Disclaimer: SMeyer owns it all =)
I've been losing so much time….
The painted hues of the Laguna sunset, the soft whispers of the waves crashing on the beach, the soft white fibers of the plush chaise where I currently am planted, sipping my umpteenth margarita; it all mocks me with the promise of simplicity. I slightly turn my head toward my house and scoff at the view. This mansion of a house, brimmed with luxuries I could only dream of growing up, is the loudest mocker of all. I could hear the whispers of what I once thought was living the ultimate life. Now, I know better.
I turn towards the sunset, now dipping low in the sky, the darkness a metaphor for my current mood. I thought chasing my dreams, leaving my small town home in Washington for glorious Laguna Beach, California, embarking on a new journey all on my own; would awaken a new person, a better person. I was right, partially. It did awaken a new person, a bitter, humorless, guarded person. It is who I have become. I narrow my eyes at the now black sky, glittering with stars that I once strived to reach and wonder how I have become my own personal hell. It didn't happen overnight, that is for sure. This circumstance was years in the making, even before my toes touched the golden hot sand of Laguna. It all started with an acceptance letter to UCLA…
"Bells? Can you go get the mail?" I chuckle at my father, who was so involved in the Mariner's v. Yankees game; I am surprised he even remembered something as trivial as mail.
"Yeah, sure." I tear open the door, and jog down the sidewalk, in order to avoid becoming drenched by the late spring shower. I throw open the mailbox, knowing more college letters are bound to be residing in the confines of the small box.
I had already received my acceptance to a multitude of schools, most importantly my acceptance to University of Virginia. Even though I had applied to dozens of schools, I had already planned to attend U of V. My love, Edward, had been recruited long before I had met him, to play soccer for the U of V and had already signed a letter of intent to play with the Cavilers last spring. Recruits from all over the country had been after him since his freshman year of High School, in Chicago. When his father took the Chief of Medicine position here at Forks Memorial, the recruiters followed. During his junior year, he signed a conditional letter of intent to play with the U of V. Basically, if he continued with his high academic achievement and remained uninjured, he would have a full ride to the University of Virginia. Edward had no qualms about meeting these conditions, finishing out our senior year as valedictorian, class president, and star Forward of our Spartan's soccer team. He was on his way to U of V, and I was right there with him.
I didn't have a full ride to U of V. I had near flawless grades, great extracurricular activities, and more community service than I knew what to do with. Still, none of those attributes equated to a full ride scholarship, like E's talent for soccer. I had a sizeable scholarship, and money saved away to cover expenses. The money didn't bother me, I knew it would be a long shot to fund all of my college through scholarships, and I was more than willing to shoulder the debt to remain by E's side.
I sorted the mail, left Charlie's mail on the counter, and took mine upstairs to sift through. Plopping down on my worn twin mattress, I opened the letters one by one. One by one the pile dwindled acceptance, acceptance, denial for scholarship, a credit card application…the usual. Finally I reached the last envelope. UCLA.
Had I known what a life changing experience opening this letter would be, I would have thrown it through the shredder along with my other acceptances, hold the U of V. If I would have known how my life would turn out, I would have gladly set fire to the envelope and not looked back. Had I heeded the tug of my heartstrings and ignored the seemingly insignificant packet…the down spiral of my world may have never occurred. I only have my own selfishness to blame.
I tore open the envelope with an eye roll. As I skimmed through the letter, and quickly leafed through the packets of information sent along with the letter, my heart beat rapidly in my chest. My head was swimming with a variety of thoughts; my future, the implications, what I could make happen for myself. I read the lines over and over again…
We are pleased to inform you of your acceptance to the accelerated pre-law undergraduate program…
Only ten incoming undergraduate students in the United States have been awarded this honor.
A full academic and residential scholarship….
The University of Virginia was no longer a thought. I signed the letter of intent on the spot and mailed the preliminary enrollment forms the same afternoon, not telling a soul.
At the time, I felt my thoughts were completely justified. Free ride, amazing prospects to practice law with some of the greats, wonderful internship opportunities… the possibilities were endless. Not once did the repercussion of my actions cross my mind. I assumed everyone would be happy. After all, this was success in the making. My dreams were going to come true, served on a silver platter. I was ecstatic. The letter was signed, sealed, and delivered. I was on my way.
I was bubbling with excitement as I practically bounced into the backyard barbeque celebrating the departure of what was to be Edward and my journey to Virginia. We were scheduled to move in a week, nearly two months before September, to acclimate to the area before the stresses of school began.
I felt arms wrap around my waist from behind as my body became a live wire, as it always did when I came into contact with E. My bubbly mood wilted when I realized we would be separated by thousands of miles. Edward noticed the slight change in the air and having a talent for reading people, he spun me in his arms immediately. I stared up into his beautiful green eyes, and my heart faltered. What had I done? I pushed the thought out of my head and beamed up at E.
"You okay? You seem anxious." Edwards face was etched with concern. I felt a strong slice in my heart at his expression, so caring. Again, I wouldn't allow myself to feel. So, I smiled up at him and shrugged. He eyed me cautiously and dropped a kiss to my temple murmuring I love you. With a tight squeeze, he went in to the house to retrieve a cooler.
I stare out into the night. Being mid-summer, even at 10, Laguna is still quite warm. Despite the warm temperature, I shiver involuntarily. In the blackness, I still see his seventeen year old face. I still see that haunting expression, eight years later. Since, I have developed a talent for reading people, also. It is necessary in the courtroom. Then, I mistook his expression for superficial worry. Now, I know his expression was one of worry, concern, and terror. He knew his life was going to change, he knew before I had allowed the words to pass my lips.
We had been opening presents; Edward had received new soccer cleats, a brand new Volvo XC90, and a University of Virginia sweatshirt. After E had thanked his parents for the generous presents, I had my turn. I had gotten a sweatshirt and a Ford Edge from my father. When I opened the sweatshirt, my stomach dropped. I looked up at all the smiling faces of my friends, family, my loving Edward, and his parents. My eyes dropped to the sweatshirt again and picked up the small bunch of material. This was it.
Thinking about this part, especially, still makes me ill to this day. I had been so excited about me, that I hadn't thought about all the lives I would be changing, including my own. I was not naïve enough to believe my life wouldn't change, I did know that. But, as a teenager with stars in her eyes, I assumed it would be for the better. And at face value, it probably was. But deep down, that day was the top of the slope, going down. As I take a sip of my sour margarita, slightly bitter and burning from the tequila, I laugh humorously as tears make their all too well known appearance. I laugh at this chaise, pretentious as it is. I laugh at this house my career has afforded me, because the cost was far greater than the worth, not speaking monetarily. I laugh at the beach, the waves crashing, the smell of the salt, the sticky heat; all supposedly things of comfort, luxury, simplicity, but I could not find solace. That day, I broke my own self, unknowingly.
I took a shaky breath as I looked up a final time. I began to feel my excitement creep up again, as a smile slowly crossed my face. I searched for Edward's eyes, and the expression he wore was devastating. Always the strong, quiet, annalistic type I could count on him to be calm in any situation. As I stared into his eyes, flashes of emotions ran through the liquid pools of green. Worry, sadness, confusion, understanding, and finally knowing. He knew. He knew I was not going with him, plans had changed. As I looked at the face of the boy, turned man, I have loved for 3 years now, for the first time, I saw him broken. All before I had uttered a single sound.
As I looked at him, I brought the sweatshirt up and shook it a little.
"About this… this is the one gift, I cannot accept."
I scanned the room, and saw the confusion sweep through the faces of all whom I loved dearly. Not a single soul knew what had taken place earlier that month. Everyone was hearing this for the first time.
"I cannot accept this, because I did not sign a letter of intent for U of V. I will not be going to U of V. Early this month, I signed a letter of intent for a full academic and residential scholarship to UCLA..."
When I finished my explanation, I expected to hear congratulations, applause, and celebration. What I heard, eight years later, still chills me to the bone. It was silence.
Again, I scanned the room taking in the alarm dancing across faces, mouths open, hands over mouths, all eyes on Edward. My eyes landed on Edward who had been sitting in the chair across from mine. In that moment, I had realized, albeit a tiny realization at that time, the magnitude of what I had done. His eyes told a story, a story that only I could hear. Defeat. Loss. His vibrant eyes were dull and glassy with unshed tears. He quietly stood up, took a box out of his pocket and placed it in front of me, tears streaming down his paled face and walked out of the room. I opened the box and gasped. A beautiful cushion cut diamond, surrounded by tiny round diamonds spreading to the platinum band sat nestled in the midnight blue satin.
That was the last time my eyes laid upon him in person, since. The only people able to form words at that time were a man and teen of few words, my father and my former best friend, Lauren. As if higher heaven planned it himself, in complete unison they uttered a sentence that put my selfishness in perspective…
"How could you do this to him?"
Now, most people, hearing this would have a profound effect on them. They may feel guilty, selfish; even try to revise their plans. Those people have feelings, common sense, and are a lot better off. Me? I felt indignant. I stood up thanked everyone politely for coming to our party and left. That day I left behind a whole second family and all my friends, never bothering to look back. My relationship with Charlie remained, but was strained. Not because he wasn't supportive of me, he remained a doting father, but because of what he had uttered that day. It was the first time I did not feel he was on my side, and I couldn't see past it. See? Self-centered. Edward left as planned; only leaving behind shattered pieces of my former self.
I walked into my childhood home after a trip to Olympia, to pick up the remaining necessities for my move to California. The house was quiet, too quiet. I walked into the living room, where my dad was sitting on the sofa staring at a blank screen.
"Everything okay?" Panic creeping into my voice.
"Sit down, Isabella." Charlie murmured. I did as I was told, waiting for the impending conversation, and judging by the atmosphere and his tone, this would not be a conversation for the faint of heart.
"Now, I stay out of your life, mostly. I support you when you need support. I've discipline when you need discipline, but overall, I have let you make your own decisions. Whether I agreed with them or not. Now, hear me out before you say a word."
Charlie looked at me, waiting for confirmation. I couldn't form the words, too confused to process proper thought, and nodded quickly.
"All your life, I have tried to be a mother and father to you. Since your mom passed, I felt the need to focus solely on you. Most of the time, I have not been a mom, well for obvious reasons." He chuckled and went on "Well, here I am, being a mom."
"I understand to an extent, why you did what you did. You have goals and dreams. You saw an opportunity and grabbed it. That is the father in me. And for all you have achieved and will achieve, I am proud. But as a mom, I am telling you, you made the wrong decision. You didn't tell anyone, you didn't even discuss this with Edward, who was impacted just as much, if not more than you were. You didn't even warn Edward. You didn't extend one bit of compassion to the man who loves you as deep and wide as the ocean is blue. When you decided to handle this situation your way, you not only did Edward wrong, but you did a disservice to your heart. I love Edward like a son; you won't find a better man for you. You threw it away, without a second thought! I suppose, as deep as Edward's love was, you did not love him at the same depth."
Tears came to my eyes as I began my rebuttal. "You think I don't love Edward? I love him as much as he loves me. Why do you think I didn't tell him? It wouldn't change anything. I need to go to UCLA, he needs to be in Virginia. We could have made it work. HE threw it away. HE hasn't tried to fight for ME!"
Charlie's eyes blazed brown. "Isabella! What more could he have done? He has tried. You never listened. He was minutes away from promising you the world. What more did you want from him? And to use your words "it wouldn't change anything". So why fight a losing battle?"
My dad stood up, reached for the congratulations bag on the coffee table. Before he handed me the bag he said "here is him losing one more battle." Shaking his head, he left the house effectively ending the conversation.
I opened the bag, and pulled out the book nestled in the delicate tissue paper. I sat the book on my lap, taking a closer look, to find a photo album with "You and Me" written in white, etched in the black leather. As I opened the cover, the words to our song, You and Me by Lifehouse, rang out into the silence. My heart constricted and a lump lodged in my throat as I looked through the cataloged version of our life together. Holidays, dances, dates, friends, celebrations, candid shots, sporting events…3 years of a perfect relationship relived and frozen in time. As I reached the final page, a shot of us taken last spring at the University of Virginia, a letter appeared.
I want to thank you for all these wonderful times. I wouldn't change them for the world. I loved you from the moment my eyes met yours on Ruby Beach. I do not regret my time with you nor do I harbor any ill feelings. My wish for you is for you to find what you are looking for. My hope for you is to find total and complete happiness, even if I am not included. I am sorry I left without so much as a goodbye, but goodbyes seemed trivial with the way things were left. I suppose this is as good as any goodbye. Take care. You're taking my heart with you.
And finally, I cried.
Tears streamed down my face as I looked into the blackness. The congratulations bag still holds a place in my heart, as a painful reminder. Although, I am sure Edward had the best of intentions, the bag coupled with the gift and letter sent a message to me. That message being, congratulations, you destroyed my heart, our love, our future. Eight years, and with each passing year, my heart becomes more and more damaged. Edward has plagued most of my thoughts and all of my dreams since the day I walked out on him. He may not have regrets, but I am drowning in them.
When I reached California, my heart cracked a little more every day until it was nothing. I threw myself in my studies, "dated" promiscuously, graduated with honors and a law degree a year earlier than expected, landed an internship in Laguna with Brandon and Whitlock, a prestigious firm specializing in divorce proceedings, and after 3 years of battling cheating spouses and broken homes, I made partner. Ironic.
Which brings my story full circle. Inside my home, a party is in full swing, a party to celebrate my achievement of top divorce attorney in Orange County. My friends and family are gathered in my posh, ocean view home talking about how I have achieved everything I set out to achieve. How blessed I was. How happy I must be. On the surface, I am. I had more money than I knew what to do with, I was successful, respected, lived a life of luxury. But was I happy? No. I hadn't been truly happy, to my core, since high school. Have I achieved it all? No. Am I blessed? No. And I knew why. I had no one to blame but myself.
I sat outside, looking out at the beach, contemplating life, when I was startled out of my musings by Alice, one of my partners in the law firm. She was carrying a stack of magazines.
"The party is winding down; it's just family and Jazz. You can come back in."
"No, thank you, Al, It is a beautiful night." I smiled my most convincing smile, but Al could see right through me. She plopped the magazines down on the coffee table near my chaise in the outdoor lounge.
"I know you are holding on, and you are not the only one." She pointed to the magazines. I flipped through them, realizing she found my stash of sports magazines, all featuring the star Seattle Sounder Forward, Edward Cullen. Everyone wanted a piece of the gorgeous, talented, All-American soccer player. He was calm, quiet, reserved, a breath of fresh air for the athletic world. His face has graced every major athletic cover in the last four years. He was cited as having the "total package", intelligent, striking, and a charming personality. He took time to get his degree in psychology before he entered the professional soccer world. Edward was the most eligible bachelor in the United States right now, and the world could not figure out why someone so perfect, has stayed off the market. Edward had remained mum on the issue, and had yet to be cited with a girlfriend of any kind. As I flipped through the magazines with Alice peering down at me, I noticed a newspaper at the bottom of the stack. I looked up questioningly as I picked up the paper. Alice had her "court" face on, showing no emotion.
I read the headline aloud "Cullen chooses Los Angeles Galaxy".
Two months Later
It being the end of August, the Californian heat was dying down. It is the 28th today, mid 80s, perfect temperature for a beach run. Since the heat wave had disappeared, I was able to resume my beach runs instead of using the gym treadmills. The sun was setting over the ocean as I jogged along the soft sand. My ear buds were placed firmly in my ears and the thumps of bass matched my steps. You and Me began to play as the previous song faded out. I continued to jog as I looked up at the sky, letting memories overtake my senses
August 28, still summer, still warm. It was getting dark, so I began to jog faster, along ruby beach. Music swirling around in my head as I looked up the sky, gauging how long I had before I needed to be back to my house. My favorite song, You and Me began to play. My head bobbed along with the lyrics as I continued to jog down the beach, face pointing toward the sky. Suddenly, I ran into a big, hard mass, flying backward onto the sand. Startled and confused, I looked around, finally settling on a tall person towering over me. I yanked my ear buds out as I took in his form. Long, lean legs encased in black Under Armour pants, similar to my light blue pair. A matching black Under Armour track jacket, again similar to my light blue jacket. I giggled knowing we matched, save the color. Then my eyes met his, and the universe shifted.
His hand reached down for mine, and encased my smaller hand in his. I felt tiny shocks run the course of my body, causing my heart to flutter like hummingbird wings. As he lifted me, he began to speak.
"Hi, um..I am so sorry, I have never seen the ocean before, living in Chicago, and my favorite song was..uh sorry, crap! I'm rambling. Um… I am Edward Cullen, new to town. I was admiring the beach and not paying attention to my surroundings, sorry I ran over you! Are you okay..?"
All I could do was nod and giggle. "Bella. Nice to meet you. And yes, I am fine."
As the silence fell over us, I could hear a familiar beat from his ear buds. Seeing an armband on his bicep, I grabbed his arm, twisting it gently to see what was playing on his iPod. I gazed at him, smiling while I pointed to my armband, where he could see what was playing on my iPod. You and Me.
I am harshly ripped from my reverie when I crash into a big hard mass, flying backward into the sand. I immediately look up to the figure looming over me. My eyes run up his long lean legs, taking in his black Nike running shorts. My eyes travel farther, taking in his slightly golden, bare torso. I giggle as I remember I am wearing pink Nike shorts and a matching running bra. My eyes meet his; as he reaches down to help me off of the sand. Electricity ripples through my veins, shocking my heart into hyper speed. A watery smile adorns my face as a beautiful crooked grin appears on his, tears threatening to pour out of his brilliant green eyes. I reach up, gently twisting his arm, to see what was playing… "It's you and me and all of the people and I don't know why I can't keep my eyes off of you."