured as she slid into the seat that Angela had just vacated, Rosalie sitting beside her.
"Well, that was a lovely visit," Rose commented as she flipped through the menu nonchalantly.
Alice let out a snort, which made Bella bite her lip to keep from laughing. Soon, all three of them were giggling and wiping tears from their eyes.
"Seriously though," Alice sighed, "that girl cannot take a hint! What did she say to you before we got here?"
Bella sighed. "Well, she alluded that Edward is only interested in me because I'm so similar to her."
"Say what?" Rose interjected. "Are you kidding me? You two are night and day!"
Bella shrugged. "I don't know, she made some valid points."
"Whatever she said, ignore it," Alice added. "She likes to bring people down by playing on their insecurities. You're worth a hundred Angela Webers. I was wrong to discourage you from starting anything with Edward. You're an awesome person and you bring out the best in him. Unlike the she-devil."
Bella nodded shyly. "Thanks, Allie." After a moment, she added, "She also blames me for ruining her childhood and turning her into a bitch."
"You're screwing with us, right?" Alice asked. When Bella shook her head no, Alice let out a laugh. "This, I've got to hear."
"Well, when Em and I were kids, we were inseparable for the most part. Once or twice we had these huge fights and wouldn't speak to each other. But I felt lonely without my best friend, so my dad dropped me off at the Webers' to play with Angela. She was quiet and never really wanted to play much. We'd hang out and draw, read or anything else that was pretty laid back. Once Shaggy and I were talking again, I never thought too much about Ange. But on the same token, she never approached me, either."
Rose tapped the table as she mulled over Bella's words. "It's misplaced aggression. She was a wallflower and had a shitty childhood, so she's blaming someone she was jealous of. I wouldn't pay her any mind, Bell."
"She's obviously delusional," Alice added. "I mean, really, let's compare your levels of success, for one."
Bella laughed. "Right, but it's not like I can just get in her face and brag about who I am. Not that that's something I do on a regular basis, mind you. But I would certainly make an exception for Angela Weber."
After Cora had taken their orders, Alice pounced excitedly on Bella. "We're going to have a game night at our house on Sunday. Please say you'll come!"
"Sure, sounds like fun. Who'll be there?"
"Just the six of us. Me, Jazz, Rose, Em, Edward and you. I figured that it'd be a couples night."
Bella smirked and bit her cheek. "You've certainly done a 180 in regards to me seeing your brother," she speculated.
Alice blushed, similar to Edward, and shrugged. "Well, Jasper sat down with me and really helped me see everything in a different light. Plus, you're a much better alternative to Angela."
Bella picked up her napkin and balled it up, before tossing it at Alice's head. "Don't be mean," she laughed, "or I'm not coming on Sunday."
"You have to," Allie replied slyly, "or poor Edward will be without a partner."
"Or maybe I'll keep him home with me," Bella countered.
Rose snorted. "I'm sure he'd take that option first."
Bella gave her a confused look. "What do you mean?"
The Amazon shot her a incredulous look. "Really, Bell? Don't you see the way that man looks at you sometimes? It's like you're something to eat. Which would definitely not be a bad thing, if you know what I mean," she replied, waggling her eyebrows lasciviously.
Alice made a face and gagged. "Yuck, Rose. That's my brother!"
She shrugged. "It's not my fault he's hot."
"You know, Rose, you and Em are perfect for each other."
The blonde grinned back at her. "I know, right? He's honestly my perfect half."
Bella smiled, perfectly happy and content to spend this time with her friends. She let her mind shift, wondering if maybe Edward was the other half of herself that she was missing. She'd never been a big believer in fate, but suddenly, she was beginning to hope that anything was possible.
Sunday evening came quickly, the rest of the week flying by. Life was split between working at the bar, hanging out with her friends, writing and playing music. She'd been away from L.A. for little over a month now and she knew she'd have to go back, sooner rather than later.
An hour into their game night, an orange hippo went flying across the room. Alice, Jasper and Edward gaped at Emmett, who merely shrugged. "The little fucker was cheating me."
"How could a little plastic hippo cheat you?" Jasper asked incredulously.
Bella bit back a laugh, remembering quite a few volatile game moments from their childhood. Emmett gave her a side-eye glance.
"Something funny, Scrappy?"
She snorted. "Only you would think that Hungry Hungry Hippos would be out to cheat you."
"You guys just don't understand. Those little bastards are devious!"
Alice frowned and crossed the room to retrieve the broken hippo. "You're buying me a new game if I can't fix this, Em."
"Shortness, I'll buy you two. How does that sound?"
She smiled, acquiesced for the moment. She moved over to the giant pile of games next to the couch and pulled out a Monopoly box. "I call doggie!" she exclaimed excitedly.
Thankful for the distraction, Emmett called out his piece as well. "I'm the race car!"
Bella and Rosalie groaned at the same time and look at each other in surprise, before breaking out into a fit of giggles. Wiping tears from her eyes, Bella sighed.
"I take it that you've played this with Em before, Rose?" she asked.
Rose grimaced. "Twice, which was two too many."
Emmett rolled his eyes. "I'm not that bad."
An hour later...
Emmett stared Bella down, hoping to intimidate her with his size and ferociousness. She merely eyed him casually and sighed.
"No," she replied calmly, moving her token three spaces.
His face crumpled, changing tactics and resorted to whining to help get his way. "Pleeeeease? Pretty please with sugar on top?"
"I said no," she replied firmly. "The last time I traded you Park Place, you screwed me over."
His jaw dropped in surprise. "That was like, eleven years ago!" he exclaimed. His eyes narrowed and he squinted in thought. "I seem to remember you getting pissed off and sweeping the board after that."
Bella flushed and rolled her eyes. "I don't recall any such thing."
"Uh huh, whatever, Scrappy," he scoffed.
She turned to Rosalie, who sat watching their exchange with an amused smile, along with the other three people in the room.
"Does he guilt trip you as well, when he doesn't get his own way?"
Rose smirked and shook her head. "No, he usually tries to bribe me with sexual favors."
Bella scrunched her face up and looked ill for a moment. "Ew, gross. He's my brother, for all intents and purposes."
Rose squealed as Emmett pulled her into his lap and laid a sweet kiss on her, causing game pieces to scatter across the board and the rest of the group to break out in laughter. Bella looked across the coffee table and met Edward's bright eyes, happily smiling her way. Her gaze locked with his and the rest of the room fell away, until it was just the two of them. Edward had been in Seattle tending to business for most of the week, so they hadn't had a chance to sit down and have an in-depth conversation about their new relationship status.
She'd known that he was a carpenter and working on Em's place, but what she didn't know was that he owned his own company that was based in Seattle. He put his architecture degree to good use, working closely with his clients plan designers, as well as all of the behind-the-scenes tasks. He'd explained that most of what he did could be done remotely via phone and internet, but one of his biggest clients was using them to build a new library for the private school that his children attended.
That situation was a glaring reminder that they really didn't know a lot about each other, causing her to second guess if her feelings for him were actually love. After having another heart-to-heart with Mac yesterday, she firmly decided to take his advice and just follow her heart. Unsurprisingly, her heart was pointing its way towards Edward.
A set of fingers snapped in front of her face and she looked over at Jasper, startled. He laughed and bumped her shoulder with his.
"Enough with the goo-goo eyes, Swan. We're playing Trivial Pursuit next and you're my partner."
"What? Why not Alice?" she asked in confusion.
Whit shrugged. "While I love her dearly, Allie sucks at trivia. Plus, your knowledge of pop culture and literature combined with my love of history and sports, we're sure to dominate!"
Alice rolled her eyes in amusement. "That's fine, you big baby. I'll play with Rose. You know? The one who single-handedly won the last time we played this game?"
"Hey!" Emmett exclaimed. "I was part of her team, too!"
Rose smiled and patted her husband's arm comfortingly. "She knows that, babe."
He sat back and folded his arms, pouting. "Fine. Be like that. We'll kick all your asses, right Ed?"
Edward shrugged, his eyes still on Bella. "I don't know, Em. I think we might have the odds stacked against us."
Emmett rubbed his hands together. "We'll just see about that, won't we?"
"I've never seen a temper tantrum quite like that before," Edward chuckled as he walked with Bella up to Mac's front door.
She snorted. "I never knew that a person could turn that color purple."
"I know, right? Plus, I never expected it to be Rose that threw a fit instead of Emmett."
Bella laughed lightly. "Lord help those two when they have children."
Edward smiled and leaned against the door jamb as Bella slid her key into the lock. She swallowed nervously and glanced at him.
"Would you like to come in?" she asked shyly.
He nodded and reached to open the door for her. "I'd love to."
She walked in and hung her jacket on the coat rack, smiling as she turned around to ask him if he'd like a drink, only to collide with his hard chest.
"Sorry," she muttered, attempting a step back.
His arms surrounded her waist, pulling her back against him. "I'd say the same, but I wouldn't mean it," he whispered as he lowered his head.
His lips gently pressed against hers, before letting his tongue sweep over her bottom lip, seeking entry. She opened her mouth slightly, sucking lightly on his tongue before reaching up to run her fingers through his hair. She rested her head against his chest once their sweet, yet passionate kiss was finished. His heart beat loud and swift, bringing a smile to her face, knowing that he was just as affected by his desire as she was.
He tugged on her hand and motioned towards the living room. She allowed him to lead her and settle them on the couch, her heart beating furiously as he turned to face her with a serious expression on his face.
"So, I was wondering...What you would say if I asked my girlfriend out on our first official date?"
She worried her bottom lip with her teeth, causing him to free it and rub it gently with the pad of his thumb.
"I like those lips, please don't hurt them," he murmured.
She swallowed the lump in her throat. "I'd say that I like that idea," she trailed off.
His eyebrows knit together in thought. "Do I hear a 'but' coming?"
She smiled sadly. "Um, yeah. I think we should talk a little first. I want us to be on the same page before we move forward."
He nodded. "I can understand that. What do you want to talk about?"
"We haven't had much of a chance to talk this week, but did your sister happen to mention that we ran into Angela at the diner?"
He shook his head. "No, she failed to mention that, but with Alice involved, I'm sure it turned volatile."
Bella's eyes widened. "Wait, what? Are you putting the blame on Allie without even hearing what Angela had to say?"
He sighed. "Alice and Angela haven't always...seen eye-to-eye. In fact, I'm pretty sure my sister hates her."
"Do you blame her? After everything that she put you through, I can definitely empathize with Allie."
"Angela is complicated. Underneath her hard exterior, she's a good girl. She does have her issues though."
Bella blinked and wondered if maybe she'd gotten in over her head. She ran a hand through her hair and sighed.
"Do you love her?"
He cocked his head to the side. "I used to. I still care about her; I don't think that'll ever fully go away. But do I love her? No, I can honestly say that I don't. Do you really think I'd be here with you if I loved someone else? What's wrong, Bella?"
"It's just," she paused. "I'm bothered by something that happened last week; the night she showed up at the bar. She glanced my way and made sure I was looking, before kissing you on the temple. You - you smiled and looked so happy. I just - I don't know-"
She broke off her rambling and rubbed her face in frustration.
"I told her that I was falling in love with someone who made me happy, just to be around her. When she kissed me, she whispered in my ear that she was happy for me and that no one deserved it more than I did."
Bella shook her head in frustration. "She's playing with us and it's pissing me off."
"What are you talking about?" he asked, confusion etched across his face.
"At the diner, she walked up, sat down with me and told me that you still love her; that I was basically just a pitiful substitute for her and that you'd end up back in her arms sooner or later. She said she had taken you for granted and that's not a mistake she'd be making again. She's fucking with us by telling you what you want to hear and then antagonizing me behind your back. I won't put up with it."
His facial expression turned somber as he contemplated what she'd just shared, but Bella wasn't finished yet.
"Look, I know my life is complicated and that I'm a little bit of a mess, but I care about you. So much." Her eyes teared up and she swiftly blinked them away. "If you want me, then you'll have to trust me and be on my side. If you're all in, then I'm all in too and I promise to give it everything I have. But if you want her, then don't pull me into this. I can't give you my heart, if there's a chance that you'll throw it away for her."
He quickly gripped her hips and pulled her astride him, sliding his hands up to cup her cheeks, gazing intensely into her eyes.
"I can't say that I'm not confounded by whatever the hell's going on with Angela, but I can tell you that I'm yours. No matter what she says or what she does, I'm all in. My heart is yours. I think it has been since the day you knocked on my door."
Her heart leapt into her throat and she dove forward, her lips pressing against his roughly, passionately. She pulled back and he licked his lips, eying her with eyes dark with desire.
"I take it that answer pleased you?"
"Did you mean it?" she replied hesitantly.
"Then yes, yes it did," she whispered, her lips descending upon his once again.
A throat clearing made them jump apart, looking up to see Mac standing in the doorway, arms crossed over his chest.
"Isn't it a little late for a social call, boy?" he asked, his voice raspy with sleep.
Edward grinned and stood. "Yes sir, it is. I was just making sure that Bella got in safely."
Mac raised a bushy eyebrow. "She looks pretty safe to me."
Bella groaned and let her head fall back against the couch. Edward chuckled and leaned down to kiss her on the forehead. "I'll let myself out."
He walked over to Mac and held out his hand, which the older man shook with a smirk on his face.
"Good night, Edward."
"'Night, Mac. I'll see you tomorrow, Bella?"
She nodded and smiled. "Yep."
From behind Mac, he blew a kiss and winked, before making his way out of the house. As soon as she heard the door shut and his car start up a moment later, she leveled an exasperated look at her godfather.
"What was that all about?"
"What was what about?" he asked innocently. A little too innocently.
"What happened to following my heart?"
He grinned and shrugged. "That's all well and good, as long as it's not under my roof while I'm trying to sleep, okay?"
Bella sighed, the warm and fuzzy feeling she'd gotten from her time with Edward still racing through her blood. She walked over to him and leaned up on her toes, kissing his cheek.
"G'night, Mac. Sweet dreams," she called as she started up the stairs.
"Good night, Bella. I'd return the sentiment, but I have a feeling that it's not needed."
Her laugh tinkled down the stairs and he closed his eyes, letting it wash over him. Too many years had gone by with that sound absent from their lives. He'd had some fun busting their chops when he'd found them in a loving embrace, but truth be told, he couldn't have been more pleased. Edward was a good man who reminded him a lot of Charlie when they were young men, once upon a time.
Yes, Mac was very pleased with recent events.
AN: Chapter song: Raise Your Glass by P!nk
So, the moment with the Orange Hippo actually occured at my house last Friday night. Never fear, I was able to perform surgery and he lived to gobble marbles hungrily another day.
A big thank you to everyone for your well-wishes! I'm having some Xrays done my hip and back next week, so we'll know more then. Hopefully, it won't be too bad. =)